This year is the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color-barrier to become the first African-American to play Major league baseball. The release of the move “42″ and other MLB events have paid tribute to Robinson’s achievements.
His first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers was brutal. Jackie faced hatred nearly everywhere he traveled. Pitchers threw fastballs at his head. Runners spiked him on the bases. Ugly insults were hurled from the stands. And opposing dugouts. Even the home crowds in Brooklyn taunted him at times.
The story is told that during one game in Cincinnati, the verbal abuse and racial slurs seemed to reach a peak. Then Robinson committed an error. He stood at second base humiliated. As the fans’ insults grew louder, a fellow Dodger, shortstop Pee Wee Reese, a Southern white man, called timeout. He walked from his position toward Robinson as the crowd looked on. And simply put his arm around Robinson’s shoulder. That act of kindness quieted the fans. Later Robinson said Reese’s arm around his shoulder saved his career.
The word of the week is “encourage.”
The Bible exhorts, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
The Importance of Encouragement
Encouragement is a unique need today. More than ever. While there has always been bad news. Evil people. Ungodly actions. 24 hour cable news and the power of the internet brings everything into our homes, and minds, instantly. It is easy to become calloused by the pervasive nature of sin. And the headlong descent into the moral abyss our country is heading. The admonition of the Hebrew writer is never more needed than today. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (3:13)
God cares about encouragement. Paul wrote, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
Encouragement is the aim of Bible teaching and preaching. The Old Testament scriptures are given “to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4)
Paul told Timothy to preach the word in 2 Timothy 4:2. In doing so, he was to exhort or encourage. Of course there is a time to rebuke improper practices and to condemn sin, but we need encouragement. As preachers our ministry is not to beat up people but to build up people.
Encouragement is one of the Purposes of God’s People. “Encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:18) “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thess. 5:14)
David Jeremiah said, “The body of Christ is a family whose members are to be mutually involved with one another. One of the one-another ministries God calls us to practice is the ministry of encouragement.” Romans 12: 6 speaks of using our different gifts and in verse 8 Paul urges “if it is encouraging, let us encourage.”
Encouragement is the opportunity to begin a never-ending process. Encouragement is like a pebble thrown into the water–it continues to have a rippling effect. Who knows how many an encouraging word or deed will touch? I see first hand through this blog how many are encouraged. All around the world. And often something we posted months ago is read again. And encourages someone.
Encouragement also returns to the giver. So many have encouraged me through the comments. Emails. Texts. Notes. Phone calls. Thank you! It reminds me the wise man’s statement. “Cast your bread upon the waters for you will find it after many days” (Eccl 11:1) Encouragement is like that!
Find a way that works for you to encourage others. Maybe it is by just “being there” when someone is going through a tough time. Use cards, notes, emails, texts, even facebook to encourage others. Look for the right time to say a good word. A kind word. An uplifting word. Or it may be that arm on the shoulder of a discouraged, disconsolate friend. A touch of the hand. A warm embrace,. A pat on the back.
Who needs your encouragement today? A frazzled young mother? An elderly shut-in? A confused young person? A tireless teacher? A dedicated deacon? A new Christian? A faithful preacher? A devoted elder? The sick? Feeble? The weak?
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” Heb 10:25
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman