In his book, Becoming a Person of Influence, John Maxwell tells about an experiment conducted by psychologists to measure people’s capacity to endure pain.
The experiment involved barefooted people standing in a bucket of ice water. They discovered one thing that made it possible for some people to stand in the ice water twice as long as others.
Encouragement was the key factor.
When another person was present offering support and giving encouragement the sufferers were able to endure pain much longer than their unencouraged counterparts. Maxwell observed that “when a person feels encouraged, he can face the impossible and overcome incredible adversity.”
A reader recently asked ThePreachersWord to write about the Las Vegas shootings from the context of the book of Job which we did last week. However, one part of his question involved what to say to a shooting victim or their family.
The specific response would depend upon several factors. However, generally any time a friend faces adversity, hardship or heartbreak, they are in need of encouragement. Lots of encouragement.
The narrative of Job is a case study on what not to do if you want to help a hurting friend. His wife did not encourage him. She said, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).
Initially, his three friends came and offered encouragement. They offered comfort. They wept with him. They expressed grief through the custom of tearing their robes and sprinkling dust on his head. And they just sat with him for 7 days and said nothing. Then they opened their mouths!
Unfortunately, their words were of no comfort. Their speeches reflected a theological view that his suffering was the result of his sin. Job, in their view, as not as righteous as he seemed to be. But they were wrong.
However, even if they were correct in their assessment, this was not the time to tell Job that you are getting what you deserve. What Job needed was encouragement.
Dictionaries define encouragement as “the act of inspiring others with renewed courage; renewed spirit or renewed hope.” In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “encouragement” is from the word parakalein. It is a compound word. Para means “alongside of” and kaleo means “to call.” When someone comes alongside of him during a difficult time and offers a kind a word, strengthens our spirit and renews our hope, that’s encouragement.
William Barclay writes that the word was often used when sending soldiers and sailors into battle urging them to be courageous. He says, “A Parakletos is, therefore, an Encourager, one who puts courage into the fainthearted, one who nerves the feeble arm for fight, one who makes a very ordinary man cope gallantly with a perilous and dangerous situation.”
In our relationships with one another, the Bible commands, “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1Thess. 5:14).
Dr. David Jeremiah observed that “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.”
Have you ever thought about encouragement being a ministry? A gift that you could employ to help others? Lighten their load? Lift them up from despair? Or offer hope when the situation seems hopeless?
Some people seem to have a special knack for encouraging others. Romans 12:6 speaks of using our different gifts according to God’s grace. In verse 8 Paul says, “if it is encouraging, let us encourage.” However, all of us should seek to be encouragers to the best of our ability. The Hebrew writer said, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13)
George M. Adams called encouragement “oxygen to the soul.” Nothing breathes new life into a discouraged person like an encouraging word or deed.
In times of stress, adversity, or disaster, the best thing you can do is to look for ways to be an Encourager.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman