Norma Jean and I are currently enjoying some post-meeting R & R in the Smoky Mountains. Yesterday was a gorgeous crisp fall day. Sunny. Clear. And perfect for a drive to higher elevations and some walking.
Clingman’s Dome was our destination. At 6643 feet, it’s the highest mountain in the Smokies. From the observation tower, you get an amazing 360-degree panoramic view of the mountains. And on a clear day, like yesterday, you can see 7 states and over 100 miles.
As we began the steep ½ mile walk from the parking lot to the top, we stopped several times both to take in the magnificent view and to catch our breath.
At some point, people coming down would say to us things like “the view is worth it.” The farther we went more and more people let us know we were getting closer to the top and urged us to keep on going.
“It’s not far.”
“It’s totally worth the climb.”
“The view is great.”
“You’re almost there.”
I was struck by how total strangers offered unsolicited words of encouragement to reassure and embolden us to continue our climb to the top.
Interestingly, after we enjoyed the beautiful view from the summit and began our descent down, we found ourselves offering similar words of encouragement to folks on the way up.
I thought that’s what Christian fellowship is all about. Mutual encouragement.
Dr. David Jeremiah expressed it this way. “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.”
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 you during a difficult time and offers a kind a word, it strengthens our spirit and renews our hope, that’s encouragement.
In a culture that is polarized politically, socially, morally and religiously, we need mutual encouragement. More than ever it’s important to heed Paul’s exhortation, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thess 5:11).
Look for ways to be an encourager.
When you see a young mother or father harried and hassled trying to corral young children during a worship service, offer a word of encouragement that it’s all worth it. Better yet, offer a helping hand.
When you sense a brother or sister is discouraged by the problems and pressures of life, encourage them with your care and concern. A kind word. A hug. A pat on the back. A note. Or some private time together to just listen.
When the preacher has poured out his heart in teaching, encouraging and pointing people to a more perfect understanding of God will, let him know his efforts are appreciated
When the elders announce a change in some aspect of the work of the local church to improve the church’s ministry, get on board. Thank them for their vision. Leadership. And Shepherding the flock.
Encourage senior saints by letting them know how much their faithful example means to you.
Encourage young people to “remember their Creator in the days of their youth.” To dare to be different than the worldly crowd. And to let them know you believe in them.
One of the best definitions of “encouragement” I’ve ever read is ”pouring courage into someone who needs it.” Look around and see who is discouraged, disheartened, or demoralized and pour some courage into them. Instead of pointing a critical finger, lend a help hand. Or offer a kind word.
Let’s remind each other that the climb to the Mount of eternal glory is worth every struggle, hardship and heartache that we endure along the way. In the words of the hymnist W. Olive Cooper:
Often I’m hindered on my way,
Burdened so heavy I almost fall;
Then I hear Jesus sweetly say;
“Heaven will surely be worth it all.”
Keep climbing. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t give out.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman