This short little post will be encouraging you to encourage. It may seem simple and something far too obvious but encouragement is often not given the credit it is due. When it comes to gifts of the Spirit, or talents from God to His people, the spotlight can be given to healing, tongues, and so many more in-your-face often miraculous moments.
And yet encouragement can make such a large impact despite it’s behind the scenes character and quiet placement. This is one of the reasons that Barnabas, seen through the Acts of the New Testament is one of my favourite examples of a disciple.
Originally a Hellenic Jew called Joseph, he was given a new name after he presented everything he owned to the disciples and the Church: Barnabas. This name was explained to mean “son of consolation” or “son of encouragement”, but Paul makes a strong like between encouragement and prophecy, and this is something often forgotten.
Although prophecy has often been connected to predicting the future, or speaking secret knowledge, or even presenting a vision of God’s intent, warning, or promise, prophecy is so much bigger than this and could very simply be described within the Jewish and Christian traditions as words inspired by God, or a message to edify, exhort, or comfort the Church.
Hence, it makes perfect sense that one gifted with encouragement would often speak words inspired and given by God to comfort His people through love, to build them up and guide them through tough times – particularly when the hardships of the New Testament Church are remembered (and the persecuted church around the world now).
“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.”
1 Corinthians 14:1-4, ESV
So when I tell you to encourage those around you, I’m asking something bigger than just you being nice or flattering someone’s ego. When you truly encourage someone you become the mouthpiece of God and begin to follow God’s commandment to love. When you encourage someone you remind them of how God sees them, what He has done, and that no matter what they are loved.
Ultimately you lift them out of darkness and present the light to them. You show them a little piece of Jesus, loving them without expectation, when it might seem that all around is against them, they may even be against themselves and feel surrounded by harsh thoughts and guilt. When you encourage someone you first link yourself to God to listen, and secondly pass on that love to them.
So much of the New Testament is prophetic in this way, letters full of God’s truth being presented to people across the Mediterranean, and not all of it was easy to read. Even so every piece was meant in love, bringing them into a family who cared.
So here’s your challenge: encourage someone. Pray about who might just need a few words spoken into their lives. They may have said something about themselves that seemed to be full of doubt and shame, and yet was brushed off as nothing serious. They may have been wounded by someone else, a rejection, something completely out of their control. It may only take a few words of truth to lift them out and show them the light.
You could simply have a chat over coffee, you could write them a letter (it could even be anonymous), you could send a simple text with a little piece of truth just because. Remember though: it’s not about flattery – there is no point commenting on weight, hair style, a new top. Those comments are far too shallow for God and will never last against the lies of the world. Look to God for your truth, their truth, and what they really truly need to hear.
You don’t need to be loud and forceful about it, just encourage someone out of love.
Be an encouragement. Be a prophet.