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Encouragement (December 16, 2016)

Recently, I received a letter from a man, asking for some biblical guidance in the area of encouragement. Not only was he interested in finding out the meaning of encouragement, but he also desired some practical advice on how to give encouragement and how to receive it. He wondered if the reason some Christians are so reluctant to offer an encouraging compliment is because of their fear of lifting someone up with pride. Considering the fact that only God should get the glory in all things, he was genuinely concerned about praising someone for something they’ve done. The following is my response back to him. I hope that it will encourage you to encourage others.

Thanks for your letter and the questions you’ve asked about encouragement. I believe that the best example of what it means to encourage others is to look at our Lord’s words to the churches of Revelation 2 and 3. He certainly didn’t hesitate to compliment and commend them, and wasn’t concerned that it would go to their heads and inflate their egos. He simply told them positive things that He saw about their behavior. And so, I think it is perfectly right to compliment other Christians by commending them for godly behavior. What they do with that information is up to them. But I believe that to withhold such encouragement would be wrong.

I also think that encouragement is something that all of us need, because it is so easy to be discouraged. We live in a world that offers very few words of commendation and praise, so I believe that when we do praise someone, it really lifts their spirits and encourages them. Encouragement is similar to strengthening believers and edifying them, and that’s something all of us should be actively involved in.

As far as receiving encouraging words of praise, I used to try to deflect them by explaining that it’s really the Lord and not me. However, that tends to sound a bit like pseudo humility, so now I usually say, “Thanks” or “Praise the Lord,” with an understanding in my heart that whatever I am, I am by the grace of God.

One principle to guide us in encouragement is the Golden Rule. We are to do unto others, as we would have them do unto us. Therefore, since words of encouragement tend to strengthen me and spur me on to do good, I’m compelled to offer words of encouragement to others.

At the end of the day my advice to you is not to over analyze the concept of encouragement, but to concentrate on encouraging others, even if they don’t encourage you back.