Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. –George Mueller We all want encouragement. We all need encouragement. Even if your "love language" is not words of affirmation, a kind word is uplifting. I can remember the times in my life that people invested in my life. I can give encouragement but my inclination is criticism. Sad isn't it? It is much easier to find fault than to encourage. Personally, I can remember the criticism I have received over the years more than the encouragement. We need to encourage more and criticize less, especially within the church!
You see, encouragement is not flattery. Flattery is giving praise to someone for an unchangeable attribute God provided (mental capacity, family, nationality, skin complexion, hair...). Our culture thrives upon flattery (just go watch reality TV!). Focusing on the outward attributes leads to temporary joy.
Flattery can be...
- "You look so good in that dress"
- "Look at how handsome you are!"
- "Your hair is so pretty"
- "Wow, you have a great voice. You should go on American Idol"
- "Your message was amazing, you inspire me"
It gets even messier when you apply flattery in ministry. We all appreciate comments that lift us up. We crave it, especially when discouraged. Danger arises when we only listen to people who flatter us. What happens when we are criticized? Encouragement is not just telling each other how amazing we are. If we base our worth on flattery, we will have false identity.
So the real question is, are we looking for encouragement of flattery?
To encourage means “to inspire with hope, courage, or confidence.” It is to give courage to others. Courage to face the trials, insecurities, and pain in life. Encouragement is to give courage to one another to run the race with determination and perseverance (Hebrews 12:1). It is much more about how we finish, then how we start! Encouragement is pouring the hope and love of Jesus into each other's lives.
Encouragement is expressing character qualities exhibited in a person's life. It is focusing upon the grace of God in each other's life. Encouragement can also mean listening to correction from those who love you. When close friends say hard things to me, it is hard to swallow. If we want to be encouraged but stay humble, we need accountability and vulnerability. We need encouragement to battle the struggles and humility to die to self.
Practical ways to encourage one another:
- Speak sincere words (Ephesians 4:29). Avoid sarcasm when encouraging others.
- Share encouraging scripture (Romans 15:4).
- Pray on the spot privately if someone expresses a need to you (don't just say, "I'll be praying, see you later").
- Buy someone's lunch without expecting anything in return.
- Send a quick text message, card or note to a friend.
- Privately encourage a person based on their growth in Christ. "Thank you for leading prayer today, I can see God using you."
- Encourage first before criticizing (Proverbs 10:11).
- Give encouragement without expecting it in return. (Only then is it true encouragement and not flattery).