In the last few weeks, my time with God has led me to 2 main things – encouragement and praying for those who persecute you. In thinking about encouragement, I really think that we as human beings are not all that great about encouraging one another. Sure we say, good job, and then we go on our way…
Racer and I are fans of The Biggest Loser. In this season, they had the contestants run a 1/2 marathon. As I was watching this, I was thinking about encouragement. There were people, actual cheerleaders in some cases, on the sidelines of the track, cheering the runners on. Providing encouragement. But sometimes, words are not enough. If I was running a 1/2 marathon, and right now I have no plans to do so, and someone was yelling at me from the sidelines, I think I’d grumble about it. I’d probably be thinking “yeah, you get out here and run with me, then we’ll see if you’re still so happy to be cheering.” In that case I don’t want someone just cheering from the sidelines.
I think this is the part where we aren’t so good. Encouragement is so much more than just cheering from the sidelines. In the 1/2 marathon that the contestants ran, each one had someone running/walking with them. THAT is encouragement. Someone in the trenches saying “I’m here with you. I know your pain and I’m here to help.” So many times I’ve had people tell me “you do such a great job – I’m glad I don’t have to do what you do!” Thanks for the words, but what I really need is someone to come in and get dirty with me. Someone to feel the pain, know the frustration, have the struggles and then speak to my heart.
In the New Testament, Barnabas – son of encouragement – gives us a great example of how to encourage. First, he accepted people right where they were. He accepted Paul (previously Saul) when no one else would. He did ministry WITH Paul, not just looking from the outside. Second, Barnabas met people’s needs. Sometimes he met physical needs (food, clothing) and sometimes it was spiritual needs. Third, he rejoiced with others in their growth and their successes and their joy. He didn’t just minister to them in hard times, but in good times to. Fourth, Barnabas gave people second chances. Even after someone (John Mark) had let him down, disappointed him, failed him, Barnabas still saw what was good and gave him another shot.
Do we do that? Do we come alongside of people and support them or do we just cheer from the sidelines. The challenge I have for myself, and for anyone who wants to join me, is to really encourage someone each day. Maybe we write a note or send and email. Maybe we take them out to lunch with no hidden agenda. Maybe we watch their kids. Maybe we come and help them do the dishes. Maybe we give them a bag of rocks (I did it once, sort of an inside joke). Whatever we do, let’s try to be better at DOING with people instead of just watching.