One of the most valuable gifts that you can give someone today is the gift of encouragement. We all need some! As I see it, there are at least four different types of encouragement that we can give to someone else.
First, there is the encouragement we give to someone who is going through a trial or storm in their life. This is the type of encouragement that brings COMFORT. We can't usually fix their problem or take away their pain but we can come along side of them so they have someone to lean on during their storm. Today I will offer this type of encouragement to a dear man who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. My visiting him will not change his physical situation but I can, Lord willing, bring him come comfort in talking with him, reading Scripture to him, and praying with him.
Second, there is the encouragement we give to those who have done a good job. This is the "pat on the back" or "Atta boy" type of encouragement. This is the type of encouragement that brings CONFIDENCE. This week I received a very encouraging letter from a man who use to attend our church but had to move. His job causes him to put many miles on the road and while he drives he listens to the CD's of my sermons that he still gets from the church. He wanted me to know the impact that these sermons of mine on CD were having on his life. That's encouragement. However, this type of encouragement is rare today. We live in a culture where we are quick to criticise and slow to praise. You don't think that's true? I challenge you to talk to a local restaurant manager. Ask him how many times in a month a customer wants to speak to him to complain about their dining experience. Then ask him how many times in a month that a customer asks to speak to him to tell him what a great experience he had and what a super job his employees are doing. I bet there will be a striking contrast in his answers.
Third, there is the encouragement we give to someone to get them to do better. This is the type of encouragement that brings COURAGE. Actually, that is what the word encouragement means. It is "to put courage into." A good teacher knows how to "encourage" her students in such a way that they excel in their academics. A good coach knows how to encourage his players in such a way that they excel in their athletics. A good pastor knows how to encourage his church in such a way that they excel in their walk of faith. This is what the Bibles speaks of in Hebrews 10:24-25 when it says to consider how we can stimulate others to love and good deeds. None of us will ever reach our potential without a gentle push of encouragement from someone else.
Fourth, there is the encouragement we give to someone "just because." This is the type of encouragement that simply shows that you CARE. Yesterday I was at a local business when a man from our church pulled me into his office and asked me this question, "How can I pray for you?" WOW! Was I ever encouraged!
Who will you give the valuable gift of encouragement to today?