We all have things we must do, people we must see, chores we must attend to; time never seems to be on our side. We have children and careers to take care of, plans to make, projects to undertake-many other things to do; there just does not seem like there is time for anything else. However, amidst all these haste and confusion, our Lord interjects through Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:5-7 and reminds us that He has endowed each and every one of us with a special gift- one that should benefit all the rest, one that has the most meaning when it is used to benefit humanity. This means that the church is only complete when we all exercise our possessions for then the whole is built together. 'For in Him you have been enriched in every way-in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed' However, we cannot offer what we do not have. As such, we must learn to love ourselves first.
Visiting the sick or the imprisoned is a command of the Lord and is also called a care ministry- some have it in them to do it, others do not; regardless, we can, through the in-filling presence of the Holy Spirit, do it.. Amongst us are those who are good listeners and counsellors and they serve well in this ministry, but all of us are expected to do good to others. Galatians 6:10 reminds us, 'Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers'. People are hurting around us, many are sick and we must be the ones to reach out to them and heal their emotional wounds. We should, however, do this seriously with love in our hearts and not just to be seen like the Pharisees. Jeremiah 6:14 says, 'They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace", they say, when there is no peace'.
It goes to show therefore that the ingredients of so humble a calling are encouragement, exhortation and enlightenment. Hebrews 10:24-25 educates us further, 'And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day coming'.
We are an extension of God's hand and He has given us unique qualities and put us through experiences that we may be a comfort to others. Our insights come from our experiences since our testimonies are written as we are tested. Therefore, no matter how busy we may be in life, we must be available, we must be positive and we must wear the heart of Christ in order to speak a word of encouragement to those that need it.
How then do we become good encouragers? This is possible when we are alert to what goes on around us. However, it can also be prompted by the Holy Spirit and though we may not know what to say, He will provide the words for us. Having a listening ear is a prerequisite as it is in humility that we learn that Christ became nothing so that we could become something. Our empathy must be genuine, our acceptance non-judgmental. Although we may be moved to weeping when we see or hear of people's pain- since our own model, Jesus Christ, wept with compassion- we must quickly partake the role on encourager. James 3 talks of taming the tongue and this is a caution to us to know what to say around a suffering soul; we must be the ones that bring hope not judgment. Proverbs 15:4 cautions, 'The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit'. Proverbs 16:24 further adds, 'Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones'. What comes out of our mouths may make or break others.
Exhortation must also be employed because it motivates a person to respond to life according to God's will. The word of God should therefore be in us for us to do this. Colossians 3:16 expounds, 'Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God'. A person with confused, hurt feelings lacks perspective and we must be the intercessors where prayer fails them. For us to effectively speak into situations, we must be properly armed with the Word. 2Timothy 3:16-17 says, 'All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work'.
It is when we know the Word of God that we too can offer enlightenment to others; this entails bringing their thinking in line with God's thinking. If we are enriched with the Word then we know exactly which Scripture to apply in whatever situation. The Word of God has healing qualities which we too can attest to and this is what we share with the sick and the imprisoned.
God knows everything and nothing escapes His attention. He sees, in us, people that He can use and when He gives us opportunities to be encouragers, He knows we can do it. He will also use different people at different times to talk to us when we too need encouragement. As we sort out His children, He too will sort us out.
We may be busy running up and down. But we could stop for a while, look around us, notice the hurting, the abused and lonely- in hospitals, in prisons, at our work places or in homes- and step up to do something because we are God's voices and we bear His encouraging words.
We were all created to work together, to uplift one another in times of distress, to look out for one another and to intercede in prayer for another. What are we doing about being- the encourager?
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May these words (sermons), from various men and women of God be a blessing to all.
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