“If you have any word of encouragement for the people, tell it.”—ACTS 13:15.
SONGS: 53, 45
1, 2. Show why encouragement is important.
“MY PARENTS hardly ever encourage me, but they criticize me a lot. And their words can be so hurtful,” says Cristina, who is 18 years old. “They say that I’m immature, that I’ll never learn, and that I’m fat. So I cry often and prefer not to talk to them. I feel that I’m worthless.” How devastating life without encouragement can be!
2 On the other hand, encouragement is a power for good. “I have fought feelings of worthlessness for many years,” says Rubén. “But one time, I was preaching with an elder who realized that I was having a bad day. He listened with sympathy as I expressed my feelings. Then he reminded me of the good I was accomplishing. He also reminded me of Jesus’ words—that each of us is worth more than many sparrows. I often recall that scripture, and it still touches my heart. The elder’s words made a huge difference.”—Matt. 10:31.
3. (a) What did the apostle Paul say about encouragement? (b) What will we consider in this article?
3 It should not surprise us that the Bible emphasizes the need for regular encouragement. The apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God; but keep on encouraging one another each day, . . . so that none of you should become hardened by the deceptive power of sin.” (Heb. 3:12, 13) You know how important the counsel to encourage one another is if you recall a time when words of encouragement lifted your spirits. So let us consider these questions: Why is encouragement vital? What can we learn from the way Jehovah, Jesus, and Paul encouraged others? And how can we give encouragement that is effective?
PEOPLE NEED ENCOURAGEMENT
4. Who needs encouragement, but why is it scarce today?
4 All of us need encouragement. That is especially true when we are growing up. “Children . . . need encouragement like plants need water,” explains educator Timothy Evans. “With encouragement, a child feels worthwhile and appreciated.” But we live in critical times. People are selfish, there is little natural affection, and encouragement is scarce. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Some parents do not commend their children because their own parents never gave them any encouragement. Many employees are not being commended, so they complain that there is a chronic shortage of encouragement in the workplace.
5. What does encouragement involve?
5 Encouragement often involves commending a person for something he or she did well. We can also be encouraging by reassuring others that they have good qualities or by speaking “consolingly to those who are discouraged.” (1 Thess. 5:14, ftn.) The Greek word usually translated “encouragement” literally means “a calling to one’s side.” As we serve alongside our brothers and sisters, we likely have opportunities to say something encouraging. (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10.) Do we use suitable occasions to let others know why we love and appreciate them? Before answering that question, we would do well to think about this proverb: “A word spoken at the right time—how good it is!”—Prov. 15:23.
6. Why does the Devil want to discourage us? Give an example.
6 Satan the Devil wants to discourage us because he knows that discouragement can make us weak spiritually and in other ways. “If you become discouraged in the day of distress,” says Proverbs 24:10, “your strength will be meager.” Satan used a combination of calamities and accusations in an effort to discourage righteous Job, but that cruel scheme failed. (Job 2:3; 22:3; 27:5) We can fight the works of the Devil by encouraging members of our family and of the congregation. This will help to make our home and the Kingdom Hall places where we feel happy and secure.
BIBLE EXAMPLES OF ENCOURAGEMENT
7, 8. (a) What Bible examples show that Jehovah considers it important to give encouragement? (b) What can parents do to follow Jehovah’s example? (See opening picture.)
7 Jehovah. The psalmist sang: “Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those who are discouraged.” (Ps. 34:18, ftn.) When Jeremiah was afraid and discouraged, Jehovah built up that faithful prophet’s confidence. (Jer. 1:6-10) And just imagine how encouraged the elderly prophet Daniel was when God sent an angel to strengthen him. That angel called Daniel a “very precious,” or “highly esteemed,” man! (Dan. 10:8, 11, 18, 19; ftn.) Could you similarly encourage publishers, pioneers, and older brothers and sisters whose strength is failing?
8 God did not feel that because he and his dear Son had worked together for ages, there was no need to commend and encourage Jesus when he was on earth. Instead, on two occasions Jesus heard his Father speak from heaven and say: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5) God thus commended Jesus and assured him that he was doing well. Jesus must have felt encouraged on the two occasions when he heard these words—at the beginning of his ministry and during the final year of his earthly life. Jehovah also sent an angel to strengthen Jesus when he was in anguish on the night before his death. (Luke 22:43) If we are parents, let us follow Jehovah’s example by regularly encouraging our children and giving them commendation when they do well. We should also give them extra support if they are facing tests of integrity day after day in school.
9. What can we learn from the way Jesus treated his apostles?
9 Jesus. On the night when Jesus instituted the Memorial, pride was one negative trait that he saw in his apostles. Jesus humbly washed their feet, but they were still arguing about which one of them was the greatest; and Peter was overconfident. (Luke 22:24, 33, 34) Yet, Jesus commended his faithful apostles for sticking with him in his trials. He predicted that they would do works greater than his, and he assured them that God had affection for them. (Luke 22:28; John 14:12; 16:27) We might ask ourselves, ‘Shouldn’t I imitate Jesus by commending my children and others for what they do well instead of focusing on their shortcomings?’
10, 11. How did the apostle Paul show that he saw the need to encourage others?
10 The apostle Paul. In his letters, Paul spoke highly of his fellow Christians. He had traveled with some of them for years and undoubtedly knew their faults, but he said good things about them. For instance, Paul described Timothy as his “beloved and faithful child in the Lord,” one who would genuinely care for the concerns of other Christians. (1 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:19, 20) The apostle commended Titus to the Corinthian congregation as “my companion and a fellow worker for your interests.” (2 Cor. 8:23) How encouraged Timothy and Titus must have been to learn what Paul thought of them!
11 Paul and Barnabas risked their lives by going back to places where they had suffered violent attacks. For instance, even though they had faced fanatic opposition in Lystra, they returned there in order to encourage new disciples to remain in the faith. (Acts 14:19-22) In Ephesus, Paul faced an angry crowd. Acts 20:1, 2 says: “When the uproar . . . subsided, Paul sent for the disciples, and after he had encouraged them and said farewell, he began his journey to Macedonia. After going through those regions and giving many words of encouragement to the ones there, he arrived in Greece.” Giving encouragement certainly was very important to Paul.
ENCOURAGEMENT IN ACTION TODAY
12. What part do our meetings play in our giving and receiving encouragement?
12 One reason why our heavenly Father has kindly arranged for us to have regular meetings is that we can give and receive encouragement there. (Read Hebrews 10:24, 25.) Just like Jesus’ early followers, we meet together to learn and to be encouraged. (1 Cor. 14:31) Cristina, who was mentioned at the beginning of this article, says: “What I like most about the meetings is the love and encouragement I receive there. Sometimes I feel depressed when I arrive at the Kingdom Hall. But then sisters approach me, give me a hug, and say I look pretty. They tell me that they love me and are pleased to see my spiritual progress. Their encouragement makes me feel so much better!” How refreshing it is when all of us play our part in “an interchange of encouragement”!—Rom. 1:11, 12.
13. Why do experienced servants of God need encouragement?
13 Even experienced servants of God need encouragement. Consider Joshua. He had served God faithfully for many years. Yet, Jehovah told Moses to encourage him, saying: “Commission Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him, because he is the one who will cross over before this people and he is the one who will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” (Deut. 3:27, 28) Joshua was about to take on the huge responsibility of leading the Israelites in the conquest of the Promised Land. He would face setbacks and at least one military defeat. (Josh. 7:1-9) No wonder Joshua needed to be encouraged and strengthened! So let us personally encourage elders, including circuit overseers, who work hard to care for the flock of God. (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13.) “Sometimes the brothers give us a thank-you letter saying how much they enjoyed our visit,” stated one circuit overseer. “We keep these letters and read them when we are feeling low. They are a real source of encouragement.”
14. What shows that commendation and encouragement are effective when we are giving counsel?
14 Christian elders and parents find that commendation and encouragement are effective in emphasizing Bible counsel. When Paul commended the Corinthians for applying his counsel, they must have been encouraged to continue doing what was right. (2 Cor. 7:8-11) Andreas, who has two children, says: “Encouragement helps children to grow up spiritually and emotionally. You nail down counsel by giving encouragement. Even though our kids know what is right, doing the right thing becomes their way of life through our constant encouragement.”
HOW TO GIVE EFFECTIVE ENCOURAGEMENT
15. What is one step we can take to encourage others?
15 Show appreciation for the fine efforts and positive qualities of fellow worshippers. (2 Chron. 16:9; Job 1:8) Jehovah and Jesus greatly value what all of us do to support Kingdom interests, even if our efforts and contributions are limited because of our circumstances. (Read Luke 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:12.) For instance, some of our dear elderly ones make great effort to attend and share in meetings and the ministry regularly. Should we not commend and encourage them?
16. Why should we never hold back from encouraging others?
16 Seize opportunities to encourage others. If we see something that merits commendation, why hold back? Consider what happened when Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch in Pisidia. The presiding officers of the synagogue there told them: “Men, brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, tell it.” Paul responded by giving a fine talk. (Acts 13:13-16, 42-44) If we can offer a word of encouragement, why not speak up? We will very likely find that if we make it a habit to be encouraging, people will encourage us in return.—Luke 6:38.
17. What gives deep meaning to our words of commendation?
17 Be sincere and specific. General words of encouragement and commendation are helpful, but Jesus’ message to Christians in Thyatira shows that being specific is better. (Revelation 2:18, 19.) If we are parents, for example, we could tell our children what we appreciate about the spiritual progress they are making. We might tell a single mother what impresses us regarding the way she is raising her children despite her challenging situation. Such commendation and encouragement can do so much good!
18, 19. How can we build up those needing encouragement?
18 Jehovah will not personally tell us to say something encouraging to a particular individual as he told Moses to encourage and strengthen Joshua. Yet, God is pleased when we speak encouragingly to fellow believers and others. (Prov. 19:17; Heb. 12:12) For instance, we might tell a public speaker how his talk gave us advice we needed or helped us to understand a certain scripture. “Although we spoke for only a few minutes,” wrote a sister to a visiting speaker, “you saw my heavy heart, and you comforted and uplifted me. I want you to know that when you spoke in such a kind way, both from the platform and in person, I felt that it was a gift from Jehovah.”
19 We will very likely find many ways to build others up spiritually if we are determined to apply Paul’s counsel: “Keep encouraging one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11) All of us will surely please Jehovah if we “keep on encouraging one another each day.”