One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Ephesians 4:29 – Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (NIV). We are supposed to build others up with our words – what a great challenge! I love being around a group of people who are committed to using their words to build others – it is energizing being around encouraging people! When a group or whole church is like this – it can deeply change lives. Encouragement is powerful!
As I study the life of Christ, it doesn’t seem that there were many people who encouraged Him. Some followed Him and even worshiped Him at times, but they didn’t totally understand Him (that is discouraging). He had very vocal and powerful enemies (also very discouraging). Jesus was vocal with encouragement to others (eg. Matt 7:10; Mark 12:34), but very few encouraged Him. He stayed encouraged because He had His own Source for encouragement – His relationship with the Father. He regularly prayed, and took time away from ministry to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16). His relationship with the Father was life-giving to Him – so that He could be life-giving to others.
We need to plug into this powerful Source of encouragement. God is the Source of true life and eternal joy; as we plug in to Him we can be filled up and overflow to others. We need this every day! As we encourage others the goal is to point them to the Source, to the one Voice they need to hear. It is not our praise they are aiming for, but His. This is the fulfillment of Ephesians 4:29 – not that we become dependent on the encouragement or praise of others, but that we hear the Voice of God, our Source of encouragement. As we encourage others we are trying to help them hear His Voice and love.
Jerome, an early church Father, said, “Don’t fish for compliments, lest you defy God while you are applauded. … For Christ’s soldiers march on through good talk on the right hand and evil talk on the left. No praise excites them. No criticism crushes them.” I don’t know about you – but I am not there yet. I am getting better at not fishing for compliments. But honestly, praise still excites me – I like to hear when I have done a good job. Honestly, criticism is still hard for me; I am not quite crushed, but still a little hurt. It is good that people give me encouragement and criticism – but only to the extend that I bring it back to the Lord and hear His Voice. I need more work in me to march on unmoved, mature in His love and strong by His presence, hearing only His Voice – He is the only One I need to please.