How can you better encourage others? When was the last time someone encouraged you with a kind word, a compliment, a card or even to let you know they are praying for you? That was pretty nice of them, right? Touched your heart, I’m sure. You can now imagine how others would respond when you brighten their day with kindness.
Let’s do a quick topical study on the power of affirmation from a Biblical perspective. This will help us apply what we learn so we can better encourage others.
Encouragement for Timothy
Flip the pages of your Bible with me over to 1 Timothy 4:12. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to Timothy with the intention of encouraging him. Too often we are quick to judge and criticize others when we should be building them up. This is what happened to Timothy, who was being despised by other believers because of his young age.
Even though he was functioning as an ambassador for Paul with the church at Ephesus, the believers there were still looking down on him and criticizing him. We don’t know all the reasons why he was being criticized but we do know from our own experiences that criticism hurts.
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Paul often preached that we are in the last days. It was true then, it is true now. How can we stand together in unity, with one voice, with one spirit, if we are hurting each other with our words?
If we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit we WILL affirm each other and not tear down. Scripture tells us that we need to look for the positive in each person, to esteem the other person better than ourselves.
Can I encourage you to hear with the ears of the Spirit and not your own ears?
Let’s do away with accusations and start affirming one another.
Back to Timothy. Paul had seen the potential in Timothy and had taken him under his wing. Timothy was young, probably about 25 or so. He worked with Paul and represented him since he was in prison. Timothy carried out Paul’s instructions as he ministered to the believers in Ephesus.
When Paul heard how Timothy was being treated by the believers, he was quick to encourage him and build him up.
In 1 Timothy 4:12, we read that Paul told him not to let anyone despise him because of his age and that he was to be an example to the believers in his conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith and in purity. It’s interesting to note how Timothy was to respond to criticism and negativity and it was not to bite back.
As a spiritual leader, Timothy was to lead by example, showing the believers how to respond when faced with criticism. Paul then encouraged him to continue to read the Word, as well as give attention to exhortation and to doctrine.
Looking in the Mirror
It has been said that when people tear down others, it’s because they need to build themselves up, to make themselves look good at the expense of others. Ouch! I say ‘ouch’ because if we’re truthful with ourselves and we admit that we’ve done that, we can ask ourselves the question, did we really make ourselves look good to the person we were talking with?
In all honesty, I don’t believe we did. I believe that the other person recognized the words we spoke as slurs on a third party and more than likely they didn’t appreciate hearing it but just didn’t know how to respond. Let’s learn to think twice before we speak once. And I’ll take my own advice too as I’m still a work in progress.
When we allow others to demean us, we are giving them the right to trample us. We need to be assertive and not let them knock us down. In our assertion, we can be direct but not offensive.
Here are some phrases we can say when someone says to us things they shouldn’t be saying: “I don’t appreciate what you just said” or “That is not being kind.” This is being assertive but not mean. And when spoken kindly, we are demanding respect without being pushy.
This statement that Paul made to Timothy, not to let others look down on him because of his age, reminds me that we should look beyond the natural, to see the potential in others. Just because someone wears last years’ fashions, doesn’t mean that we should snub them or be rude to them.
We need to be more gracious in our speech as death and life are in the power of the tongue. It’s very easy to tear down but more satisfying to build up. We can do this through a note, a phone call, a hug, or a kind word. He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. What you sow, you will reap. These may sound like cliches but in reality they are Scriptural principles emanating with truth.
Place stepping stones in front of others, not stumbling blocks.
Be positive, gracious, and focus on whatever is wholesome and good and pure in people.
And not only should we think these things, we can also speak these things as well.
We can always find something nice to say, “I love that colour blue on you, it really brings out your blue eyes!” Be sincere, though, because we can all tell when someone is flattering us with empty words.
The difference between flattery and affirmation is in the motive. Look for opportunities to encourage and lift up. Provoke one another to do good deeds, allowing them to walk closer to God. Find practical ways to help people and the spiritual ways will follow. It is by our love for people that we will be known.
When we see believers who are obeying God, let’s take the time to affirm them and thank God for what He’s doing through them.
Here’s a list of ways to encourage others:
- smile at them. You never know what they are going through and your smile could make their day!
- send them a note or card. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, just a quick “hello, I’m thinking of you” note. You could include a Scripture verse that is uplifting such as “Be strong and of good courage” (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:9, Joshua 10:25 and 1 Chronicles 28:20 to name a few.)
- send an email or text message that will appear in the middle of their day. It will lift their spirits to know someone cares.
- go for coffee or lunch. If you can swing it, invite them out for a bit. Maybe they have been cooped up inside and would welcome an opportunity to go out.
- call her up to go for a walk or hike. If you’re both into this type of activity, this would be a great time to get to know each other better.
- give them a hug. So often we see people but don’t reach out with a hug. Physical contact does wonders for people. Be careful though, as some people aren’t ‘huggers.’ You could ask them first, “Can I give you a hug” and take it from there.
- tell them you are praying for them but only if you really are. And not just a superficial “God bless so and so today” kind of prayer. Intercede for them. Pray deeply for them, lifting them up to God for His will to be done in their lives.
- for a practical way of affirmation, drive them to an appointment or to get groceries, or, if they’ve been cooped up for a while, a scenic drive might be the thing they need to lift their spirits.
That’s a Wrap
My favourite verses for encouragement are the “Be strong and of good courage” verses, as noted above in #2. God repeatedly encouraged Joshua with those words and we can encourage each other with them as well.
In a world that is full of negativity, it’s time we put a positive spin on things and be kind and nice to others, leading by example, as Paul instructed Timothy. If we practiced being an encourager, how will that make others feel? We’d surely make their day! So, as we are led of the Spirit, let us do good towards others.
If you think of any other ways to encourage people that could be added to the above list, would you mind leaving a comment for me? I’d love to hear from you!