Think Encouragement

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Think Encouragement

Today is Mother’s Day. Thank God for mothers. Without them where would we all have been?

It is usual for children to do something special for their mothers on Mother’s day. So this particular mother was delighted when her children told her that she could stay put in bed late on Mother’s day. She was further delighted when she heard the clanking sounds of utensils in the kitchen. Slowly the great smell of excellent breakfast wafted into her nostrils, egg and bacon and roasted coffee and whatever her children were generally used to. The mother lay in the bed expectantly for some more time, and she noticed that the commotion in the kitchen had subsided, and she was expecting a call from her children to come and enjoy a sumptuous breakfast. She waited for some time and the call never came. Not able to hold back her curiosity anymore, she got up and came downstairs. She was a bit amused and  surprised to see both her children finishing up their breakfast. They beamed delightfully at their mother and proudly proclaimed, “Mom!! As a gift to you for Mother’s day, we made our own breakfast… now you can take your time to make your own…”

Is this the way we appreciate others? At best, meeting our selfish interests and needs? Is our appreciation enough to encourage others? Even when we encourage others, we tend to limit our encouragement. Why do we do that?

Let us ask some basic questions this morning. Do we encourage others at all? Do we encourage ourselves at all? Two sides of the coin? Let us examine this a little further this morning.

Truett Cathy , the founder of the Fast-food chain Chick-fil-A is believed to have said this; “Who needs encouragement? Everyone who is breathing!!” Think about it. I am sure all of us remember a time when we were down in the dump and a word of encouragement from someone made a huge difference.

Let us understand the term encouragement itself. As the word itself indicates en-courage is to add courage to someone, infuse courage in someone, help them to realise their potential and move ahead. That is where, encouragement becomes different from praise. Praise is about affirming some outcome or act that someone did, a recognition of an accomplishment etc. Praise focuses on results, how talented you are, or your physical appearance. Praise is good, but for human beings, praise by itself might not lift up someone if they are feeling down. Using praise alone on someone who is feeling down will be like a doctor who makes the right diagnosis, but prescribes the wrong medicine. What they need is encouragement. Encouragement is something that will help the person realise the hidden potential in him/her, not what he/she is today. Jesus exemplified this when he saw potential in the fumbling, angry, impetuous, Peter. Jesus was able to look beyond Peter’s current talents (and lack of them) but to see the potential in him to build the church on Peter and hand over the keys of heaven to him.

The bible says “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thess 5:11 ESV)” Christians are clearly called to encourage each other, comfort each other. This of course comes after comforting oneself. Christians are also called to build each other up. Christianity is a spiritual house that is built upon the people, not on brick and mortar. Romans 14:19 (ESV) tells us So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. This call is what is called as edification in Christian lingo. Are our actions edifying to others? Is it helpful in building the body of Christ? That is why someone used TRUE as an acronym. They advise that before we speak, we apply the TRUE rule to what we are about to say. Is it the Truth? Is it Relevant? Is it Useful? Is it Edifying? If what we are about to say is not fitting the TRUE norm, then it is better to keep quiet. This is very important because Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. (Prov 18:21 NKJV), says the bible. That is the power of the words we speak. It can kill or it can save lives. So we all have a choice, to use our words for discouraging or encouraging. The Bible asks us to use our words for encouragement. And build each other up. Fortunately for us Christians, such encouragement is not just good talk, there is a strong reason why we can effectively do this building each other up stuff, and that is because “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.  (1 Thess 5:9-10 NKJV). We are not left without a good reason for us to encourage others and build each other up. We have a strong reason. We are appointed to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ and we live together with Him whether we are dead or alive. That is a great reason and a great motivation for us to encourage each other isn’t it? But do we do that often? How often do we do that?

That takes us to the question, why don’t we encourage others? Or for those of us who do encourage others, let us ask the question why don’t we encourage others even more? Science affirms what Bible says about this.  That it is in what we think. Because of our fallen nature, we are wired to think negative. We are wired to think about the gap between what needed to be achieved and what has not been achieved. The corporate culture that we have successfully brought into the church also facilitates this mindset. We set goals. We measure the Performance Gap and the Opportunity Gap. Isn’t this true?  We are wired to look at others this way, and we are wired to look at ourselves this way. Let me take my own example. For a few months now, a few of us have been discussing about starting a business venture focused on Servant Leadership for businesses. The business plan has been made. What is needed for it become a full reality is for me to quit my corporate job and engage fully in this venture. This is where the problem kicks in. I have a reasonably secure job. The company loves me . There is a lot of respect and credibility that I have built inside the company over a long period of time. There is no threat to my job in the near future. I enjoy my work, because they allow me to teach Servant Leadership in my company also. So the question comes up in my mind as to why would I want to drop my job and start something that is risky? What if the venture does not take off? How will I meet my expenses if the venture does not take off and we do not get enough business opportunities? Should I take that risk? I hope you are getting what my mind is doing. My thoughts are developing a life of their own and going in all directions. That is what thoughts do. I know there are many saints in this congregation who are perfectly happy to waiting on the Lord and feeling peaceful. If you are one of them, raise your hands in praise. But if you are like me, and are likely to let your thoughts take a wild run, let us examine how we can take the control back.

Paul offers some great advice on this in his letter to the Philippians. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. (Phil 4:8 NKJV). This is a great advice. Have you seen people who are different? Have you seen people who are calm under all circumstances, people who listen more than they talk? People who love everyone else, including their enemies? People who are just impossible to offend? People whose joy and peace are infectious? If you have come across such a person and have wondered what secret sauce he/she has in her blood, it is this. They understand Philippian 4:8. The same advice is available to us too.  If we apply this in our life, we will come to realise we have a choice on what we think. It is a choice we have to make, and we have to make this choice consciously. And again, this is not am empty advice. Paul has already exhorted us in the previous verses “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7 NKJV). We have to accept first that Anxiety is the work of Satan. Satan wants to destroy us but Jesus is offering us abundant life. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NKJV). Once we accept this fact, it will help us to take all our worries to Him in prayer and petition and then the peace of God will guard our thoughts through Jesus Christ. But let us be reminded again, we cannot do this in our own strength. We cannot attend some mind control workshop and achieve this mastering of what we think. We need the power that comes from the act of Good Friday and Easter to achieve this. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,  (2 Cor 10:3-5 NKJV). Controlling our thoughts and using our thoughts to encourage others is not just in the flesh, it is a spiritual warfare. It can only be won if we depend on the shed blood of Jesus Christ. If we depend on that, we can bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. The key is to humble ourselves, accept the supremacy of God in Christ and surrender to Him.

So next time we are discouraged, next time we knowingly or unknowingly begin to discourage others, let us stop and take back the control of what we are thinking. Let us think Encouragement. Let us think Philippians 4:8. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. (Phil 4:8 NKJV)

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