The word encouragement means the expression of approval and support. Another definition is the act of giving hope or support to someone.

When we evaluate our emotions we are aware that doubts, fear, and times of melancholy are ordinary to all. Listed are three predominant Bible characters who endured emotional disturbance.

(1) Jeremiah, one of the distinguished Old Testament prophets, many times wept because of the spiritual situation of the people he attended . Once in a moment of bitterness in his life Jeremiah cursed the day he was born. There was another time when Jeremiah was so disheartened he solemnly promised never again to preach.

(2) John the Baptist, a man who was prophesied in Isaiah 40:3 to " Prepare the way of the Lord...", began to have doubts while he was in prison. John the Baptist was skeptical if Jesus Christ was the Messiah (Matthew 11). While he was in prison, he received partial reports of Christ.

(3) The most magnificent follower of Christ, the apostle Paul, many years after his transformation cried out, " Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24).

Often when we have doubts or fears they may cause us to become depressed. Don't allow feelings of guilt or sadness to submerge you deeper into a state of hopelessness. God knows and understands our weakness.

When I think of encouragement, instantly I am reminded of Barnabas and the encouraging work that he did. Barnabas was called A SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT. His encouraging efforts (probably the spiritual gift of exhortation) caused others to give him that name. Barnabas was on the first missionary team. His name was originally known as Joses, but Barnabas is better known by the name the apostles gave him as they considered his ministry of encouragement ( Acts 4: 36-37).

The word minister when used as "ministering to others" means to attend to the needs of others. Barnabas brought Saul and introduced him to the apostles ( Acts 9: 27). Then he brought Saul to Antioch where he taught many people (Acts 11: 25-26). We are told that later Barnabas accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 13: 2).

Barnabas encouraged the believers. Acts 11:23:" When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. "

Everyone needs encouragement. We may see someone who looks as if they need to hear encouraging words. There are so many ways in which we can encourage others. Their day may have been altered, and they probably would like to hear a cheery word. It is easy to get wrapped up in our lives. There are so many people who are alone or hurting. We are told in the Bible to edify one another. To edify means to build someone up.

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
I Thessalonians 5:11(NKJV)

When facing difficult times , I always think of the following verse when I need to hear encouraging words. We read in Psalm 46:1, " God is our refuge and strength. a very present help in trouble. " You may have heard kind words spoken to you. Think how they affected you.

In the past, God's faithfulness had always offered encouragement. Joshua knew the nation's weak spots. Before his death, he called the people together and gave commands to encourage them where they were most likely to fall short:

(1) abide by all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses never turning aside;
(2) don't affiliate yourselves with the pagan nations or serve their gods;
(3) don't marry into the pagan nations. ( Joshua 24: 1-15.)

These temptations were right in their backyard. Our associations and relationships can be temptations to us as well. It's wise to identify our weak spots before we snap. Then we can cultivate strategies to overcome these snares instead of being overcome by them.

Joshua knew his life was ending. So he called all the leaders of the nation together to give them his final words of encouragement and instruction. His whole message can be summarized in Joshua 23:8, "Be faithful to the Lord your God."

You can leave to others nothing better than the admonition to hold on to God and to the memory of a person who did. I truly love to be around other Christians, their example is encouraging. We gain encouragement by the words of others. There have been so many wonderful Christian examples, and I am grateful and thankful for each one. You might be having a difficult time in your life, and what a blessing it is to know that you can be with those who love the Lord. That is the such a joyous time for me, and for many more that I'm aware of.. Christians who stand firm in the Lord will encourage those who are new in their faith who can learn from the steadfastness of the mature.

The Christian life is compared to an athlete running in a race. A race is hard on the runner. As they are nearing the end of the race they have various aches in their body and they wish to stop. They realize the worth of their friends' and fans' encouragement. In the same way, Christians are to encourage one another. A word of encouragement offered at the right time can make the contrast between completing the race and becoming exasperated along the way.

We may want to look around ourselves. We need to be aiding someone with our words and actions and meet their need for encouragement.

As we contemplate our eternal hope that is in Christ, it will offer us encouragement. In 1 Peter 1:6 we read," In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials. "

Peter here attempts to encourage us with his words. With the knowledge of the magnificent reward we have ahead of us,we are encouraged to continue enduring trials in the meantime. It does not matter what trial or pain we face, it is not the last stressful situation that we will face.

Ultimately we will live with Christ forever, if we have been found by the Lord as having lived faithfully to the Him until death. This is found in Revelation 2:8-10.

In I Thessalonians 4: 18 we are told," Therefore comfort one another with these words. " How we need to take the time to be with others who are suffering. They may need a smile, a card or a letter, a phone call, a visit, or just an encouraging word. We need to take the time to be with those who suffer. Everyone needs to be comforted with God's marvelous love.

An excellent source of encouragement is prayer. In the Bible, we are told to remember others in our prayers. Our praying for others should be done faithfully. In II Timothy 1:3 we are told," I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day. "

Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians admonished them to exhort or encourage others. In I Thessalonians 5:14 we read ," Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. "

Discussion and study questions:
(1) Have you ever seen a person who looks as if a smile is what they need?
(2) In what manner do we receive encouragement?
(3) Who was called the Son of Encouragement?

Copyright 2007 Linda Lawrence