Life At Its Best: Be merciful and encourage others
Everyone likes encouragement. I was reminded of this almost daily as a college missions' director, but I remember one instance particularly well. It was on an overseas trip on which I took 20 college students.
On this trip, we started every day with 6 a.m. devotionals. Most of the kids were pretty disciplined about it. However, one girl rarely woke up, and when she did, she had a rotten attitude. After two weeks , I decided her attitude wasn't just a result of the time change.
So in my mind, it was time to straighten her out. But little did I know, God was about to straighten me out. During my quiet time, he put in my heart that rather than confronting her, I needed to affirm the mercy gift he'd given her.
So I did. Later that day, I pulled her aside and encouraged her. I also asked if she'd be interested in designing a "next-step" process to help new believers in their journey to follow Christ. Without hesitation, she agreed, and within days she'd put together an exceptional process.
As she interacted with the new believers at the altar, you could just see mercy flowing out of her. After that one talk, this girl's whole attitude changed. She was no longer negative or uninvolved. She actually became one of the most positive, influential students on our team!
It's amazing what encouragement can do. Hebrews 11:24-25 says, "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. and encourage one another." God desires for us to be a support system for each other and to build each other up in our unique areas of gifting.
Sometimes, we may not know what to say, but through God's guidance, we can learn to speak timely words that motivate and encourage. In Luke 1, we're shown a great example of this. After an angel appeared to Mary and announced that she'd given birth to Jesus, fear and uncertainty filled her heart. But a few days later, Mary went to see Elizabeth, who was also pregnant.
When she walked in, Elizabeth's baby leaped inside of her, and God spoke to her. Before Mary even told her the news of her pregnancy, Elizabeth said, "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child that you will bear!" Mary's heart was filled with belief. Through Elizabeth's God-inspired encouragement, she grew confident she could do what God was asking of her.
That's the kind of friend God has called us all to be. We must learn to see and believe in the potential God has placed in others. Then, we must speak to that potential, encouraging them that they can fulfill all he asks them to do.
If you can't find the words to say, ask the holy spirit. Trust that, just as he guided Elizabeth, he can guide you to speak the right word at the right time. Don't be a negative friend. Be an encourager!
Jim Graff is the Senior Pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria. faithfamilyvictoria.com.