There seems to be an endless string of “holidays” that we can celebrate throughout the year. Some of them are pretty silly. Did you know that today, September 12th, is National Chocolate Milkshake day? If you want to see the crazy, and not so crazy list of holidays you can check out www.anydayguide.com.
I bring this up today because today is the National Day of Encouragement. It may seem like a silly “holiday” to some, but I take this one pretty seriously. Perhaps that is because I believe my mission in life is to encourage with love, passion and enthusiasm. I’m going to love it up today.
So let me give you the quick overview on this day. It was made an “official” day in 2007. The Encouragement Foundation and its director, Andrew Baker, really spearheaded efforts for this holiday. Mr. Baker said, “The National Day of Encouragement is about inspiring Americans to make deliberate words and acts of encouragement a part of this day, first, and then a part of every day of their lives.”
We’ve all got to start somewhere, right? So why not now, why not today?
What is encouragement?
The Encouragement Foundation defines encouragement this way, “To give courage to; to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope; to raise, or to increase, the confidence of; to animate; en hearten; to incite; to help forward”.
Encouragement is also listed by Paul in the book of Romans as a gift that is given to humbly serve the body of Christ. In Romans 12:6-8 (NIV) it says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (emphasis is mine).
From what I have found, encouragement comes from the Greek word paraklésis, which can also mean exhortation. It is defined as “a call to one’s side.”
As I take the Greek definition along with the definition from the Encouragement Foundation it all starts to come together. If you want to give courage, hope, and confidence to someone, it makes sense that you would have to come to one’s side to do it.
Barnabas, the son of encouragement, mentioned multiple times in the book of Acts, always seemed to coming along side of someone. The individual names of those Barnabas came along side of include Paul and John Mark, but from what I can gather from other verses such as Acts 13:43 there seemed to be more that Barnabas came along side of and “urged to continue in the grace of God.”
A Godly Encourager
I have found that the world will tout flattery as encouragement. To me, flattery words are not sincere and are like dry saltine crackers for the a starving heart; there is no nourishment to them. They are empty words. The effect of flattery is very short lived, even though it may seem very pretty. I also think of them like fireworks, a big bang and some sparkles that are quickly gone.
To me a real encourager is one who walks with God. I do not think I would be anything but a flatterer if I wasn’t trying to walk out my faith. It is a hard thing to come along someone’s side and offer encouragement because someone who needs encouragement is often facing something hard, or challenging, or painful. Coming along side of someone means building a relationship with them.
It takes time, it takes a selflessness, it takes a lot of love and a bit of God’s perspective. None of which flows naturally out of me. But fueled by God’s love and the fruits of the Spirit, wow, amazing things can happen. I know. I have seen God do some awesome things in the lives of those around me.
One of the biggest is divine timing. I can not tell you how often I have heard someone say “you don’t know how perfect that timing was” when speaking of a call I made to them, a card I sent or a message I shared. That is the truth, I DON’T KNOW. I just get this prompting and I try to be faithful, sometimes responding quickly & other times not so much.
So many times I send a card, then rely on the US Post Office to get it where it needs to be, where I live you can generally add at least a day or two to the average delivery time. I am convinced that God must be involved to deliver those cards at just the right time.
The bottom line is that we can not give what we do not have. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 2:1-4. We need what God has for us so that we may be encouragers to others.
Time to Live it Out
So how can start today to encourage others? It’s the little things done repetitively that build great things. Pick one, pick a few, it’s up to you. But I bet if you give it a try, there will be a bit of joy added to your day by uplifting others.
- Smile Look people directly in the eye and smile at them. It’s amazingly effective.
- Listen Focus your eyes, ears and mind on the person who is talking to you. Really hear what they are saying and pay attention to their non verbal cues about what they are not saying.
- Hugs Wrap your arms around someone and give them a good squeeze. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we need it until we get it.
- Notes Write someone a note, a post-it note, a card, a letter or even a book. Whatever length is your preference. Just jot down what that person means to you or a trait you love about them.
- Sit in Silence with Someone This one can be a hard one, especially since silence can be uncomfortable, but sometimes we just need to be with someone when we don’t have the strength to speak.
- Bring a Treat This is an awesome way to show attention to the details of someone’s life. Don’t limit yourself to the classic flowers, coffee or candy. What about a meal to someone who needs it? Or supplies for their current endeavor?
- Run an Errand It can be hard to get everywhere we need. Is there someone that would benefit from the places you are already going?
- Tip Generously You have no idea what is going on in their life or how their customers have been that day. You never know what a difference you could make.
- Call People into Remembrance This one takes a bit of thinking, but the outcome is usually incredible. Remind someone of what it took to get them to where they are now. Illustrate to them examples of things they have done that have made a difference in your life.
I just have so much fun with this I could go on and on. I read anything about encouragement that I can get my hands on and I have been doing that for years. So I’m not joking about the on and on part.
But I think there are people out there who need our passionate encouragement and prayers. They need to be uplifted. If we all added a few small acts today, we can spread a little joy around. Encourage someone today.
I’m so excited about this day. Perhaps it is because this is such a great platform to share something that means so much to me. Lord, I pray that all of my readers are able to receive great joy through their efforts to encourage. Please take what they pour out and multiply it by Your hand, then flood it back over them. Please help them all to know that I am so very grateful for the way they come along my side. Just the act of giving of their time to read my silly words helps me to press on.
Lord, help us to first come to You, so that we may pour out to others. I know how my enthusiasm gets the best of me and I bolt off into something only to find I forgot to fuel up before I left, which leaves me stranded and empty. I am so grateful for Your grace and the Spirit who is the comforter who is always with us.
In the name of Jesus, the greatest encourager, amen.