By: Dennis Bates
The Bible tells us repeatedly that we need to encourage each other in our daily walks with God. One of the many verses that comes to mind is 1 Thessalonians 5:11. It reads:
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
I am more and more convinced every day that encouragement is the foundation of the church’s survival into the future. Encouraging each other in Christ and through Christ will ensure that His church thrives. Without encouragement I predict that the world’s church will crumble and fall. Don’t misunderstand me, The Church begins and ends with belief in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Without His shed blood for us there really is no point. However, the continued vitality of the community of believers that we call the local church depends to a large degree upon what we do with that beginning and that end. That’s where encouragement comes into focus.
All of us get discouraged at times. We just do. The good news is that we don’t all get discouraged at the same time. No matter what is going on around us, sometimes we just feel the powerful grace of the Living God move in our lives, and we can either follow His lead or wait for the highs and lows of life pass us by. Sooner or later they will.
Lately, at least in my writing, I have been discouraged. Everything seems to be at a standstill. I just published my second novel in a year with the help of an awfully lot of people, including my wife who has read and edited it almost as many times as I have. This story has always been one of my favorites, but so far at least, I have more copies of last week’s newspaper stacked up for recycling than I have sales of “Sharon’s Song,” my second book.
I know: God’s will and God’s timing, but still, discouragement can be a debilitating emotion. At least three partial stories sit started waiting for me to write the rest of them. Trying to learn how to market is overwhelming me, and finding the time to do it is even more frustrating. Worse yet is that the darkest question all writers ask themselves keeps haunting me: Is this really something I have the talent to pursue, or am I wasting my time?
In short, Satan is on the prowl right now and I am vulnerable. Why would I ever think I was immune? He sets out to devour the unsuspecting who have let their defenses down because of some misguided supernatural smugness that leads us to believe it would never happen to us? After all, aren’t we too smart, too strong and too solid for him to fool? No we are not.
Satan may be clever, but he is no match for the humble who work tirelessly in the shadows to do God’s will. You know the type of person I’m talking about: they’re prayer warriors, church ushers, Sunday school teachers and servers at coffee hour after worship service is over. They are always ready to do whatever is needed but expect nothing in return except the knowledge that God had a job for them to do and they did it. There are also encouragers among those ranks.
Following worship service last week I was sitting with my coffee having my own private pity party. I chatted with others like I always do, but inside I was just plain feeling sorry for myself and asking God to show me why I should bother. I had no right to feel that way, but I claimed the feelings as my own anyway. As I sat there, a woman who has done many of the things I mentioned above, quietly slipped an envelope on the table next to my coffee cup and said, “Just a little note for you,” and then she walked away.
Inside was a single handwritten page that began and ended as follows:
“Just wanted to let you know how much I’ve enjoyed your books….Looking forward to more…” The gentle spirit that came through the entire five paragraphs was exactly what I needed and it came at exactly the right time. I wondered how she could have possibly known how I had been feeling; I wondered how she could have known I had been praying for God’s direction in my writing; and then I wondered why I wondered.
For a moment I had been in the presence of an Angel from God Himself, whose simple act of encouragement meant more to me than she will ever know. That’s why we should encourage each other always in all things. We never know when we can be an angel too. Thank you, Judy, for being mine. I will never forget your example or you.