The Therapy of Encouragement
INTRODUCTION: Something within each of us cries out to be noticed. We don’t know if anybody really cares about us. However, God has given to us, His children, the solution to the lonely, hopeless heart. It’s found in the subject of “ENCOURAGEMENT.”
The dictionary defines encouragement as “the act of inspiring others with renewed courage, renewed spirit, or renewed hope.”
The New Testament word most often translated as encouragement is “parakalien.” It comes from two Greek words: “para” meaning “alongside of” and “kaleo” meaning “to call”
When people come alongside us during difficult times to give us renewed courage, a renewed spirit, or renewed hope that’s encouragement.
An encourager is one who puts courage into the fainthearted, hope back into the spirit.
Most individuals if they were really honest live their lives in virtual isolation. Many build a castle-like fortress around themselves.
If a crisis should arise in their lives or in their family, you or I would never know of it until it was all over, even then, we might never know.
What is so unfortunate is they live in their crisis day-after-day and in some cases year-after-year, deep inside crying out as David did in Psalm 142:4, “No one cares for my soul.”
This is why encouragement is an urgent need of our day. A church which does not equip its people as encouragers will soon phase out of any meaningful ministry in the community. God help us to learn the deeply needed ministry of being encouragers.
In this message we are going to focus on “ENCOURAGEMENT” from the inside and from the outside.
From the inside, when all else fails, “How do I encourage myself?”
From the outside, how do I apply “Friend Therapy?”
FIRST: From the inside, when all else fails, “How do I encourage myself?” At times when we feel we are isolated, maybe in a marriage or business or a family or in a spiritual crisis, and there is no one left to encourage us, what do we do, and to whom do we turn?
To answer this question we need to examine the steps two Old Testament men took, who found themselves in this very situation.
NUMBER 1. The Example of David in I Samuel 30:1-6: Saul, David’s bitter enemy, hated him and hunted him. As a result, David fled to escape Saul’s jealous wrath.
As the young giant-killer’s life became more and more like the adventures of the “The Fugitive”, he gathered a band of rag-tag warriors around him who were the off-scouring of Israel. The Bible describes them in I Samuel 22:2 as “Everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontent…” What a group!
Eventually, David and his “army” fled across Israel’s border into Philistia, hoping to find safety among the Philistines, thinking Saul would never look for them there. Here is where we take up the story in I Samuel 30:1-6a.
“And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; (2) And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way. (3) So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. (4) Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. (5) And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. (6) And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”
I can’t imagine anything more stressful, more frightening, more discouraging, than this moment in David’s life. All human support systems were gone. Those who were nearest to him had turned against him. He was left alone to experience his grief and to wrestle with the questions that surely must have filled his mind.
Now if you would carefully notice the end of verse 6, you will discover the secret of what to do “when all else fails.” Here is what David said, “…but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”
In this moment of distress, in the heat of discouragement, the young king turned to the one true God, his God, for encouragement. There was nowhere else to go. Life had reduced his options to ONE. Sooner or later life does that to all of us.
As a pastor (the only one in the church who doesn’t have a pastor) I’ve had to learn how to encourage myself. I have discovered that our loving Heavenly Father has provided all the resources we will ever need.
There have been times when literally there has been no one else there but GOD. It is in these moments that GOD does the encouraging.
There can be great healing in solitude. David knew that. His psalms show us that at times the only way to find encouragement is to get alone with God and be enriched by the Word of God.
Let me remind you of the words found in Roman 15:4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort (encouragement) of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation (encouragement) grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.”
Everything from Genesis to Malachi was written for our learning, so that we, through the encouragement of the Scriptures, might have hope. Here are some familiar encouragements from the Scriptures.
Psalms 19:8-11, “The statues of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.”
Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 43:5, “Why art thou cast down, I my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
Psalm 46:1-2, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…”
When you are discouraged, the best friend you have apart from your personal prayer relationship with God is His Word.
NUMBER 2. The Example of Habakkuk in Habakkuk 3:17-18: Habakkuk was a prophet during a period of history when Israel was quite wicked. Habakkuk asked God to judge the wickedness of His people, and God obligated.
But the prophet was astonished that God chose the Chaldeans, another name for the Babylonians who were more wicked than the Israelites, to inflict this judgment.
Habakkuk couldn’t understand why God used a nation more deplorably evil to chasten His people. At the end of the brief book that bears his name, Habakkuk puts the intense conflict aside and worships his God in song.
Here is that song, in 3:17-19, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and here shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places…”
In a moment of deep discouragement, Habakkuk used music to liven himself up. Over the years, God has used music again and again to minister to my heart, to encourage me. Here are several of my favorites
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not:
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrow like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is will, it is will with my soul.
Life can often make us feel that we are all alone in a cabin far out in the woods. There are times when it seems all is lost and no one cares. We are left alone, alone in the prison of our own personal problems. There is no way out and there is no one out there coming to our rescue. When that moment comes, remember
David “strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
Habakkuk encouraged himself in song.
SECOND: From the outside, how do I apply “Friend Therapy?” Remember our definition of encouragement, “The act of inspiring others with renewed courage, renewed spirit, or renewed hope.” Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 explains this process,
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
This ministry of encouragement stands near the top of God’s priority list. At least 15 passages in the New Testament talk about one-another ministry. Five of them deal with encouragement.
I Thessalonians 4:18, “Wherefore comfort (our word for encourage) one another with these words.”
I Thessalonians 5:11, “Wherefore comfort (encourage) yourselves together, and edify one another as also ye do.”
I Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort (encourage) the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”
Hebrews 3:13, “But exhort (encourage) one another daily…”
Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of our selves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting (encouraging) one another…”
These are not a vocational command for a Pastor. These words are found in the job description of every believer.
Now to understand how we can encourage one-another, it’s helpful to know what it takes to be encouraged.
What we SENSE: Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha in the New Testament? It’s a study in “FOCUSED ATTENTION.” Martha was like so many of us.
She couldn’t believe the Lord Jesus had really come to her house.
She was out in the kitchen trying to make everything right for the important person who had come to her home.
But Mary, her sister, had a different method of honoring Christ. Mary sat at His feet and focused her attention on Him. The Lord said it was Mary who did the better thing.
Focused attention lets you know people really care. It lets you know they are not concerned about anything or anyone else for the moment. They are just there for you. Focused attention feels good, it’s so encouraging.
What we HEAR: I am also to be encouraged by what I hear. If I sense someone genuinely cares about me, that person’s words can be powerful.
As the old adage goes, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Proverbs 12:25 tells us, “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.”
Have you ever been weighed down by anxiety and had someone come along and say a good word which lifted your spirit? During one of the deepest darkest times in my life, those that I thought would be my friends turned out to be hurtful enemies.
However, there was one pastor friend who would call me often to offer encouragement and pray for me, or I would call him for encouragement. He literally poured courage into my heart.
What we READ: I am encouraged not only by what I sense and hear, but by what I read.
One of the greatest tools of encouragement is what you write to someone. Believe it or not, two or three sentences can turn a person’s life around.
Over the years there have been people, God bless them, who have dropped us a note and have literally encouraged us, even though it was only a line or two in one case it was an entire note. THANK YOU for your ENCOURAGEMENT!
What we FEEL: We are encouraged by what we feel from others. I’m talking about touching. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m talking about touching with the right motive, the right heart. Have you ever noticed how often in the New Testament Jesus touched people?
Luke 5:13, “And He put forth His hand, and TOUCHED him, saying I will: be thou clean and immediately the leprosy departed from him.”
Mark 7:33, 35, “And He took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and TOUCHED his tongue. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.”
Matthew 8:15, “And He TOUCHED her hand, and the fever left her…”
Matthew 20:34, “So Jesus had compassion on them, and TOUCHED their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.”
You say, “Pastor, I don’t have the gift of healing. I’m not Jesus Christ, so what about this idea of touching?” Let me tell you something. God put our being into what we call SKIN, and the SKINis the sensory receiver of many of the messages we receive.
Years ago, after a conversation with a good friend of mine in the ministry, when we got up to leave, he wrapped his arms around me, held on and prayed for me. I have not forgotten the strength of his encouragement to me.
In today’s world we are so fearful to touch because so often touching is misunderstood.
Sometimes it is a good handshake.
Sometimes it is a gentle pat on the back.
Sometimes it’s putting your arm around a brother or sister and giving a squeeze.
Sometimes it’s a hug:
It’s wonderful what a hug can do.
A Hug can cheer you when you’re blue.
A Hug can say, “I love you so,”
Or “I sure hate to see you go.”
A hug is, Welcome back again!”
And, “Great to see you, where’ve you been?”
A Hug can soothe a small child’s pain.
And bring a rainbow after rain.
The hug. There is no doubt about it.
We scarcely could survive without it.
A Hug delights and warms and charms.
It must be why God gave us arms.
No need to fret about your store of them.
The more you give, the more there’s of them.
So stretch those arms without delay,
And give someone a hug today!
We have all at one time or another had the experience of a dead battery in our car. The ministry of encouragement is like a car that comes alongside ours and gives us a “JUMP START.” The strength of the operative car is transformed into the weak battery, and the inoperative car is rejuvenated to action.
When we see people who are discouraged, saddened by the hardships of life, or simple tired of the Christian path of obedience, we need to come alongside and give them a spiritual “JUMP START.”
This week think about it. Who do you need to pull up next to that has a spiritual dead battery and offer them a “JUMP START” of encouragement?
Maybe it’s just a sense that you are there.
Maybe it’s just an offer of an encouraging word.
Maybe it’s just a note that offers encouragement.
Maybe it’s just to offer a good hug.
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “The Therapy of Encouragement” right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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