by Dorette Saunders
I was surprised some years ago to find out about National Encouragement Day (in the US) which is observed annually on September 12. Originating in 2007, in Arkansas, the day is dedicated to uplifting others and inspiring them toward good.
Quite often words in the Scriptures encourage us either to rise above our circumstances or our feelings of inadequacy, or to share words or deeds that would inspire others who are feeling less than their best selves. We are told time and again that we need not bow to fear because our God, the Ruler of the universe, stands with us not only while we are experiencing trials, but at all times.
One of the most encouraging passages in the Bible was written by the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians. Although it was addressed to them, it gives us hope that at the end of this life, our Savior, Jesus Christ, is coming back for us.
“With a loud command and with the shout of the chief angel and a blast of God's trumpet, the Lord will return from heaven. Then those who had faith in Christ before they died will be raised to life. Next, all of us who are still alive will be taken up into the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the sky. From that time on we will all be with the Lord forever. Encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, CEV).
How did Paul, who suffered so much for the sake of the gospel, become such an encourager? It started with a devout, generous disciple named Joseph, whom we know as Barnabas. He earned the nickname Barnabas (one who encourages others) because he was always selflessly encouraging those around him (Acts 4:36-37, CEV).
When Paul, a former persecutor of Christians, was newly converted, followers of Jesus were suspicious as to his new-found faith and were wary of accepting him. Yet, Barnabas took Paul under his wing, and introducing him to the believers in Jerusalem, he encouraged them to welcome Paul (Acts 9:27).
Like Barnabas, we have the ability to become encouragers if we take the time to look for opportunities. Who around us needs their spirits lifted? Who could use a laugh or two? Who needs us to stand in the gap in prayer? What gifts do we have that might benefit someone else? How can we build someone’s self- esteem? How can our faith in God allow us to see beyond someone’s past (or present) to uplift their future potential?
Of course we need not wait for a designated day to encourage others. Start now. Look for opportunities even among those whom we believe do not need encouragement. Pray about it. We might be surprised to find that even those who ooze self-confidence may need someone to pour into them at some point. It started with Barnabas, perhaps it will continue with you.
PRAYER: Lord, your Word continually encourages us amid all the difficulties we face. We are strengthened because we have you always with us. Help us to encourage someone and to assure them that you are with them too. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.