How can we remain hopeful, positive, and encouraged when so much is happening around us at the moment to push us in the opposite direction? My go-to starting point is always God’s inspired Word.
In Romans 15:4 I read, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE SCRIPTURES we might have HOPE.” But that’s only the start! I also find that throughout the Bible, the verb ‘encourage’ is often followed by the phrase ‘one another’ or ‘each other’! The God who created us in his own image has revealed himself as ONE God in THREE Persons. In other words, he has DESIGNED us for RELATIONSHIP. The principal means he has set in place for our encouragement is ‘ONE ANOTHER’. It is not surprising, therefore, that our enemy, Satan (meaning ‘Accuser’), who is determined to undermine the spiritual life we were designed to enjoy, is the master of DIScouragement. And, if ‘one another’ is so fundamental to God’s design for our ENcouragement, it stands to reason that Satan will make every effort to destroy our UNITY in Christ.
With all this in mind, what do I have to look out for? Every opportunity that might come my way to ENCOURAGE someone who might be finding things tough, especially someone who just doesn’t have ‘other’ to add to their ‘each’ or ‘one an’! Just a smile, or a positive, uplifting word can do wonders - letting them know about something they have said/done/been that has been a blessing.
The other side of the coin is also important. If we have been designed to be encouraged by one another, our enemy, Satan, will always be ‘prowl[ing] around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8) and he knows how much his purposes are advanced by creating a critical, fault-finding, judgemental attitude in us toward one another. The extra pressures on our daily lives during the pandemic and lockdown restrictions make things difficult for all of us, requiring decisions to be made ‘in the dark’ and that can only be tested by hindsight, a situation which enables Satan to have a field-day in engendering unrest and tension among us. So let us examine our hearts in the light of this and make sure we are more likely to be positive towards, and supportive of, one another, rather than engaging in fault-finding and being critical.
Another important feature of mutual encouragement is being in regular prayer for one another. Even the Apostle Paul was not so confident that he didn’t greatly appreciate the prayer support he received from friends (Philippians 1:19; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:18-19). Do we let others know we are supporting them regularly in prayer? Closely associated with this is the encouragement we can give by sharing with each other the things we are learning from God’s Word daily, and the way we see his gracious hand at work in answer to prayer.
The ‘one another’ aspect of encouragement is made much more difficult in the present circumstances. (I was going to mention how enthusiastic, heart-felt congregational singing is also a significant channel of mutual encouragement, but that might be rubbing salt into the wound!) We can be thankful for the way technology is helping us to overcome these problems, so let us be creative and use it in whatever way we can. (I didn’t think I’d ever find myself writing about being thankful for technology - but there you go, extraordinary things happen in extraordinary times!)
Rev Bruce Christian
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