Have you ever had the experience of having to make a business presentation and you learned that the “big boss” is going to be there? Your knees go weak, and your hands sweat. No matter what the temperature, you start wiping the perspiration from your brow. You just know that you are going to blow it.
I remember that feeling distinctly. I was about 25 years of age and an associate pastor of a pretty large church. With the senior pastor on vacation, I was to bring the message. I had studied and prepared and did my best. But I honestly felt that I had stumbled through the presentation and done a pretty poor job. The fact that the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a VIP in my book, was on vacation and was in the audience didn’t make me any more comfortable either. When it was over, I felt like going out the back door.
A few days later, however, I got a letter from the man who contributed to my nervousness, Dr. David Hood, a man with years of experience and a polished speaker. This gracious gentleman, though, told me what a blessing my comments were and how much he had appreciated my presentation.
I suspected that he had read Joseph Stalker’s book, Life and Death of Jesus Christ, where I got most of my thoughts. But that letter did something for me. It gave me the confidence to try again. I said that day, “He’s the kind of a person I want to be—someone who encourages others, especially young men and women!”
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus…. Romans 15:5
Everybody needs an encourager! Twice God told the people of Joshua’s day to encourage him. He needed it. He was following the greatest leader of his day, Moses! Overwhelmed by feelings of inferiority, it would have been easy for him to think, “No way! I can never measure up to Moses!”
You can develop the art of encouragement by practicing the following guidelines:
Guideline #1: Focus on one positive aspect of what you like and say it.
Leave the negative comments out entirely. There is a place for criticism, though it is seldom as necessary or important as we tend to think, but its place is not mingled with words that are intended to be encouraging. Don’t say, “Your message was good, Pastor, but it would have been better if you hadn’t talked for so long.” Mixed messages like, “Your sales were pretty good this month, but if you had taken my advice they would have been better,” don’t qualify as encouragement.
Guideline #2: Be sincere in what you say.
Encouragement is not flattery. It is not telling something which is untrue. It is a decision, a choice that you make. Almost always you can see something positive about someone, something which they need to know. A phone call, a note, a few words in passing does a lot to boost someone in a world that puts people down.
Guideline #3: Remember that being an encourager is a habit that you must learn to cultivate.
Possibly one of the reasons we do so little of it is that our old nature tends to make us look for the flaws and failures of others. I’m convinced that there are spiritual overtones to encouraging each other. Do you remember how Paul closed his letter to the Romans? He wrote, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus…” (Romans 15:5).
In a world that puts you down, an encourager lifts you up. It’s a habit we need to develop. In building each other up, we build up ourselves. It just works that way!
Resource reading: Romans 15:1-13