How to encourage others

Yesterday I shared three books I’ve been reading this summer that have significantly challenged and grown me in my faith.

One of them was A Call to Spiritual Reformation by Carson.

So great guys.  So great.

It’s had me processing a lot about the way I encourage others.

I tend to pendulum swing between these two tendencies:  Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 5.38.42 PM

(1) encouraging people in a way that makes much of them

The backslapping flatterer constantly compliments everyone.  Regardless of the quality of the work, this extrovert comes alongside and bellows “terrific job!” “Wonderful piece of work.” “Never seen flowers better arranged!” “I don’t know how the ushers would get by if it were not for your contribution.”

(2) avoiding encouragement because you’re scared of making much of them instead of God.

They recognize, rightly, that anything good that we are or have or do ultimately spring from our heavenly Father’s gracious hand. They conclude, wrongly, that no encouragement should be administered to those who are merely the secondary mediators of such divine grace.

Paul’s prayers in the New Testament seem to offer a third option:

a prayer life that thanks God for the people of God, and then tells the people of God what we thank God for.

I am thankful for my community.  I am surrounded by theologians and counselors and encouragers.  My pals have the full gambit of spiritual gifts and I benefit from them often.

I am thankful, but that emotion generally overflows into a loving text message, rather than time on my knees.

I feel like God is really pushing on my prayer life.  He’s been challenging me through His Word and through those around me and through books like this one, (which, btw, I had no idea was about prayer when I started reading it).

It’s been sort of great.

This weekend, I practiced thanking God for my people.

I have a list of people I pray for regularly and so, I just went through and thanked God for each of them.  I started with a sort of generic thanks: ‘uh, God thank you for them…yeah. thanks.  They’re great.  Thanks.’

But as I spoke, my prayers twisted into actual worship.  I began to see God in those around me. I began to thank Him earnestly and specifically for the way He has moved in them.  Tears began spilling down my cheeks.

It is incredibly humbling to consider all the unique ways He has persevered and changed me through those around me.  It is incredibly joyful to consider all the ways He has moved His kingdom forward and hallowed out His name through their lives.

Honestly, I prayed so that when I said: ‘I thank God for you!’ I would be telling the truth.  But man, after praying, the encouragement piece is just icing on the cake; an overflow of a heart that is so genuinely thankful to God for these peeps.

I think it’s so crazy and cool how He has designed this sanctification thing to be a community project.  Everyone has a different role on the team.  Unlike your high school science project, God’s people will all fulfill their parts perfectly, because He’s going to do it in them.

God assigns to each different portions of faith so that we work together; so that we lean on His Spirit in each other.

God looks at Fabs and knows that she needs to grow in steadfastness.  Instead of just giving her steadfastness, He puts a Spirit of wisdom and discernment in her friend Rach.  He uses the gifts in Rachael to work in Fabs to transform her.

Fabs could use a boost in her struggle against sin, so God prompts her roommate Val to fight her sin openly and visibly. Fabs is convicted and challenged by the Spirit inside of Val, and is persevered another day.

He is changing this world through His Spirit. He is changing you through His Spirit.  But His Spirit dwells inside His people, not just in one individual person.

Take some time today to thank God for His work in and through others in your life.  See if those prayers don’t  overflow into the kind of encouragement that presses us all on.

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