Discover Encouragement and Determine Reality

sticky-notes-1159958Discussing Discouragement

Lack of progress. Politics. Stupidity. Illness. Aging. Unemployment. Failure.

These things continuously discourage me. If I dwell on them too often and too deeply, I become depressed. Before I reach that point, though, I try to focus on what Scripture says about encouragement.

My visits usually begin here:

“Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9)

If we focus on remembering God’s activity in our lives, on what His Word tells us and on His promises, we too receive encouragement from the Lord just as Joshua did.

Discovering Encouragement

sticky-notes-1159969God gives us encouragement in countless ways. We choose to be a part of it simply when we accept it.

Encouragement from God comes through…

  1. Prayer, scripture and progress. (Psalm 138:3, Romans 15:4 & Philippians 1:6) Prayer gives us strength to live as God desires and refocuses us on the encouragement He offers. God’s word offers encouragement through stories, guidance and hope. And the progress He works in us keeps us motivated for continual growth.
  2. Remembering. (Joshua 24:16-17Do you regularly remember what God has done in your life? Scripture certainly sets that as a necessary pattern for the lives of men. Through it, we see that God never changes, and that certainly is encouraging.
  3. Reflection in our eternal hope and our position in Christ. (1 Peter 1:6 & Philippians 2:1-2Think about what the Bible says God has in store for us. Exciting and encouraging, right? Plus, belonging to Christ encourages in a profound way as we regularly experience God’s grace and mercy.
  4. Through visible faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:7)
    How often does seeing another person’s faith in action encourage you? The reverse is also true. Look around!
  5. Through other Christians. (1 Thessalonians 4:18, Romans 1:11-12,
    1 Thessalonians 5:11, Acts 14:21-22 & Hebrews 10:24-25
    We can help each other refocus on eternity. We can gather regularly encourage one another through faith. Encouragement also comes as we strengthen and motivate one another.

When you are encouraged in these ways, doesn’t it feel like anything is possible? That’s kind of the point, actually.

Determining Reality

sticky-notes-1159963When I seek encouragement because I feel sorry for myself, I’m always disappointed. Doing so just focuses me more on my own discouragement and cultivates depression.

When I let God encourage me, I’m never disappointed. When I purpose to encourage others, I’m also always encouraged.

Focus determines reality, after all. When I seek out encouragement, I focus on myself. When I let God encourage me and when I look to encourage others, I focus outside of myself. One results in regular discouragement, the other growing encouragement.

Wondering where to start? Not sure how to specifically live this out?

Begin with what encourages you. Do that to encourage someone else. Sure, everyone is different, but we’re a lot alike too. Plus, as the old adage goes, it’s the thought that counts.

The Role of Accountability in Balance

AccountabilityFor over 20 years, running partners made sure I regularly completed the miles needed for my goals. In recent years, I meet with a Godly woman from church for Biblical accountability. In writing, accountability comes through my critique partner as well as through Godly people I interact with online. And of course, my spouse provides accountability like no other person in my life.

What is Accountability?

Being accountable means being responsible & answerable. Accountability means not simply acting according to feelings, wants and desires but basing actions on what we believe is honorable and truthful.

Accountability keeps us from hurting ourselves and others by making us liable, responsible and answerable for our actions or lack of action. Without accountability, the door remains open for saying and doing just about anything we want.

Accountability and Balance

Accountability to God and to other Christians exists as a Biblical principle (see Galatians 6:1-5, Luke 17:3, James 5:16, Romans 14:12 & Hebrews 4:13.) It also serves to strengthen us in ways we could not discover on our own.

Accountability 2

But how does accountability help specifically with balance?

Accountability provides a source of wisdom for the adjustments needed to maintain balance and keep from toppling over under the pressure and stress of our overloaded and drama-filled lives. Simply put, allowing accountability to function properly makes balance easier to maintain. When I neglect and/or ignore accountability, my life quickly becomes unstable.

Accountability helps maintain balance because it…

  1. Encourages us. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Accountability helps us know what we’re doing right and gives direction for decisions. It also helps us know we’re not alone in our struggles.
  2. Improves us. (Proverbs 17:17) We need others to alert us to improvements as well as how to go about making them. Attempting to stay balanced alone just isn’t possible because we simply cannot accurately see everything about ourselves.
  3. Makes us think about our words. The Bible says we’ll be held accountable for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36-37). Accountability forces us to not only think about what we say but also about what influences exist at the heart of our words.
  4. Builds trust. (Luke 16:10-12) Letting Godly people speak into our lives exercises humbleness. It practices our willingness to open ourselves up to necessary change, and this stretches us in a way that allows for bigger responsibility as we gain a reputation for honesty and transparency.
  5. Realigns us when we mess up. (1 John 2:1-29 & James 5:16) We’re expected to mess up. That’s part of life this side of Heaven. So, the real test of solid character shows with how a person reacts after messing up. A willingness to be reshaped by the Godly wisdom of another goes a long way in getting back on track after making mistakes.

Establishing Accountability

Accountability only comes when we deliberately pursue it. This happens by being…

  • Open to it. This means not being defensive and instead being teachable. Accountability requires humbleness.
  • Transparent & honest. I need to share my weaknesses and struggles in order for another to truly be able to help me. The protective bubble surrounding my ego has to go.
  • Willing to receive it. Too many times, I’ve appeared open to accountability and then proceeded to ignore all wisdom coming my way. Be willing to apply and adjust using the wisdom gained through accountability.

Before I can be someone to whom another becomes accountable, I must make sure I am first willing to be accountable to another person. This in itself is another aspect of balance that accountability brings into a person’s life.

I wish I could say that I’ve always had this level of accountability in my life, but that would be a lie. Because I’ve been on the other end of the extreme, living a life completely absent of accountability, I can say with certainty that it is a necessity for maintaining a balanced life.

DISCUSSION: What role does accountability play in helping you maintain balance? If you’re out of balance, how can accountability help you find balance again?

Loren Pinilis at Life of a Steward offers additional insight into the topic of accountability in his recent post “The Key to Making Accountability Work.
Definitely worth taking the time to read!

5 Ways to Show Appreciation

Appreciation Word Art

October is Minister Appreciation Month. Designating a month to show appreciate to church leadership is a great idea, but it is unfortunate if that’s the only time appreciation is shown. It’s sort of like telling your spouse you love them only on Valentine’s Day.

And really, showing appreciation extends well beyond leadership. Everyone likes to be appreciated. If you say you don’t need it, you’re wrong. Receiving appreciation fuels a fire that helps people continue through tough times and to be ever better in good.

Since October is Minister Appreciation month, let’s use the ministers in my church as a framework for discussing ways to show appreciation to anyone at anytime.

How to Show Appreciation

Showing appreciation effectively involves connecting with who a person is and how that person unique impacts your life. This list provides ways of thinking about appreciation that will hopefully trigger ideas for showing appreciation regularly.

1. Make a personal connection.

“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” ~ Booker T. Washington

Our Minister of Music also teaches choir at our Middle and High Schools. He’s a gifted vocal instructor for sure. Recently, he invited my oldest son to start playing keyboards on our church’s worship team. My son, a shy introvert, felt quite nervous and scared at first. But our worship leader helped him feel comfortable by giving him the level of responsibility that stretched him just a bit. And each time he plays, my son gets stretched a bit more. Slowly, our Minister of Music is increasing my son’s confidence. The patience he’s showing my son and the confidence he’s helping him gain means a tremendous amount to me, and I truly appreciate what he’s doing with and for my son.

Appreciate people for the ways they impact the areas that are most important to you.

2. Consider what you admire.

“I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

Often, what I admire in others involves a skill, talent or ability that I simple don’t possess. Take working with kids under the age of 10. I’ve tried it, and I just am not very good at it. The PreSchool Director at our church is gifted at working with kids. She shows seemingly unending patience with anything from discipline problems to toilet training to disputes among the kids. I truly admire not only her patience with them but her ability to get them to focus and actually learn too. She amazes me.

Appreciate people for what they can do so well that you cannot.

3. Acknowledge what inspires you.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” ~ Voltaire

Some people simply inspire for having a servant’s heart. Our Missions Pastor is such a person. She always has a great attitude and is welcoming to anyone and everyone who walks through the doors of our church. She inspires me to be nicer and kinder and to have a better attitude toward serving.

Appreciate people for how they inspire you to be a better person.

4. Notice potential.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Our Youth Pastor holds tremendous leadership potential. He has grown so much over the past 5 years, and it’s exciting to see him becoming what God called him to be. Each time he preaches, he improves. Each time he organizes an event, it’s better than the last. He’s constantly learning and growing and improving. I appreciate his willingness to always be learning & growing.

Appreciate people for what you see them becoming.

5. Go with the obvious.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

There’s so much to appreciate about our Senior Pastor.  He’s funny & compassionate. He’s known as a “grace pastor.” On a personal level, he takes the time to acknowledge when I do something and to help me see areas where I need to grow. He loves His kids and his family. His continually sparks something in me to want to shine brighter.

Appreciate people for the obvious differences they make in your life.

Regular Appreciation

“At the very least, do the very best… pray for them.” ~ Pastor Steve Miller

Appreciation should happen regularly, not just when a month or day comes up declaring a focus on appreciating someone. Scripture tells us part of our duty as Christians involves encouraging one another, and appreciation certainly does that. Take time this month to encourage & appreciate your ministers, but don’t stop there. Look for ways to regularly appreciate all the people in your life.

“Encourage each other and build each other up.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

DISCUSSION: What suggestions do you have for showing appreciation for others?