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 the Bible says about encouragement.
My focus usually begins 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.
God gives us encouragement in countless ways. We choose to be a part of it simply when we accept it. Encouragement from God comes through:
- 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. The progress he works in us keeps us motivated for continual growth.
- Remembering. (Joshua 24:16-17) Do 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.
- Reflection on our eternal hope and our position in Christ. (1 Peter 1:6; Philippians 2:1-2) Think 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.
- 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, and let your faith be visible.
- 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.
When 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, though, 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.