As I was sitting at my desk preparing to write this article, the sweetest gift appeared around the corner of my cubicle. Diana, a lovely coworker I recently met, came to affirm me on my recent choice of wearing a modest, one-piece swimsuit on a group hike to a reservoir last weekend. Her comment was unexpected as she took notice of something I thought no one would think twice about! The point is, having a friend affirm me, reminded me that encouragement makes the Christian life sweeter. As Christians, we’ve been given a high calling. We are set apart as faithful servants of Christ, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to be agents of change and restoration in our broken world by being the salt and light of the earth. We have been created new, and we are image bearers of Christ to the world through our love for one another. What a high and, quite frankly, intimidating calling!
Jesus never promised that following him would bring a life of ease and comfort. In fact, we can be sure of the opposite. In John 16:33, He says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Living a life set apart for the Lord can seem daunting, and it often may make us feel alienated.
Proverbs 16:24 states, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” We have the ever present power to speak truth and life into the lives of people. Speaking the words of encouragement and affirmation that the Holy Spirit places on our hearts is a life-changing practice in obedience and humility. Encouragement literally means to fill with courage or strength of purpose. It communicates that you are coming alongside another, saying, “I am in this walk with you, and I’m going to help you through it.” We should be aware and mindful that as we walk through our daily lives, the stakes are high. As a church we have been given a spirit of unity in Christ. We should reflect a community that is called to be clothed in the love of Christ, which includes encouraging one another, meeting together, and even correcting one another.
Words of affirmation call those in our lives to be better men and women of God. I can use my words to bring others down and point out their flaws, or I can look for qualities I find praiseworthy in them, which will inspire them to further cultivate those fruits of the Spirit. We often limit this practice to people who are younger than us, but affirmation breaks down any generational barriers. How powerful for a young person to affirm the elderly; what a show of respect and honor.
Today, I challenge you to pray and choose at least five people you can encourage. The ability to allow encouragement to flow freely from your heart to your mouth is one we should pray for and cultivate in our lives.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).