Only What is Helpful for Building
His mother was not home, but the young boy wanted to draw, so he got out the bottles of ink himself. His sister agreed to pose for him. In his eagerness and excitement, the young artist made an inky mess of his hands, clothes, table and floor. Just as he was finishing his work, his mother returned, and for a moment, stood in the door and silently took the scene in. Then, instead of scolding him, she picked up the portrait and declared, “What a beautiful picture of your sister!” and kissed him. Later in life, the great artist Benjamin West recounted, “With that kiss I became a painter.”
It would have been so easy for that mother to focus on the mess her child had made. She could have scolded him for his incompetence in spilling ink, or his failure to cover the area with newspaper, or his impatience at not waiting for her assistance. But instead, she affirmed him. And with her encouragement, he gained the desire, confidence, and determination to become a great artist.
Our words can nourish others, and give them the desire, confidence, and determination to do great things. The Bible says:
“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment” (Prov. 10:20-21).
Righteous lips speak words of nourishment. To nourish means, “to feed and cause to grow; to cherish, promote, encourage and support.” Encouragement tells the other person: “I value you. I want you to succeed. I am cheering for you. Keep going! You can do it!”
The Benefits of Encouragement
In the Bible, there are many examples of people who encouraged others. Moses encouraged Joshua (Deut. 3:28), Titus encouraged Paul (2 Cor. 7:4), Tychicus encouraged the believers at Ephesus and Colossi (Eph. 6:22; Col. 4:8), Judas and Silas encouraged the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:32), Timothy encouraged the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 3:2). A man named Joseph was so good at encouraging that the apostles nicknamed him “Barnabas” which means “Son of Encouragement.” (Acts. 4:36)
Hebrews 3:13 admonishes us to “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Paul wanted believers to encourage each other every day. He viewed encouragement as being so important that he sent messengers great distances for the express purpose of encouraging the believers. Why is encouragement so important? What does encouragement do for people? According to the Bible:
- It builds them up (1 Thess. 5:11)
- It makes them feel loved, appreciated, and supported (Phm 7; 2 Cor. 7:13)
- It strengthens them to do good deeds and speak good words (2 Thess. 2:16-17)
- It helps them remain true to the Lord with all their hearts (Acts 11:23)
- It lifts their heaviness and refreshes them (1 Thess. 3:2; Phm 7)
- It gives them courage for the task before them (2 Chron 32:6-7)
- It helps them overcome timidity and insecurity (1 Thess. 5:14)
- It counters feelings of isolation and contributes to a spirit of unity (1 Thess. 3:6-10; Rom. 15:5)
- It gives them joy and strength in the face of difficulty (2 Cor. 7:4, 7)
- It enables them to be bold and confident (Phil. 1:14)
- It helps them to remain true to their calling (Deut. 1:38)
- It helps them retain perspective and to hope and trust in God (2 Chron. 32:6-7)
One word of encouragement can lift our burdens; turn our gloom into sunshine, and our weakness into strength. But so often, we fail to encourage each other. Have you ever felt like giving up because of a lack of encouragement? I have. The moment I most needed encouragement all I received was criticism. Instead of rejoicing in the picture I was trying so hard to paint, others merely pointed to the ink that I had spilled. And as a result, I felt like throwing away the canvas.
Encourage and Build Up
Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, so that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
Before I got married, I memorized Ephesians 4:29 and decided to make it the “prime directive” in regards to how I spoke to my husband. Though I’ve often fallen short, this decision has served me well over the past 25 years. Focusing on the good, being my husband’s biggest fan, and aiming to build him up according to his needs is one the wisest, most productive things I’ve done for my marriage. It not only benefits him. It also benefits me.
A relationship is like an account with a bank balance. Each time you interact positively – speaking affirming, encouraging words – you make a deposit into that account. Each time you speak critically or negatively, you make a withdrawal. Is the balance in your account growing? Are you investing in the relationship or accumulating a debt and headed for foreclosure? Does your account have a large enough balance to cover the stress of unexpected events? When it comes to relationships, it’s best to invest. In doing so, we lay up the “treasures” of friendship and love that God intended for us.
Here’s today’s challenge for you:
- Memorize Ephesians 4:29 and make it the prime directive for your speech.
- Speak words of affirmation and encouragement. Make a deposit into your relationship account today. (And plan on making small deposits every day from now on too.)
AUTHOR NOTE: Mary Kassian is author of several Lifeway Bible Studies. She and her husband Brent have mastered the art of cheering after spending countless hours watching their sons play ice hockey and volleyball. The Kassian clan and their pets, Miss Kitty and black lab, General Beau, live in Western Canada. (Copyright Mary Kassian, 2008)