Dr. John Maxwell states, “Encouragement is the oxygen to the soul.” Meditate on that statement for a moment. It means when you encourage someone you are literally breathing life into their very being. What an amazing thought.
As Christians, we possess within us the power to give life to people, because we have the author of life within us; Jesus Christ. The hard part is to get the Christ within us to come out of us in the form of encouragement. I have found the main reason for this is because we ourselves lack courage. To encourage is to impart courage. If you don’t have it, how can you give it to someone else?
Courage has many different definitions, but for a simple Christian definition of the word we will use:
Godly courage is having the understanding that you need God more than people.
Let me take a minute to explain. When you truly understand that the approval of God is more important than the approval of any person you gain the power to stand when no one else stands. We are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This calling necessitates a possession of courage. Christians are called to influence the world around them for the glory of God.
An example of influence without courage can be seen in the life of King Saul of the Old Testament. Saul was anointed to be King over all of Israel. This gave him the stage to influence many people for God. Instead Saul constantly caved under the pressures of his own insecurities and the opinion of the people. Because Saul never had the courage to stand for God no matter what, God took from him the very thing he held on to the tightest; his power.
In contrast, look at David. From his youth he demonstrated his courage. When neither King Saul nor his “brave” soldiers would fight Goliath, David stepped up. Later in life, when his wife made fun of him for dancing before the Lord, David pronounced his passionate love for God anyway. When looking at the life of David many focus on the mistakes he made. That sounds a lot like today. When studying David’s life we see that perfection is not needed for courage. Godly courage is not dependant on what you have done right or wrong, but rather on the knowledge that a perfect God is in control of all.
The New Testament offers two great examples of courageous men; Jesus and Paul. Jesus demonstrated again and again his willingness to look foolish before man in order to glorify his heavenly father. He was able to do this because he understood the big picture. This understanding gave him proper perspective on the important things in life. Many good Christians lose their courage to stand for God because they are wrapped up in the moment. We must follow the example of Jesus and stay Kingdom focused and not worldly minded.
Paul gives us another great look at a courageous leader. Paul had all a man of that time could want; money, power, and influence. When Paul met Jesus his whole world was turned upside down. What he once thought was important, had no value to him anymore. The problem was that while Paul had changed on the inside the world around him stayed the same. This reality crushes many new Christians. As Christians we must possess courage so that we are equipped to encourage new Christians during this tough time when the old life is pulling so hard on them.
Paul lived a life full of courageous moments for God. This empowered him to later encourage (impart courage) to many new leaders. A great example of this is Timothy. The books of 1& 2 Timothy are letters of encourage and instruction from Paul to Timothy. These letters are studied by many Pastors today looking for encouragement. This shows the power of courage (Knowing you need God more than people). When you have it, God can use you to change the world.