Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Encouragement (among believers) (11/08/07)
TITLE: Go Ahead Make My Day
By Norm MacDonald
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When you get to be my age, memory is not always your best ally. However, I can have a strong level of certainty in stating my mom attended almost all, if not all, the Little League Baseball games I played. The reason I am certain is I can still hear her shouting from the stands, “That a boy, honey! You’re doing great!” Although I seldom did great, she was a cheerleader of the loudest sort. One I could count on. One the whole team could count on.
Cheerleaders are terrific assets in life. Nevertheless, they do not quite measure up to the role of an encourager. If you notice, cheerleaders cheer whether the team is winning or losing. It makes no difference. Encouragers have different functions. For example, if the person they are encouraging is doing well, then the role of the encourager is to help them do even better. If the person is doing poorly, then the encourager’s role is to support them, perhaps provide new information, and then “encourage” them to try again.
Encouragers are people who come along side. In our culture, within the church or not, we have different terms for them. We might call them a personal coach, a business coach or consultant, an advisor, or a mentor. In the church, we might call them a pastor, an elder, even a discipler. Encouragers know us, sometimes intimately. They know our strengths, our weaknesses, our likes and dislikes. To some degree, they have their finger on the pulse of our existence. That is what makes them encouragers.
Barnabas knew Paul like the back of his hand. In fact they knew each other so well, they knew when it was time to part company. Paul nurtured and encouraged Timothy from an early age and cultivated his faith until Timothy was ready to move out on his own. Even then, Paul still encouraged him from a distance. Barnabas knew Mark that same way, in fact, he knew him so well he knew when it was time to fade into the background of history. Priscilla and Aquilla were tremendous encouragers to Apollos.
What all of these relationships have in common is that they were relationships. People were investing themselves in other people. That is what encouragers do. That is what makes their encouragement effective. That is what makes the body of Christ, the “body” of Christ – relationships.
One Sunday afternoon in West Texas, the president of the college I attended, spoke at our Sunday morning service. We had lunch that afternoon at the home of one of the deacons. As we sat around talking after lunch, Dr. Roy was “visiting” with Jim, one of the deacon’s sons. I sat in the corner and watched this conversation take place.
They simply talked for several minutes. Word by word, without a touch, Dr. Roy formed a relationship with Jim in a matter of minutes. He began to reach that young man’s heart as no other person had done before. Soon, the room became silent and without anyone realizing it, the focus was on the conversation between Jim and Dr. Roy. It was not long before tears started to form in Jim’s eyes and he began to weep. Suddenly, I realized a connection had been made. An encourager was encouraging a young man in a way that he had never been encouraged before and it wrapped his heart in love.
I do not believe anyone was ever the same after that afternoon. I know, even after almost forty years, I remember it as though it was yesterday. It is amazing what an encourager can do for the cause of Christ.
It does not take a lifetime to encourage someone, but it can last a lifetime once someone is encouraged.
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