Encourage the exhausted and strengthen the feeble. Isaiah 35:3
Some years ago, I was listening to a sermon on encouragement when the pastor broke into a joke, saying, “What has helped me the most when discouraged is a file I put together, with all of the upbeat comments I had received from others over the years. When I get down about the things in this life, I just read those comments. I must have reread those two comments from my mother and wife over and over again.” Of course, I and others laughed for what he said was kind of funny, but I thought such a folder was not a bad idea. So, I put together a folder of my own, and sure enough when things go south in my life, I get out that folder and read some of the comments. It really helps, for God uses these catalogued comments to encourage me when my life needs reassurance. I suggest making such a folder for yourself, for it could help when criticisms roll in or adverse circumstance hit in your life.
As I conclude this article let me share with you an experience I had several years ago, one where I received an important encouragement during a difficult challenge. What I got from it not only helped me get through the challenge but inspired me to encourage others.
Many years ago when I was young, I used to run in long distant races to keep fit. In my first marathon which was 26.2 miles, I trained hard for two months with a friend named Mark. A week before the marathon we were running 10 and 15 miles to make sure we would be ready for the race. However, on the weekend of the race, I did some foolish last things, like refereeing three basketball games the day before the marathon and skipping breakfast that morning, feeling two cups of coffee was all I needed. As I found out later during the race, these were not very wise decisions to say the least.
As the race begun Mark and I ran a pretty good pace, but around mile 14 I began to run out of gas. I told Mark to go on without me that I would catch up later. As I struggled to get to the 18-mile marker, I was all but done, very discouraged, and ready to quit. As I slowed to a walk, a young college girl running her first marathon ran by me. She stopped, and said, “Come on, you can make it, I will run with you the rest of the way.” Encouraged, I began to run again, and she was true to her word, and stayed with me until the finish line. I thanked her and introduced this young girl to Mark and my family who were awaiting me at the end.
I never saw this girl again, but what she did was so supportive and selfless. She could have had a much better running time but decided cheering me on to the finish was a far better goal. In the years to come when it came time for me to encourage others, I would remember her along with other Christians I knew who were also great encouragers. And of course, there was Paul, perhaps one of the greatest encouragers in the Scripture, who not only uplifted the discouraged, but inspired them to do likewise with others.
If you ever have the opportunity to share an encouraging word with another don’t hesitate and do it, for it may make a huge difference in that person’s life. Kind, uplifting, affirming, and reassuring words can go a long way with all of us.
Below are some Scriptures Paul was inspired to write about encouraging others, take them to heart and do as he did.
Philippians 1:3-7 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, for I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart.
Philippians 2:1-2 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
I Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.