Encouragement Means Going First
Encouragement. It literally means to put courage into people. But how does that happen?
At the most basic level you can encourage someone by cheering them on. For those who are simply tired, this is helpful. And it’s pretty easy to encourage someone to not give up by simply telling them to keep going. Cheerleaders and the people who hold cups of water on the sides of marathons fall into this category.
But at a certain point a different kind of encouragement is needed. This isn’t point where I’ve simply become tired in doing something I know how to do. This is where I’ve never done the thing that I’m trying and it seems hard. Maybe I’ve never seen anyone else do the thing I’m trying and it looks impossible. Cheerleaders and uninvested spectators can warm your heart but aren’t super helpful at this stage.
What’s needed here is a different kind of encouragement: Someone who has traveled this path (or a similar one) and tells you that what you are attempting is possible. It’s happened before. I’ve seen it happen. You can do this. This is the mountain climber above you that is shouting down from the top that you can make it, too.
It’s not even so important that the person gives you advice about how to do things. That’s helpful. But just the simple fact that a person has been where you are and done what you are attempting is enough to add courage to the human heart.
What becomes essential, then, for this higher level of encouragement, is for you to be farther down a path than the next person in order to encourage them. And what this means for all of us, friends, is that we shouldn’t be content just to remain where we are, but find more ways for us to push boundaries in our lives. It becomes critical to step out in the areas we are called to in our lives and let our light shine.
It imparts courage to others.
And then in all of the places where we’ve got experience, we turn and encourage those who have less. It’s important for them. It’s also important for us.
“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’….” (Hebrews 3:13).
This is the essence of what it means to be a church. I can’t wait for others to step out and do what God is calling me to do. I need to walk out my convictions, and the Lord will use my example to encourage others to also step out. Many people come to the church and want to consume — wanting others to “minister” to them. I have met others who want to “minister” but want someone to train them. I think we are called to step out in faith with what we have, and encourage others to also step out in faith to do what God is calling them to do. We need to be correctible, and also quick to disciple and help others as they seek to step out and follow God. But I think, as you said, that the biggest encouragement for others is if we simply step out and obey God in our own lives.