1. Encouragers demonstrate commitment.
2. Encouragers express honor.
3. Encouragers provide a haven of support.
4. Encouragers maintain an eternal perspective.
For most of us, the month of May brings thoughts of our mother, family mealtimes, and memories. What is it about mothers that is so precious to our heart? It might be their laugh or their sacrificial love. Perhaps it’s the spiritual seeds they plant in our life. Even more likely, it’s because we know they are our greatest cheerleaders—a glorious combination of all the above.
I think one of the reasons we love our moms is because they encourage us in a special way. When we are young, they prepare us to be successful in our relationships by setting an example for us to follow. As we get older, they probe into our decisions with questions that help us to arrive at better choices than we would make on our own. In each season of life, they demonstrate their unconditional love for us by bandaging knees, teaching us God’s Word, and guiding us into adulthood.
But mothers are not the only ones God has called to the ministry of encouragement. Every one of us can invest in the people around us! Let’s examine four ways we can glorify God as we nurture relationships with the people God has placed in our life.
Encouragers demonstrate commitment.
Over the course of our lifetime, we will meet hundreds, if not thousands, of people. It helps to think of these individuals in terms of contacts, casual acquaintances, close friends, and committed friends. While the extroverts among us might make it a goal to get to know every one of them, it is not practical to invest in so many different relationships. Our most meaningful connections come in the form of committed relationships with people who are loyal, honest, and concerned about our well-being.
Look up the following verses. For each one, write down any words that describe a true friend.
1 Samuel 18:3
1 Samuel 23:16
Which of these words describe you? As you contemplate these qualities, think about your friends and family. Spend some time in prayer, asking God to help you be a true friend and to show you who He wants you to invest in. Commit to nurturing at least one relationship and write down the name(s) of that person(s).
Encouragers express honor.
Mother’s Day is something special, isn’t it? It gives us an opportunity to celebrate the people we love. Whether we honor our biological mothers, adoptive mothers, special aunts, or spiritual mothers, the spirit of Mother’s Day is very much in keeping with the instruction of the Word of God. There is a statement in the Bible that is repeated several times: “Honor your father and mother.” The way we treat our mother is important to Almighty God.
He has created mothers to be sensitive, selfless, spiritual mentors. They are experts at remembering and being sensitive to the things that happen to their children. Let me suggest to you that anyone who spends their life fulfilling such a call deserves your devotion.
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Because mothers are so invested in their children’s physical and emotional and spiritual well-being, it is painful for them to see their kids make bad choices. Proverbs 10:1 says, “A foolish son is the grief of his mother,” and another verse says, “A foolish son is… bitterness to her who bore him” (17:25). If you have godly parents, God has called you to follow their spiritual instruction. Proverbs 1:8 says, “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.”
Every Christian is called to serve as Jesus served, but mothers seem to understand this better than anybody. When it comes to their children, mothers serve them selflessly until they grow old enough to do things for themselves. As we look at the impact our mothers have made on us, we ought to honor them for their loving sacrifice and demonstration of a servant’s heart.
How will you honor your mother this Sunday? Think about your aunts, cousins, grandmothers, your wife, and your devoted friends. In addition to your mother, is there someone else who deserves to be honored for having a sensitive spirit, a servant’s heart, and being a spiritual role model?
Encouragers provide a haven of support.
Our world is growing darker, and it’s easy to become discouraged. The loss of millions of unborn children is a painful fact in our world today. As our children get older, they are not any safer from violence. According to one government-sponsored report, “More than 750,000 incidents of violent crime took place in U.S. schools during the 2013-2014 school year.”1
Moses’ family lived in a time of similar darkness. Their world was filled with political upheaval, religious instability, and infanticide. It was a terrible time. Surely, they wondered how slave laborers could protect a baby from their bloodthirsty king (see Exodus 1–2:10).
Faith— “the evidence of things not seen”— was the only hope Moses’ family could cling to (Hebrews 11:1). They had to trust that God’s plans for Moses would supersede Pharaoh’s plans. By faith, they courageously protected their baby, and they gave up their plans for his life.
Every child—every human being—deserves cheerleaders like that. God created the family to be a haven of protection and love, but even the strongest families need a network of friends who will pour encouragement into their lives. Let’s look at three characteristics of faith-filled cheerleaders.
- Cheerleaders see the potential in others. When Moses’ parents looked at their child, they recognized His importance for God’s purposes. In our culture, we are beginning to discover how important this kind of faith is to a person’s self-esteem. The way other people think about us matters; it can fan the flame of confidence or create insecurity.
- Cheerleaders seek the protection of others. Not only did Moses’ parents see his potential, but they were also willing to defy their king by protecting him for three months. We, too, can shield others from physical, emotional, and spiritual danger. As it says in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (verses 4, 7-8). The only way for a person to realize their potential is for the devoted people around them to protect and nurture them.
- Cheerleaders sacrifice their personal ambitions for others. When he was just three months old, Moses’ mother had to relinquish her plans for him. She gave him to God by setting him afloat in the Nile River. Jochebed trusted God to watch over her baby when she no longer could. Sometimes we’re the one who needs to let go. Other times, we walk beside the one who is facing such a trial. Either way, as cheerleaders, we put our own desires on hold and do what’s best for the one we love.
Be a cheerleader to someone this week. Pray for them and consider which of the following steps would be appropriate:
- Encourage them about their potential. Let them know that God has a plan for their life and that you can’t wait to see how their gifts will bless others. Or if your friend is unwell, reassure them that there is still valuable work for them to do in God’s Kingdom and remind them of all they have accomplished.
- Consider physical, spiritual, and emotional dangers. What kind of protection would be most helpful to your friend right now? Encourage them to set appropriate boundaries that will provide protection from Satan’s attacks (Ephesians 6:11).
- Check your motivation. Are you holding on to your own ambitions too tightly? Do you need to let go of a situation? Do you need to support a friend as they let go of a dream? Set aside your plans and make time to help them succeed.
Encouragers maintain an eternal perspective.
If this business of nurturing relationships seems tough, let me assure you that investing in people, honoring them, encouraging them, knowing what to say to them and how to say it… is messy. You won’t get it right every time. There will be days when you will look around and wonder when God is going to send someone to encourage you because you don’t feel like you have anything left to give. And that’s okay. When we come to the end of our strength, the Word of God and the Body of Christ ministers to us in our weakness, removing our doubts and bringing the strength we need.
To live a courageous Christian life, we need to be committed to God’s Word. Acts 20:32 says, “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (emphasis added). Near the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Bible reminds us that perspective is not found in our own thoughts; it is found in God’s promises.
Have you ever stopped to watch geese flying in a V formation? It’s beautiful to watch, and it’s efficient. When they flap their wings, they create an uplift of air, an increasing effect as they move to the back of the formation. Over time, the lead goose, the one at the front of the V, drops back and lets another goose lead. This is one way they take care of each other; by cooperating and uplifting each other, the geese achieve long migrations that would otherwise be impossible.
Geese are a good reminder of how the Body of Christ works. There will be seasons when you lead, and there will be seasons when you lag, but you don’t leave the formation. Christ’s Church is eternal, and you have a permanent place in it. It is a place where you can bless and be blessed; a place where you can take the lead and fall back on occasion for a rest; a place where you can build up others and be built up yourself. In the Church, we find encouragement through the body of believers and the work of Christ while we nurture relationships with our eternal family.
1 Zach Winn, “The U.S. School Shooting Statistics Everyone Should Know,” Campus Safety Magazine, December 6, 2017, https://www.campussafetymagazine.com/safety/u-s-school-shooting-statistics-us/.