13.10.10

Living Encouragement

A few days ago I posted on Encouragement. I wrote about how powerful our words are in the lives of those around us.  But, there is another way to encourage, powerful in its own right, and that is encouragement in action, or "Living Encouragement".  These two paths stand and fall together, they belong together like hand and glove. Actions without words can encourage, but they are often direction-less encouragement.  Words without actions quickly become flat, hypocritical, and useless. Together, directed by the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus for the mission of the Father, they change lives.  

James warns us about separating the two: "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." And I would venture to say the same thing of encouragement: So encouragement by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Sometimes the action required is simple.  Sometimes it is those words I spoke of last time.  Other times all we need is a loving presence; a friend by our side, standing with us in our need. Still other times we need practical, or impractical, help of all kinds. 

A silly example comes to mind, something Hannah does which I find extremely cute.  This last summer Hannah took her first swimming 'lessons.'  Basically you play around and get the toddlers used to the water.  One of the things they try to get the kids to do is jump off the ledge so you can catch them.  Hannah caught on by the second week, and to encourage her in this learning we started getting her to jump to us from other things, like the ledge at Grandma and Grandpa's pool, or from the stairs at our house... She not only learned her lesson, she loved it.  When we talk to her and tell her to jump, she gets this big smile (like in the picture below), waves her arms up and down while giggling and then walks off the edge.  


This is great except for one thing... she has started doing it even when we don't ask her to jump, or when we are nowhere close to catch her. A couple of scary moments :)  But, the point is this: we encourage her verbally to jump, but she needs one more very important action from us; we have to catch her (duh!).  Our words and actions stand or fall together. 

Trite example, I know.  It works, it is true, and it is a good excuse to put up a cute picture of my favorite little girl. 

I can remember back in high-school, when I started taking my faith seriously, the youth intern at our church was very encouraging.  But he wasn't just encouraging in words, he did other things too.  He invited me to a book study with older students and young adults so that I could have some more mature role models and learn about my faith.  He lent me, and bought me, books to read so that I could seek out answers to my questions.  Those things had a huge effect on me.  The book study was The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey and the first book he lent me was The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  Those actions kindled in me a passion for Christian literature which has continued into this day and been a major part of my spiritual journey. 

So, if your still thinking about encouragement then don't stop with words.  Use your words, the powerful gift you have in your tongue, to bring life.  At the same time, use your life to pour life into others.  

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' " 
- John 7:37-38

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