Are you an encourager? Do you support and cheer on people in your community?
Are you generous with your words, building others up? St Paul, who founded many Christian communities suggested that being an encourager was a good thing: ‘Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
As we face a fragile time in our nation’s life it is noticeable that public rhetoric and conversation is often critical and damaging. Scoring points off opponents seems more attractive than supporting, encouraging or finding common ground. I wonder if we could challenge this by deliberately choosing more positive and encouraging words, seeking out things to celebrate and supporting one another despite differences.
I have been in two hugely encouraging environments recently – both based around physical activity. I had the pleasure of volunteering at St Mary’s Parkrun in Bridport. It was a delight to cheer runners and walkers on as they completed a 5 KM course. Everyone encouraged one another, whether fast or slow, no one is left behind. At the CrossFit gym, LIFT, in Crewkerne, where I am a member, we also make a point of cheering each other on, celebrating both the fittest and those who are less fit but trying very hard.
We take pride in other people’s achievements and milestones, not just our own. It is so much easier to find the motivation to get out of bed to go to the gym when you know you feel part of a team, filled with encouragement and support.
Part of our calling as Christians is to serve the communities in which we live, work and socialise. Our vocation or calling is mostly lived out in environments outside church. If we take St Paul’s suggestion seriously, how might we encourage one another and build each other up in the work and relationships we invest in during the week? Perhaps we could write a card or letter to someone to encourage them in their work or volunteering? What about blessing our local school, shop, library, town council or parish council with some biscuits or homemade cake for their next meeting? If we post online on social media how can our comments be encouraging and affirming? What about the contributions we make in meetings or conversations? How can our words encourage one another, particularly those who are struggling or finding things difficult?
Our prayer life might be the source of our encouragement from God. When we spend time reflecting on our day, we see the parts of the day that have been good, have brought us life, have been affirming. Be encouraged by these high points, they are the glimpses of glory in our lives. And reflect too on the parts of the day that have drained us or been dispiriting.
What could we pray about or change to encourage others or ourselves in the tough times? Finally, take time in silence to listen to God. What pictures, words or thoughts enter your mind in this silent time. What might be God be affirming us in or encouraging us to do. Perhaps we just need to remember that we are loved by God. Jesus says ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.’ John 15:9.
I pray that as October unfolds and we discover what will happen in our nation’s relationship to Europe, that we will all be encouragers. I pray that we can build each other up and seek the common good.