JOHN 14: 16

Jesus Christ was the most encouraging person to ever live. Should not those of us who follow Him be encouragers? Give it!

Christ is spoken of as our encourager in II Thessalonians 2: 16, 17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [encouragement] and good hope by grace, comfort [encourage] your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” If He does it for us we should do it for others.
Encouragement doesn’t have to be earned. Praise does.

Encouragement energizes us. Give it and keep on giving it.

There is a special bamboo in China that serves as an example. Once planted the bamboo does not grow for four years. All during those four years it has to be watered and cultivated, but it doesn’t grow. The fifth year it does. It often reaches a height of 90 feet. If neglected during the first 4 years it never grows.

Encouragement is needed at all times. If you have been giving it without any apparent results don’t stop cultivating.I. A DEFINITION OF ENCOURAGEMENT
The word is a compound of the prefix EN, meaning to put in or into; and the word courage, meaning confidence, strength. To “encourage,” then, literally means to put courage into someone.

The prefix DIS negates or reverses the word it is attached to. “Dissatisfied” means “not satisfied.” So, to discourage a person is to take courage away from him.

An encouraging person is pleasant to be around because he or she makes you feel built up, strengthened, IN-couraged by his or her presence and words. An encouraging person supports and strengthens, rather than weakening or tearing down.

The origin of our word courage comes from the Latin COUR which refers to the condition of the heart. King Richard was so bold that it earned him the name “Richard de Lion,” literally, “Richard the Lion Hearted.” That is, King Richard the man with the heart of a lion.

We, as babies, are born with courage. There is no one more courageous than an infant. He demands what he wants when he wants it. No adult is too busy to be summonsed to do what the infant wants when the infant wants it. Parents are on standby 24 hours a day. There is no guest so important as to cause the infant not to demand what is wanted when it is wanted.

Gradually circumstances of life begin to discourage the child. That little prefix “dis” is the work of the devil. God has a great big eraser. He not only comes along to erase the prefix “dis,” but to replace it with another prefix, “en.” God wants to encourage us. Should not we aspire to encourage one another?

The most common word for encouragement in the Bible is the word PARAKAELO, PARA, meaning “beside, near, with, alongside,” and KALEO, meaning “to call or summon.” A paraclete is one called to the side of another to encourage. It may be to bring comfort. The Septuagint often gives this rendering of the word. God is often pictured as the One coming to the side of the needy and encouraging them. “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). “When the cares of my soul are many, thy consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:18, 19). “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God, Speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (Isaiah 40:1, 2). “As one whom his mother other comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13).

But the word has a broader meaning than just comfort. When John uses it of the Spirit, it is translated in a variety of ways because its scope is difficult to limit. John saw the Spirit bringing the very presence of the risen Christ to the church. This is what Jesus had promised: “I will not leave you comfortless (encourage-less); I will come to you” (John 14:18, KJV). He does come to us, through the Spirit.

PARAKLETOS has many renderings: “one who pleads our cause,” “comforter,” “advocate,” “helper,” “someone to stand by you,” “he who is to befriend you.” When we think of all Jesus is, we understand why translators have difficulty pinning down the meaning of the word.

The disciples discouraged the women who brought the alabaster jar of ointment; Jesus encouraged her. He gave her the kind of praise that immortalized her gift to Jesus.

When the frightened disciples mourned the death of Jesus and their forsaking of Him, Jesus came to them, not to condemn, but to strengthen them with the encouraging words, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).

He came to the side and the aid of the woman caught in adultery and forgave her. He came to the side of many who were sick, sometimes resisting the discouraging words of crowds – even His own disciples. He was beside His disciples as the hour of darkness drew near and the sorrow of Jesus spoke to them of impending doom. He said “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1).

William Barclay points out that in secular Greek, the most characteristic usage of PARAKLETOS is in connection with help given a legal trial. The one called in would speak in support of his character; he was a friend of the accused, and would try to influence the judge in his favor.

A paraclete – encourager – then, helps us when we are in trouble, when we are in a situation with which we cannot cope. Jesus, in I John 2:1, is called our paraclete – advocate, defense attorney, helper – with the Father. Romans 8 says that what Christ does at the right hand of the Father, the Spirit does within us, helping us in our weakness, interceding for us, freeing us from condemnation so we are encouraged to claim our inheritance as children of God.

But there is still another facet of this tremendous word. It also means “to urge on or exhort.” A person needing help may not require comfort as much as challenge. Barclay says that the word is often used in Classical Greek, regarding exhorting troops about to go to battle. It not only empathizes; it motivates. It not only gives comfort; it gives courage.

PARAKLETOS is the word used of speeches by leaders, and of soldiers who beckon each other on to victory in the midst of conflict. It sends hesitant soldiers into war, and fearful sailors into the storm. This use of the word is common in the Epistles.

Paul uses this word when telling the Thessalonians to “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (I Thessalonians 5:11). He calls them to action three verses later: “And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak…” (I Thessalonians 5:14).
The writer to the Hebrews commands, “Exhort one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). That means more than comfort. We are to challenge one another, and “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

Nehemiah possessed the gift of exhortation. He is a classic Old Testament example of an exhorter. He saw the need of the people in Jerusalem; he surveyed the damage thoroughly before speaking to the people. When he finally called them together, he was able to encourage their weak hearts so that they said, “Let us arise and build.” With each potential setback, Nehemiah decisively dealt with the problem while exhorting the people to new courage.

David was a hero but became a fugitive because of Saul’s jealousy. He often had to fight discouragement. Jonathan’s friendship brought needed strength to his spirit.

Three times God spoke from heaven on behalf of Jesus. At Jesus’ baptism, He proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). The same words came at the transfiguration. Shortly before Christ’s death God responded to Jesus’ prayer by assuring that He had glorified His name and would continue to do so.

Our Father is called “The God of all encouragement.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who comforts (PARAKLETOS – encourages, motivates) us…” (II Corinthians 1:4) so that we are able to do the same for others. Certainly, our best examples for encouraging others come from the Trinity. No one encourages His children like God our Father does. No one knows just the right word to bring hope and faith in the face of adversity like Jesus. He praises a centurion for remarkable faith, He comforts and challenges the sisters of Lazarus to greater faith. He encourages the little children by receiving them. His work of encouragement is now being continued in His body through the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s letters, especially in the first paragraphs, are often good examples to us of the way God wants us to build up one another. He liberally praised his fellow laborers. Paul was not a person who stood around waiting for people to compliment him. He was full of encouragement and exhortation.

While Caleb and Joshua attempted to encourage the people to take the promise land, ten spies brought back discouraging reports. How easily people respond to discouraging news! We don’t need anymore people with the gift of discouragement. A part of our character has been distorted by the fall, and we are prone to listen to a bad report before a good one. If we do not abide in Christ, we are conditioned pessimists. We complain about the weather, we expect bad luck, we hang onto bad news as if it were gospel.

Moses didn’t send the spies to discover WHETHER OR NOT, but HOW. He wanted a report, not an evaluation. Shame on us when we discourage God’s people by our negativism. Shame on us when we are careless with words that eventually keep others from the promised land of their inheritance. Shame on us when we relay negative news and multiply discouragement among the people of God.

God was angry with those spies – so angry that they died in the wilderness. That is where people who persist in discouraging others will always die. They will never expect to receive God’s best, and they never will.
God looks for people who are God-centered optimists and can share that attitude with others. God’s news is GOOD NEWS, not bad news, Jesus came proclaiming a message of liberty, joy, release, hope, and comfort. If your message does not match that, swallow it, don’t share it. Or you may find yourself eating dust instead of grapes.

King Rehoboam should have listened to the elders. They advised him to lower taxes so that the people of God would be encouraged. He instead listened to some of his contemporaries and made the citizens’ burden heavier. Rather than strengthening the kingdom, he did what discouragement always does – divides.

The real prodigal in the story of the prodigal son is the elder brother. What a discouragement he must have been to his father. The father encouraged him: “All that is mine is yours.” But he would not receive it, nor would he receive his brother. There will always be those who in, the midst of merriment, choose law over grace. For them, life is not a gift to be enjoyed by a duty to be performed. They find it hard to encourage anyone. They demand everything from themselves and others – and never get it.

As times get tough we need more encouragement. There are so many reasons why we could be discouraged. We need to remind one another of the many more reasons to be encouraged. When the situation looms so large that our vision is clouded, we need to help one another look upward.

People are growing increasingly discontented, disillusioned, and discouraged. Satan is striving to wear down the saints. We need an immunity to discouragement. We must “exhort one another daily.” We must become skilled at “stirring one another up to love and good works.”

Our hearts easily grow cold and tired. We are busy. We are bombarded by propaganda, little of which is really good news. God’s people must accept the challenge to encourage. Some Christians are being lost by extreme discouragement. Some are casualties through the bad reports of others. We must not fail to be builders rather than destroyers.

Albert Sweitzer said “For every one negative input it takes eleven positive ones to overcome it.”
It is easier for one negative person to pull five positive people down than for five positive people to pick up one negative person.

Surround yourself with positive people as an encouragement.

A. Do my words of encouragement easily outweigh words of correction or criticism?
B. Do people become more cheerful around me?
C. Would my family consider me an encouraging person?
D. Is it easy for me to praise others?
E. Am I careful to ask forgiveness of others when I have given a negative report or discouraging word?
F. Have I been diligent to encourage those I associate with – children, students, employees, husband/wife, brothers, sisters, fellow church members?
G. Have I been diligent to encourage those God has placed over me – teachers, employers, elders, pastors, church leaders, civil servants, government leaders?
H. Do I pass along only good news and swallow gossip, or do I delight in sharing bad news?
I. Does my conversation with friends generally build people up?
J. Do I think more about giving praise than receiving it?
K. Do I desire to become “encourager?”
L. Am I able to encourage those who have hurt me? Can I “bless those who persecute” me as Jesus commands?
M. Have I recognized how encouraging God is to His whole creation? To me?
N. Do patient people bother me?
O. Do I avoid jobs that will test my patience?
P. Has my impatience caused me to be unpopular?
Q. Am I patient enough in my personal prayer time so that God has a chance to communicate with me?