Encouraging the Discouraged
Delivered By
C. C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
July 10, 2016


          Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

          He also said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

          Jesus further said, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15:26).

          And He said, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

          There’s a story about a preacher who was leaving a church…and at his farewell dinner he tried to encourage one of the members.  “Don’t be so sad about my leaving,” he said.  “The next preacher might be better than me.”  The member said, “That’s what they said the last time a preacher left, but it keeps getting worse.”

          That wasn’t very encouraging to the departing preacher…but the reality is that much of life is spent dealing with negatives.  That’s why we need a lot of help along the way.  And because we do face challenges of negativity at every turn…it’s important for us to have people in our lives who will give us some backing and encouragement.

          Let’s face it…when people are struggling against all the negative barriers in life…they need some encouragement.  When a person is challenged to do something for God…especially something that is out of their normal range of ability…they need encouragement.

          For example, when a child is making his or her first attempts at walking, you shouldn’t say to them, “Come on dummy, you’re four months old.  You should be walking by now.”  No, you try to encourage them.

          When people are struggling with their faith…they don’t need pious criticism.  What they need from other believers is encouragement…assurance that they aren’t worthless and going to hell for messing up from time to time.  What they need are words of encouragement from other believers.  You can change the life of another person for good with a word of encouragement…or you can destroy them with criticism.

          There has never been a greater encourager of people than Jesus was when He was on earth…so if we truly want to pattern our lives after the example He set…we will be encouragers, too.

          And, obviously, we should pattern our lives after that of Jesus…because Hebrews 1:3 tells us: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…”

          As we study the concept of encouragement…I pray that it will inspire us to encourage one another to greater spiritual growth in Christ.  But in order to understand encouragement…we have to define it.  And that’s easier said than done.  When we say we’re encouraging another person…what does that really mean?

          Are we encouraging someone when we yell at them…or tell them they’re not going to amount to anything in life?  Is being critical of everything a person does being an encourager?

          Well, that depends.  For example, when I was a freshman in high school…and on my first day of practice with the varsity football team…the head coach blindsided me with a tackle because I walked onto the field.  Then he said to me, “Son, nobody walks and plays for me.”

          That encouraged me to never walk onto the field again.  I always ran.  In fact, I was so afraid of the guy that I never let him see me just standing.  I ran everywhere…even when in the showers after practice.

          Also, while in high school…I never recall running an offensive play in practice or a game that the coach praised.  We could win a game by as many as 40 points and then be forced to practice immediately after the game because he said we made too many mistakes.  We were much more fearful of making a mistake than we were of anybody on the other team. 

          In practice we ran the same play over and over again…and to his way of thinking never got it right.  He was the godfather of repetition…which I didn’t understand at the time but do now.  Because he was never be satisfied with what we had just done…and because we wanted to please him…we were always striving to get better.

          The modus operandi of the coach worked back then…but it would be dangerous and devastating to use it in a church.  When you’re around other Christians who are struggling…you have to be careful that you’re not just pointing out what they’re doing wrong.  Even if things are going badly…you have to encourage them to stay in the game.

          I recall that when a group of preachers were engaged in a denominational fight over something that didn’t amount to a hill of beans…they told my late friend…the great BAPTIST HOUR preacher Frank Pollard…”You need to get in the game.”  Frank told them, “I am in the game.  I’m just not under the stands trying to start a fight.”

          The word “encourage” means “to come along side of.”  To encourage others…we need to come along side of them and urge or admonish them.  The root for the word “encourage” comes from the same word Jesus used when speaking of the Holy Spirit.

          An important part of encouraging another person is your willingness to step in and walk beside them.  People will better accept being admonished if they know you’re in the trenches with them…or if they know that you’re willing to get into the trenches with them.

          Acts 4:36 tells us that Barnabas was known as the son of encouragement.  He must have been an inspiring person to be around…a coach, of sorts, but one who encouraged others with a great or inspirational pep talk.  He not only talked the talk…he also walked the walk…and was probably a good balance for the hard charging Paul.

          If you want to be effective in encouraging others…you have to get in the game with others.  You have to come alongside them.  For example, in Acts 13 we’re told that John Mark was on the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas…but that he turned back at Pamphylia.  This didn’t set well with Paul.  These missionary journeys were very important…because while on them Paul and Barnabas planted churches.

          When it was time for a second missionary journey…we’re told in Acts 15 that Barnabas again wanted to take John Mark with them.  But Paul refused to have any part of that.  As far as he was concerned…John Mark had already been given his chance and had failed.

          In Acts 15:36-39 (NASB) we read thatAfter some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’  Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also.  But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.  And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.”

          When it came to serving God…Paul, obviously, had a low tolerance for failure…whereas Barnabas was willing to give John Mark a second chance.  Had it not been for Barnabas’s willingness to take John Mark with him…the young disciple might have forever been ruined for service for God.  But Barnabas was willing to get into the game alongside John Mark…who initially hadn’t measured up.

          If you’re going to encourage others…you must maintain a positive attitude toward them.  In order to encourage and push others past what they think they can do…they have to see that you have a positive attitude toward them.  You must look for the best in people…and extend grace to the worst.

          As a church we’re responsible for encouraging and inspiring faith in others.  A person can achieve great heights if they know people believe in them.  And…as to why we should make it a priority to be an encourager like Barnabas…there are at least five reasons.

          First, we should make encouragement of others a priority because it keeps the fainthearted from quitting.  For example, the church at Antioch was growing…so Acts 11:22 - 23 (NASB) tells us “The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.  Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.”

          Note that Barnabas…the son of encouragement…encouraged them with a resolute (or firm) heart to stay true to the Lord.  Note also that Paul…in Thessalonians 5:14 (NASB) later also wrote: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with everyone.”  In other words, if you’re a Christian…you don’t want to see anyone reject the faith and go back to their old way of life.

          Second, we should make encouragement a priority in order to draw out the potential in others.  A case in point was Joshua.  He had been at the side of Moses for a long time…but the pronouncement by Moses in Deuteronomy 1:37-39 that he would be leading the people into the Promised Land was probably a surprise to him.

          Moses accepted that God had banned him from entering because of an incident involving his temper…but he didn’t engage in a pity party.  He, instead, asked the people to encourage Joshua.  That’s real leadership…understanding that God’s work is not about you…that it’s about God.

          Paul…prior to his second missionary journey…was more than a little irritated with John Mark.  But, in 2 Timothy 4:11 he wrote: “Only Luke is with me.  Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.”

          Barnabas had, obviously reclaimed Mark for service to God.  He had unlocked the potential within the young man…given him a second…maybe even third or fourth chance…to prove his commitment to Christ.

          Many people fail in their initial attempt at serving God.  In fact, many fail at multiple attempts.  But that doesn’t mean we should stop encouraging them.  After all, it’s not easy to carry the cross of Jesus.  It’s easy to stumble under the weight of it.  And the only way to ease the burden of it is to be crucified on it.  That’s why Paul wrote: “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

          Third, we should make encouragement a priority in order to help people see and understand God in their tough times as well as in their good times.  James 1:2-4 spells that out very clearly for us: “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of you faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

          When the tough times of life hit a person…they need to be encouraged to understand that God is still in the mix…that He’s the one who has the ultimate plan.  That’s difficult for a person to see, understand, and accept when they’re in the midst of one of many struggles that they will encounter in life.

          Romans 8:28 is of great comfort to me…and a good verse with which to encourage others.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

          A fourth thing we should do is to make encouragement a priority in order to strengthen the faith of others.  In Philippians 1:13-14, Paul wrote: “…I am in chains for Christ.  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

          People are encouraged by your actions as well as by your words.  They want to see your faith in action, which is why Proverbs 27:17 is such an appropriate verse. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

          A fifth reason we should make encouragement a priority is because to do so strengthens the church.  A chain is only as strong as its weakest link…and Christians are all linked to one another by their faith in Christ.  We need to keep all those links strong…and we can do that by gathering together on the first day of the week and encouraging each other.  Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us: “We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things.  We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing.  Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.”

          In order to be a strong church that has an impact on the world around us…we need to encourage others.  Every day we see prophecy unfolding before our very eyes.  That’s not a reason for discouragement…it’s a reason for encouragement.

Contact Us
The Church on Thistle Ridge
Bible Search