Sandhill cranes are not only interesting creatures but also great illustrations of biblical encouragement. These large birds that fly great distances across continents have three remarkable qualities. First, they rotate leadership. No one bird stays out in front all of the time. Second, they choose leaders who can handle turbulence well. Third, all during the time that one bird is leading, the rest of the birds are honking their affirmation. Now that is biblical encouragement! That is encouragement that works.
First Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up.” That kind of encouragement demands time, energy, and our availability to the one who needs encouraging. Many times when we are in crisis, we do not want someone to say anything or even do anything. We simply need someone to be with us and walk with us through the darkness. If we spell encouragement differently it will be easier to understand. To encourage is to “in-courage” someone, to literally put courage in someone else. This passage of Scripture specifically mentions four groups of people who need encouragement.
Those Who Are Stuck in Neutral Need Encouragement
Those who are idle tend to be undisciplined. This is someone who is motionless, paralyzed, and unable to move. In other words, they are “stuck” in neutral gear and often do not even want to do the right thing. They need motivation and encouragement to get going again.
Those Who Are Afraid Need Encouragement
Timid people are fearful and plagued with doubt. This is someone who knows what to do but is afraid to do it. They want to do the right thing but are bound by fear. They desperately need courage but have none. The key is to get alongside them long enough for them to get past their fear.
When our children were young, we bought a ski boat for our family. Our daughter was both excited and nervous about skiing. On our first outing on the boat, Danna watched her dad ski and then saw her brother pop up out of the water immediately and ski around the entire lake. I quickly pointed out that the skis and the boat were brand-new, that her dad had been driving a ski boat since childhood, and that if the motor could yank her big brother and dad out of the water, pulling her up would be a cinch. She was really nervous. After several failed attempts, Danna was just about ready to call it quits when Dan turned to her brother and said, “Son, get in the water with her and help her get up.” Jered jumped in and began to talk to her, giving her pointers, helping her with her skis, and assuring her that this time she would make it. On the first try, she came up grinning. Dan and I were cheering and hollering every minute of her ride. Today Danna is an excellent skier who cannot believe there was ever a time when she could not ski. When Jered “got alongside” his sister, he lessened her fear by getting under the weight of that fear with her. Then she was able to overcome it. There are times when those who are afraid of the water they are in need us to get in the water with them.
Those Who Are Weak Need Encouragement
Someone who is weak has no strength and is unable to function alone. All of their strength has been drained from them by some circumstance or series of circumstances in life. They want to do the right thing but are just too weak to get up and do it. They need strength and encouragement.
Everyone Needs Encouragement
The last phrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says “be patient with everyone.”Every person who has ever walked the earth needs encouragement at some point in life. Even Jesus needed encouragement. We all have moments when we are paralyzed emotionally. We all have moments when we are afraid and simply too weak and too tired to keep going. We try to carry those burdens alone while Galatians 6:2 tells us that we need to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” It is a spiritual reality that we need each other. We were created to share the burdens of each other.
I read about a pastor who preached a sermon on bearing each other’s burdens. The pastor referred to Matthew 11:29-30 where Jesus tells us to “take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When he had finished his sermon, one of the church members came up to him and said, “I wish I had known what you were going to preach about. I could have told you something.” “Well, my friend,” the pastor said, “you can tell me now.” The church member asked the pastor, “Do you know why His yoke is light?” The pastor thought a moment and then responded, “Well, because the good Lord helps us to carry it, I suppose.” “No, sir,” he said, shaking his head. “You see, when I was a boy at home, I used to drive the oxen, and the yoke was never made to balance. Father’s yokes were always made heavier on one side than the other. Then we would put a weak ox in alongside a strong bullock. The light end would come on the weak ox and the heavier end on the stronger one. That’s why the yoke is easy and the burden is light—because the Lord’s yoke is made the same way. The heavy end is upon His shoulder.”
Life is filled with burdens that are too heavy for us to carry alone. Jesus came to walk with us, sharing the loads we bear. His strength and love pour encouragement into every step. We need to do the same with the people in our lives.
Father, thank You for the gift of encouragement You have given me. When I am tired, You give me the strength to go on. When I am discouraged, You give me hope. When I am afraid, You are my peace. Please help me to give away the encouragement You have given me.
In Jesus’ name
*Excerpt taken from Biblegateway’s Girlfriends in God
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