To encourage someone is as common as eating potatoes.  We eat them sliced and fried with skins.  We eat them out of the bag and crinkle cut.  We eat them baked in an oven and stewed in a pan.  We eat them stuffed with chili and cheese.  Peers encourage one another and our words change what peers do. 

But these seemingly innocuous sentences can in fact harm someone.  Isaiah, the prophet, writes, “The workers help each other and say to each other, ‘Be strong!’  The craftsman encourages the goldsmith, and the workman who smooths the metal with a hammer encourages the one who shapes the metal.  He says, ‘This metal work is good.’  He nails the statue to a base so it can’t fall over” (Isaiah 41:6–7 NCV).  Encouragement has power; power for good and power for bad.  The metal workers Isaiah is referring to are idol makers.  It is a truth.  A line of people long enough to go around the town are ready to encourage you to follow the counterfeit gods that manufacture a synthetic happiness, an artificial friendship, or a fruitless ambition.  

Take heart, the opposite effect is true, too.  We might just encourage one another in the right direction.  Peter, the follower of Jesus, attaches a note to a letter he is writing to the Christians in the churches in his circuit.  “I have written to you briefly in order to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!” (1 Peter 5:12).  Paul, the missionary, often encourages with words meant to lend a helping hand to those who might be getting discouraged and faltering in their zeal to complete the construction of their good work.  “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  

So natural as it may be to encourage when we are in the moment, so uncommon as it is when absent and out of mind.  Let us then make it a habit to seize the illusive moment to write notes of encouragement when our friends creep into our thoughts.  Let us attend to the welfare of our kin by telling our phone to make the contact.  It only takes a moment and their knees just might be growing weak.  They might just be laying down the tools of productivity.  They might just be discouraged by the weariness of worry.  Make the call.  Send the text.

Stephen Williams

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