In our own circle of influence are people – children, teens and adults—who need courage, spirit, and hope. The encouragement you offer could be as simple as a love note in a lunch bag or as complex as a year long commitment to come alongside a frustrated young mother. It could be cheering on your child in his first soccer game or telling your church leaders that you appreciate the tough stands they take.
Unless we remember Paul’s words in II Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of he power may be of God, and not of us,” we will fall into discouragement due to our own inadequacy when we observe the enormous needs surrounding us. God wants to break apart our “earthen vessels” to display the treasure of the gospel. That process showcases His power and not our weaknesses. This should give us great hope and help us move from “I don’t know how to be an encourager” to “God is using me to accomplish His purposes.”
Is there a way to encourage some people without feeling guilty that we have not encouraged everyone? Can we read the weekly prayer letter list without feeling responsible for every need? How do we know if God wants us to walk into a situation requiring special skills even though we have had no personal experience from which to glean wisdom? How do we live as an encourager without being overcome by compassion fatigue?
In II Corinthians 8:1-5 we find some answers. This passage describes the Macedonians’ response to the material needs of the saints at Jerusalem — people they did not even know. The ways to overcome neglecting encouragement are in this passage.
The Macedonians gave joyfully and generously although in severe trial and extreme poverty. They did not merely give what they were able, but sacrificially. They considered the opportunity to help carry the burden of their spiritual family a privilege and begged to be included. Their giving was an act of worship in that they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to the saints in keeping with God’s will. When we give ourselves to God before we try giving ourselves to others, He multiplies our meager offerings and we have no reason to worry about how far our encouragement is spreading.
As we draw closer to the Lord, we learn to recognize His voice and when we respond to His promptings, we find ourselves meeting the needs of those which we were completely unaware.