Sunday, April 29, 2012

Encouragement: The Spiritual Confetti of Life

Last Saturday, I had the wonderful privilege to be part of the Twin Oaks Ladies Friendship Tea (see all the beautifully decorated tables here).

It was a great afternoon filled with beautifully decorated tables, loving ladies and delicious food. I was able to share with the ladies in attendance some things I have been learning about encouragement.

A few years back, I studied a wonderful book with a high school girl's Sunday school class. Much of my material for this event came from Encouraging One Another from Women of Faith. It's a wonderful study that would be great for individual use or a group setting.

Think about the feelings you have in the midst of a great party or celebration. Think especially about the feelings associated with throwing confetti. Maybe you image throwing flower petals at a bride and groom, or yelling "Surprise!" at a birthday party. Whatever the occasion, confetti seems to symbolize spreading happiness on to others.

I set a tiny bag of confetti at each place setting, hoping the ladies would use this little visual aid to help them remember our discussion on encouragement. 

"Encouragement is to a friendship what confetti is to a party. It's light, refreshing,
and fun, and you always end up finding little pieces of it stuck on you later."
- Nicole Johnson

"What wonders a bit of encouragement can do! It's one of the most awesome treasures God 
has given us -- the ability to inspire, motivate, and reassure others."
- Barbara Johnson

But even if we understand the importance of confetti and know the joy it brings to others, how can we encourage someone else when we feel so discouraged ourselves? In my studies, I have found two main sources of encouragement. 

I find great comfort in knowing that God planned ahead for all my gloomy days. In fact, encouragement is a cycle: As we encourage others, the Father encourages us. 

I tried to think of the times when I need encouragement the most...But even on my best days, I will welcome a complement or a kind word. Even if I'm having the best hair day and someone complements me, I'm not going to say, "I am having a good day...I don't need to hear your encouraging words."

Since we need encouragement all the time, it is important to know where this "spiritual confetti" is coming from. I believe that encouragement is there for us as long as we take the time to find it. 

Two Sources of Encouragement

I. Encouragement from the Word of God

"I weep with sorrow;
encourage me by Your word."
Psalm 119:28

I love the fact that one of the reasons God gave us the Bible is so that we can KNOW how He feels about us and who we are in Him. Sometimes, there is nothing more reassuring than a written record of God's thoughts for us. 

"But these are written that you may know that Jesus is the Messiah,
the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name."
John 20:31

The word was also written to give us hope and encouragement. 

"Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us.
And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait 
patiently for God's promises to be fulfilled."
Romans 15:4

What a comfort to know this encouragement comes directly from God. 

"May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you
live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ."
Romans 15:5

Psalm 138:3 tells me that when I bring my gloomy days to God, He answers my prayers and gives me strength. This is the type of relationship our Heavenly Father wants to have with His children. 

Imagine parents at a little kid's ball game. You can hear them cheering for their children them minute you step out of your car. "Way to go!" "Steady now!" "You can do it!" "I'm here with you!" "Hang in there!" "That's my girl!" I believe the Lord cheers for us in the same way. And some of these passages are meant to be our encouragement from the Father. 

Find the passages that mean something to you - write them out! I keep a note card with some of my favorite encouraging passages written inside. During times of difficulty or discouragement, it is neat to read those bits of encouragement from the Lord. 

I cling to passages such as Isaiah 43 - because God calls me precious. Jeremiah 29:11-13 - God tells me He has a plan for me. Hebrews 11:6 says that He rewards those who are diligently seeking Him. I Peter 2:4 tells me He chose me and thinks I'm precious.  Romans 15:7 says I'm accepted. Romans 8:1 says I'm no longer condemned. And John 1:12 lets me know that I am His child. 

Within the last 6 months, I quit my job to be a full time homemaker and wife. And I must add that I love every minute of being at home. However, before, I would always have girls dropping by my desk to give me a hug or offer a bit of encouragement. I would receive little notes from other girls in the office. But now that I am at home all day, I found myself getting a bit discouraged. One day in particular, I was praying, asking God to show me that I mattered that day. I needed a little encouragement from Him. As I was using a bag of frozen mango pieces to make mango lemonade, I noticed these words on the back of the packaging. 

 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lordplans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will 
listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:11-13

I couldn't believe that God had used a bag of frozen fruit to reassure me and encourage me.  A few days later I noticed these words on the inside of an egg carton. 

"This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." 
Psalm 118:24

Some of you may feel the need to clean our your refrigerators on the spot, looking for Scripture on your packaging. But I see this as confirmation from the Lord that when I need to be encouraged, He is more than capable of sending some encouragement my way. 

And for those of you who are wondering, the fruit was TJ Farms Select brand from the Dollar Tree and my eggs were from Aldi. 

I have also recently been encouraged by the One Year Plan. It seems that I am often reading the exact passage that is needed to help me get through the circumstances of that particular day. If you don't have a Bible reading plan, I encourage you to print one here. It's hard for us to receive the encouragement that the Lord offers if we're not actively reading it. 

His encouragement is there if we only take the time to read it. 

I think of the Sound of Music song Favorite Things. In that case, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens made them not feel so bad. 

"The encouragement God provides touches us more deeply than that. He doesn't 
offer a quick fix when our feelings get frazzled. What He's offering us is encouragement
for our faith. If we are strong in the faith department, we are less likely to let
our emotions drag us down."
-Encouraging One Another

II.   Encouragement from Others

Because the Lord encourages us, we are better able to give that encouragement to those around us. When we are dry, I believe the Lord fills us. 

"For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you."
2 Corinthians 1:6

We have the ability to encourage others in the faith. We encourage some one's faith when we tell of God's working in our own lives. Paul described this ministry in I Thessalonians 3:2 when he said, "We sent Timothy to encourage you in your faith."

It is easy to think that this is the full time job of missionaries and pastors. However, that doesn't let the rest of us off the hook. As believers, we should all possess the ministry of encouragement. 

"He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught;
then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching
and show those who oppose it where they are wrong."
Titus 1:9

I get excited over the fact that God created us to need each other. 

"...and let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do,
but encourage one another..."
Hebrews 10:25
As believers, we have the distinct responsibility to be around each other and to talk about our relationship with God when we are around other believers. 

You may be thinking, "But I can't spend all my time trying to come up with things go do for people." or "I'm not a good speaker." or "I can't cook a grand meal."  But you should be encouraged by the fact that God wants us to be creative in the ways we encourage people. It doesn't always have to be the exact same method. 

"...let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out..."
Hebrews 10:24   

The early Christians chose to write letters back and forth. That may be a ministry that appeals to you. Never underestimate the impact of a hand written note.

"My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you 
that what you are experiencing is truly part of God's grace
for you. Stand firm in this grace."
I Peter 5:12

You may be better at baking, crafting, babysitting, setting a pretty table (hospitality)...whatever your method, don't be selfish with your "spiritual confetti." I hope, at the end of my life, that I can say that I followed Paul's unselfish example. 

"I didn't skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have
made a difference to you, you got. I taught you out in public and I taught in your homes."
Acts 20:20

Don't hold back! Find ways to encourage those around you. Paul described the cycle in Romans 1:12 when he said, "When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours." It will come back to you if you give it your all. 

As I challenged those ladies, find a say to search the scriptures for encouragement from the Father. And then, find a way to encourage someone else in the faith. 

On the movie Pollyanna, she wears a necklace with this quote from A. Lincoln engraved on the charm. "If you look for the bad in mankind, you will surely find it." I think that is also true for encouragement. If you are looking for encouragement from the Father, you will find it. And if you're looking for ways to encourage others, the Lord will show you those opportunities as well!

I'd love to hear how you have encouraged or been encouraged this week!


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