Encouraging Words

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Encouraging Words

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 Speech has many purposes and functions. We use it to communicate our thoughts, feelings, desires, instructions and ideas to others.

The Bible shows us how to use speech as a positive tool to strengthen and build lasting relationships with others, while spreading God's way of life through our words. Positive speech can cheer up sadness (Proverbs 12:25) and bring joy (Proverbs 15:23). Rash or reckless words act like sword thrusts (Proverbs 12:18) and gossiping can ruin friendships (Proverbs 16:28). When we use words appropriately, they are like "apples of gold in settings of silver" (Proverbs 25:11) and "a honeycomb [that brings] sweetness to the soul and health to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24).

The ability to choose what we say to others is one of the most precious gifts God has given us, yet the human capacity to use speech to inflict pain is one of the most dangerous weapons we possess. Knowing what to say and when and how to say it takes wisdom (Proverbs 16:23-24). Being able to control our speech is equivalent to keeping the "whole body in check" and is described as "perfect" (James 3:2, New International Version). As we strive for the same perfection as our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48), we need to make careful choices in how we use our speech.

As a young Christian, I have found that even if there aren't many physical opportunities to serve, I can usually contribute by offering encouraging words of appreciation to those who work behind the scenes. Many of these people do not receive recognition or thanks very often.

Being an encourager is an essential part of the job description of a Christian. Instructions to encourage one another appear many times throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 1:38; 3:28; Acts 15:32; Ephesians 6:22; Colossians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:14; 2 Timothy 4:2). There are various ways we can use encouraging words to "build each other up" (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV), including sharing thanks and appreciation, offering support, paying compliments and even giving written words of encouragement (1 Peter 5:12).

One of the best ways to be an encourager is to share God's truth and promises with others or pass along encouraging scriptures, especially to those who are struggling with trials or doubting their faith (1 Thessalonians 5:14). The prophets Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32), as well as Tychicus (Ephesians 6:22; Colossians 4:8) were sent to encourage and strengthen the believers as well as encourage their hearts. Strengthening the faith and convictions of fellow believers not only promotes harmony and unity in God's family, but also helps us develop stronger spiritual leadership skills.

Ananias' example

While there are plenty of instances where people in the Bible used words to inflict harm and pain on others, the positive examples of encouragement provide models for us today. In Acts we read that God, in a vision, told the disciple Ananias to go to the house where Saul of Tarsus was staying. Saul was a man who maliciously worked to prevent the gospel from being spread. Yet God instructed Ananias to "place his hands on [Saul] to restore his sight" (Acts 9:10-12, NIV), which he had lost when Christ miraculously appeared to him.

Even though he was aware of the evil Saul had done against God, Ananias still obeyed, laying his hands on the blind man and encouraging him by telling Saul that he would regain his sight and become an "instrument" to spread the gospel (Acts 9:13-17). Instantly Saul was able to see again, was baptized and went on to do the work of God (Acts 9:18-19). Undoubtedly Ananias' reassuring words were of great comfort to Saul, who went on to become the apostle Paul.

The Bible instructs us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44) as well as telling us to do good to those who hate us and bless those who curse us (Luke 6:27-28). What better way to do this than encourage others with our speech and through our prayers?

Sometimes we are presented with opportunities to encourage people we don't even know. But sometimes we will face people who have hurt us in the past. If Ananias had not been willing to take on the role of an encourager, even to an unholy and evil person, the story of Saul and his conversion may have been very different. We, too, must be willing to encourage those we are not fond of, because they are often the people we can impact the most.

The act of encouraging others is so simple and costs nothing, but oftentimes is overlooked and infrequent. We need to seek out opportunities to encourage and uplift others, putting our gift of positive speech to good use.

To be strong examples of God's way, the love that is in our hearts must be illustrated through our speech because "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). Our hearts should be filled with encouraging words so our speech reflects God's way of life. Becoming an encouraging person will not only positively impact the lives of others, but will also improve our own attitude and outlook on life. I encourage you to try it!

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