I Have Learned to Treasure Encouragers (1)

coffee_cup_white.jpg Over the next few weeks, I want to spend some time reflecting on each one of the "Ten Things I Have Learned about Ministry and Life."  I want to start today with some reflection on the importance of encouragement.

 
I Have Learned to Treasure Encouragers.

 
I have been blessed by the words and ministry of a number of encouragers.  Little did they know it but these people were investing in my future.  So often, they would come alongside me and provide just the right word.   Even when I made mistakes, these same people would leave me with a sense of hope.  I am so thankful.

 
Far too many people grow up in homes where mom and dad are passive.  They are not critical or negative with their words.  They do something just as painful.  They are silent at very important times in the lives of their children.

 
Perhaps a son or daughter has a dream and yet mom and dad remain silent about the dream.  They give no response.   Maybe a child tries her best to accomplish a particular task and receives only silence from her parents.  That silence can speak volumes to the tender heart of a child. 

 
Other children grow up in homes where there is constant criticism.  The criticism may be subtle or not so subtle.  Maybe there is an atmosphere of negativity in the home.  As the result of such a negative, critical atmosphere, a child may grow up believing that he really doesn’t amount to very much and probably isn’t capable of much.

 
I will always remember the first time I preached.  It was a Sunday evening at a church in Memphis, Tennessee.  Two of us from a Bible college two and a half hours away were to speak that evening.  I spoke first.  I think I may have spoken ten minutes.  I don’t remember what I said.  I do remember feeling embarrassed after it was over.  I remember sensing that I did not do well.

 
On the front row that night was James Long.  He was in his late forties and had come with us to this church.  He had been a mentor and encourager to me.  Anyway, at the conclusion of that worship service, everyone was invited to stay for a light meal.  After eating, I slipped back into the empty auditorium to get my Bible.  James followed me.  He asked if I would sit on the front row next to him.  I did.  He put his arm around my shoulders and told me how proud he was of me.  He told me that my speaking manner needed more maturity, but he was confident that would come in time.  I remember feeling so encouraged.

 
It is true.  Encouragement can give you a good feeling.  Maybe, however, even more important is that someone’s encouragement can give you a nudge toward the future.  Encouragement can give you the courage to move ahead when you might otherwise entertain serious thoughts of giving up.  Encouragement can spur you on toward uncharted waters.  (At least they are uncharted in your own experience.)

 
I remember particular moments of encouragement.  Some of these moments occurred many years ago.  These are like a stack of snapshots that I refuse to throw away because as I look at each picture, I am filled with encouragement all over again.

 
One of those moments took place almost three decades ago in a conversation with my father-in-law at his dining room table.  I had been wrestling with whether or not to go to graduate school.  A one point, he looked me in the eye and told me that I was capable of doing more study in several different areas.  I could tell he was very serious.  I could tell that he believed this was so.  For weeks to come, my mind would be filled with some new possibilities for my future.

 
I also think about the encouragers who have been a part of churches where I have served.  Time and again, these people filled my heart with fresh courage.  So often, I can get focused on some improvement that I need to make or some situation that I would like to have handled better.  The encouragers, however, seem to catch me in the act of doing something right and point out what was good and right about the situation.  I am so grateful to these wonderful people who bless me with their words.

 
Bottom line?  God has a way of using encouragers much like he used Barnabas with John Mark in the book of Acts.  In fact, he used Barnabas to encourage a number of the early churches.  God has placed a few Barnabases in my life.

 
Who has been a significant encourager in your life?  What impact has this encouragement had on you? 

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20 thoughts on “I Have Learned to Treasure Encouragers (1)

  1. I grew up with a negative mom and a passive dad. I remember one time in about third grade when my mom was talking with my teacher, who I adored. My Mom was being very negative about my tendancy to “waste” time reading and “living in a fantasy world.” I remember feeling emberassed that my teacher would know the truth about me — I was good for nothing. But I’ll never forget her words, “R. is so smart and talented. She’s an amazing writer. She’ll be able to do anything she sets her mind to.”

    Those words stayed with me in a powerful way. I remember in college, thinking “I’m smart and can do anything I put my mind to.”

    Oh, that my words would be a blessing to others as well. Thank you for sharing this with us today!

  2. Jim, what an encourager you are!   It’s really interesting to me that just last night when Mladen met with us here in Madisonville on his way down to meet with the folks at Bammell Rd today that when your name came up…I told him how you feed me spiritually every day.. and even though we’ve never met in person yet….YOU HAVE BEEN SUCH AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO ME through your ‘Place For the God-Hungry’.     You can rest asssured that for this preacher, whatever time you spend in reflection and composition to maintain this site is one of the greatest minsitries of encouragement in the Kingdom!
        Keep it up….because you certainly inspire me to want to ‘keep on keepin’on’……Lanier            

  3. I think that one of the first encouragers in my life was my late grandmother Rebecca. She would tell me everyday that "you are made for something special and I only hope that I may live to see you pass the worst." My late dad also was great at lifting me up… he told me once, if you become a street sweeper, you will be the best street sweeper there is.." My mother still tells me she is so proud of me and then there is Romeo the preacher who got me started in the ministry… he saw in me something i never could see and he encouraged me to never let anyone deter me from whatever goals i set for myself… these are just a few of my encouragers.. the ones who started it all…may God bless them…

  4. Jim,
    I’ve always been an encouragement driven person.  It’s amazing how the right word and the right time makes ALL the difference in my ministry. 
    I can remember times when someone says something to me that meant the world to me.  They’ll never know how much their words meant. 
    I’m a firm believer that we can’t encourage too much!
    Blessings

  5. I read my first God-Hungry blog today. A friend of mine from the Boston area sent me the link and I’m overjoyed to see you attend Bammel. So do my husband and I. I absolutely concurred with this piece having had encouraging parents growing up who’s only fault was silence when perplexed at a situation in life. I believe it was what they grew up with and didn’t know how to break the silence. But God is graceful and their story has not ended there; both of my parents, now in their 70s, not only continue to be encouragers, but have broken the silence barrier that they might be even better encouragers. That may only make sense to some, but he who has ears…I pray this brings certain hope for your heart.

  6. Jim, Yes you are an encourager. Great post, I love the thoughts on both sides and like most have experienced both.
     
    When younger I thought I’d never amount to anything due to this, and if anything certainly not much. Those impacting me little realized, if at all it is God’s gifts of us and to us that make the difference.
     
    I also remember especially a very dear pastor, and greatly gifted man of God, Bill Hesse. What a wonderful encourager he was. A Barnabas risen from the dead! I wish I would have stayed in that denomination at the time with him to help me. Good memories.

  7. My earliest encouragers were my parents.  Both very affirming people. Most of my ecouragers since then have been in the church.  Ministers, women in my Wednesday night class, and also my husband.  My husband Tom and I are very different people, and one thing I appreciate about him is that he encourages me to follow my interests, even though I know he must think I’m a little eccentric (weird?) at times.  It’s a real gift when someone allows you to be uniquely yourself and values you for that uniqueness, rather than expecting you to fit their preconceived idea of how folks should be, isn’t it?! 

  8. There have been many encouragers in my life—-their words have inspired me and given me strength. Some of them are cataloged away in my mind, pulled out and reread when the night is dark and the path is rough.
    It is my prayer that I would offer this blessing to others so that my words just might inspire in them the same hope and strenght I have been blessed to receive.
    Peaceneva

  9. Jim, I remember you saying one time that there are certain men who preach who make you glad that you preach.  You are one of them.  You have always taken encouragement seriously – and you have been an encourager to me and lot of others.

  10. Connie,Your parents were very encouragement and each one of them encouraged me on a number of occasions.I really like what you said re Tom and his willingness to encourage you to follow your own interests. 

  11. Neva,I really like what you said regarding "rereading" the words of encouragers that are stored in your mind.  It is amazing how encouraging words which were said years ago can encourage all over again through memory. 

  12. Hi Ted,Your sentence below really got my attention: "When younger I thought I’d never amount to anything due to this, and if anything certainly not much."Wow!  How many people could express the same kind of feelings.  So glad for the encouragers who came along in your life. 

  13. Denise,I am so glad you came to this blog.  What a blessing to have been raised by parents who continue to be encouragers into their 70’s.  What an inspiration.I hope you will comment again.

  14. Bryan,I love these words about the wonderful and significant encouragers in your life.  What a blessing.  I suspect their words have had a significant impact upon your life. 

  15. The great thing about encouragers is that they are with you for life.  I’ve been blessed with a few; a friend who discipled me while I was in college, for example, still an encourager 22 years later.  Women who taught me how to be a good wife, a good mom – still my encouragers 18 years later.  What a treasure they are – your post motivates me to be one!

  16. Lanier,Thank you for your very kind and affirming comment.  I am grateful that God in some way could work through this to encourage and bless you.  Likewise, your words here have blessed me today.So good to hear from you. 

  17. llama momma,I love your story about your teacher.  Wow.  If that doesn’t say something about the importance of encouragement.So glad that in some way God used her to bless you in such a significant way.