In the past couple of weeks I have had two instances of meeting old friends that I had not seen for over 30 years; there have been two alarming aspects of this. The first is that it is even possible for me to have friends whom I met as adults and have not seen for that long. The second is that one of them is a liar, or at least has a lousy memory. “You haven’t changed a bit”, she said with a completely straight face and even though she genuinely meant it, I knew that it wasn’t true.
As if to prove how right she was she then got out the inevitable 30 year-old photo album to prove to me how little I had changed. “Which one is me?” I had to ask because I wasn’t entirely sure that the young man swinging upside down from a fence somewhere in Scotland really was me. Suddenly I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to go back and say things to him that needed to be said. I wanted to tell him to buy some decent clothes, get a haircut and work harder.
I also wanted to encourage him about all that God was doing in his life at that time and to hold on to every scrap of spiritual truth that he became aware of because life would be a marathon and not a sprint. I wanted to encourage him to believe that his dreams were valid and even though they would be modified they were most definitely from God and not just the product of youthful enthusiasm. Most of all I wanted to let him know that God really, really, really loved him and that even as a naïve and immature 20 year-old God was still completely for him.
Of course I couldn’t do any of that and so I had to learn the hard way. That doesn’t mean though that everyone else does. If you asked me what single thing would make the most difference to the church in the UK I would give you several different answers but one of them would definitely be more encouragement. We absolutely need to encourage each other more.
To encourage is to strengthen, to draw the best out of someone, to exhort them to greater and higher goals, to have a vision of someone that is above and beyond their own expectations and to impart that vision to them so that they become capable of reaching it. David was encouraged by Jonathan, Saul was encouraged by Barnabas, Peter was encouraged by Jesus.
So who can you encourage? Who can you spur on to achieve more in God’s purpose than they have done already? How can you partner with Jesus to help Him as He builds His church so that we become more fruitful in taking His love to the City and beyond?
Go on, you can do it, be encouraged!