By Elder Yap Chee Kian
Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)
One day, a small child came home from school and gave a paper to his mother. He said to her “Mom, my teacher gave this to me and told me only you are to read it. What does it say?”
His mother’s eyes were tearful as she read the letter out loud to her child: Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.
After many years, his mother had died and the child was one of the greatest inventors of the century. One day he was looking through old family stuff when he saw a folded paper in the corner of a drawer in a desk. He opened it up and read what was written: Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We won’t let him come to school any more.
He cried for hours as he wrote in his diary: “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”
The veracity of this version of events is not totally accurate as belied by the actual account given by Thomas Edison himself in a rare interview. However, there was indeed an incident in which he was labelled “addled” by a school administrator that led his mother to remove him from school underscoring the importance of encouragement.
Power of Encouragement
Words have the power to heal as well as the power to kill. Proverbs give us many practical examples and we are exhorted to apply them wisely in our lives. This is especially so with our fellow brethren “for by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”. Encouragement is emphasized in God’s word because it is absolutely necessary in our walk of faith.
We live in a time when encouragement is often lacking and criticisms are rampant. This is exacerbated by easy access social media which propagates fear and negative sentiments. Even the great prophet Elijah was not spared. In 1 Kings 19, we read that after he had defeated the false prophets at Mount Carmel, he was intimidated by Jezebel and ran for his live. God had to send an angel to encourage him.
Misunderstandings and hurt feelings can become sources of distress and hinder the work of God. There is a man in the early church by the name of Joses [Acts 4:36]. His other name, Barnabas is probably more familiar to us and is worthy of mention. It means ‘son of encouragement’ or ‘son of consolation’. Barnabas certainly lived up to his name. We cannot read Act 15:36-41 but be moved that despite their contention, Paul and Barnabas continued to depend on God. They moved forward peacefully and must have been mutual encouragement as recorded in (1 Tim 4:11)
What does encouragement do?
Discouragement is a common human experience. It may be difficult to find meaning in the seemingly inconsequential things we do and we may want to give up. Yet He who calls us is faithful, and He gives us the power to be faithful, too (1 Corinthians 1:9).
Encouragement makes it easier to live a holy life in a fallen world. Encouragement through the word of God brings hope (Romans 15:4). Our depraved nature requires constant reminder that God is working in our lives. It helps us exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit by nurturing patience and kindness (Galatians 5:22-26). Encouragement makes it easier to sacrifice our own desires by seeing things from God’s perspective with eternity in mind.
Let us all aspire to be a Barnabas. By God’s grace each one of us can be ‘a son of encourgement’. We can touch lives and be a beacon of hope and comfort to those around us especially those who are outside Christ.