Be the Encourager!
Gary Chapman, who wrote the book The 5 Love Languages, talks about our love tank. He says, "There's a gasoline tank on a car. If it is full, you drive a long way. If it's empty, you're not going anywhere. I use the picture of an emotional love tank. If the love tank is full and the person feels genuinely loved, life will be beautiful. But if the love tank is empty, and a person doesn't feel loved, the world looks pretty dark." He notes that lots of misbehavior come from having an empty tank. Chapman first wrote about how couples can speak love to one another and fill up each other's tank. He expanded and adapted his book across the board for all relationships, from your coworker to your children. The books are all about how we can be people who in our speech and action will up other's tanks.
Think about it. There are people in your life who you look forward to seeing, they fill you up. They make you feel good about yourself, you leave feeling upbeat, energized, excited about the day ahead. And then there are people in your life who are draining, who take your energy, you leave filling sort of beat up, worn down, and tired. We do not want to be people who leave others drained but people who others find life in. People who fill others up so that they can continue on the journey. People who encourage.
To encourage is mentioned over 100 times in the New Testament. John Ortberg calls it the language of the New testament. If we are to speak the New Testament, then we have to talk and act in the words and ways of encouragement.
In Paul's letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he gives us instructions on how to do this. He says we must speak the truth to each other; we must not let our anger cause us to sin. Being an encourager doesn't mean just letting someone keep on doing something that is wrong. But Paul gives us guidance for our words of correction, they must speak truth, and we must not be ruled by anger.
I remember when my kids went through their terrible two-stage. I would say, “Don't hit your brother, don't throw the stick at your sister, don't pinch, don't bite.” And the words wouldn't even be out of my mouth before they had done it again. My first response was one of anger. I wanted to and often did yell. Paul is saying, don't do that, don't allow your fury about something; those heightened emotions, cause you to sin; cause you to do something that you will later regret. On my good days during those terrible 2's stages, I would put myself in time out before I addressed the behavior so that I wouldn't be speaking from a place of anger.
We live in a world where people are reminded every day how bad they are. Kids and teenagers these days can literally count how many likes their picture has vs. someone else and has verified data as to where they stand at school. But even those of us who are not plugged into social media, we get told in a million of ways how we are not enough, how we are under-performing, how we are not living up to expectations. And we need those voices of encouragement to keep us going.
Gregory of Nyssa, an early church father, wrote this to one of his friends, "Most valued friend and brother, while you are competing admirably in a divine race, straining constantly for the prize of the heavenly calling, I exhort, urge, and encourage you vigorously." In other words, he is saying, “While you run the race of faith, I am here in the stands to cheer you on; to encourage you; to help you keep going, reminding you that God is with you.” John Ortberg calls these people balcony people.
People who sit in our balconies cheering us on as we run the race of faith.
Who are your balcony people? How can you be in somebody's balcony today?