The Ministry of Encouragment
"Encouragement is the table community feasts off of." - Papa Ken
They are seemingly simple, yet they have a profound impact. Before they leave our tongue, they hold either the power to build up or tear down. Words are not simply words--they hold immense potency.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue... (Proverbs 18:21)
Our words create things. They have power to create life or death. When we speak, something profound happens spiritually. What we speak, we give our agreement to. We either are in agreement with heaven (the nature and character of God) or with darkness. It's why when you hear a negative comment, it can leave you feeling heavy or shut down. But it's also why when you hear encouragement, your heart is filled and lifted. Our words create things.
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24)
As I write, I am drawn to write on encouragement, namely because I have been struck once again by the magnitude of it. As of late, there have been some words that people, in faithfulness, have spoken into my life that have truly been impacting me in a continually unfolding fashion. A few weeks ago, I had the profound and pleasant revelation that encouragement is actually a spiritual gift! Think about it! It's wrapped up in the ministry of exhortation. We have no idea what an encouraging word can do in someone's life--how the heart takes hold and really believes it. I can only testify, because I myself have been impacted by the gift of encouragement. There are words I still hold dear today in my heart that have shaped my life, simply because someone took the time and had the courage to speak it.
I remember a particular season of life when the things I thought would unfold were not happening. I had a particular vision for my season, and rather than running, I felt like I was wrestling. To be honest, I felt like I had lost a lot, and as a result, I felt like I had made a wrong decision somewhere along the line. About a year or so prior, I had an experience where I made a decision I felt was outside of God’s best for me, so it was easy to question if the internal chaos I was experiencing was because of me.
But, there was a moment (I don’t remember when or where, but it was during that season) when I was being prayed for, and someone gave me a prophetic word and it was simply this: “You are right where you’re supposed to be.” Done. Tears. Wrecked. Because in that moment, I knew God knew my wrestle. He saw my heart, and He was encouraging me that I was on the right path. And someone had the courage to speak out what God was putting on their heart.
Quick note on the prophetic. I know that some of you are very familiar with it, and maybe some of you are not. In fact, the word prophetic might sound a bit scary. The gift of prophecy is a beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible in 1 Corinthians defines it's purpose as this:
"But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men." (1 Corinthians 14:3)
Prophetic words are meant to encourage, build up and motivate. That is their function. In essence, prophecy is hearing God's heart for someone and sharing it in such a way that it does just what 1 Corinthians speaks of--edifies, exhorts, and comforts the recipient. It is not a "thus says the Lord," but often a brief insight into what the Lord thinks or feels over a person, which we then prayerfully interpret. Thus, it is always subject to weighing up. Prophetic words should always be in alignment with Scripture and point back to the character and nature of God. We should always test them. If they don't sit well with our spirit, we don't have to receive them, and if they don't happen to make sense at the moment, we can pray and hand them up to the Father. Major life decisions and direction should never be based on a prophetic word. These are things we need to hear from God ourselves. A prophetic word may confirm what God is already speaking to us, but should not be the sole basis of a decision. There's much I could speak into about the how's and the what's, which I am passionate about. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out! I am more than happy to discuss. :)
The prophetic is a beautiful ministry, as is simply encouraging one another with what we see with our own two eyes. It is just as powerful to encourage those around us with the things that we experience when we are around them. There are countless times where I have been encouraged by someone calling out what they see in me. Sometimes, it's the simplest comment that makes the biggest impact. In fact, I remember back to 2003 when I was on a missions trip to Mexico. I was walking up the wooden stairs in the building we were staying in, and in passing, someone stopped me to say, "You have a beautiful smile." That has stuck with me and impacted me ever since.
Whether a prophetic word or someone simply calling out the gold God has put in us, encouragement is a gift and it's also the heartbeat of heaven. It's the way God leads us. God's dialogue with us is never filled with condemnation, belittling, or demeaning comments. Even when He rebukes or corrects, He does in love as He encourages us that there is a better way, affirming us of who we are in Him. Even conviction and repentance is joyful. Encouragement points us back to His heart.
Yet, I've notice this phenomenon in my own life. Why is it that sometimes, we are afraid to share kind words with one another? Why do we sometimes hold back? Are we afraid of what other's may think? Fear that they won't receive them? Fear that they'll think we have a hidden motive? Maybe we struggle with insecurity ourselves? I am sure there are a myriad of reasons, but I believe God wants to empower us to be an encouraging people, and if there be any reason we hold back at times, God wants to help us. It's amazing--releasing encouragement not only encourages the other person, it ministers to our heart as well.
Just like any gift we've been given, we need to exercise and practice encouragement. One thing we can do to grow in encouragement is simply to... well, do it! We can practice calling out the gold in others. The more we practice, the more natural it becomes. I don't mean practice in an impersonal way, as if it were a project. But when we feel something bubbling up in us, we can grab the moment and share. Or, we can be intentional about speaking life to those around us. I believe there's always something to encourage someone with. As I have discovered the weightiness of encouragement and the power of words, I realize the significance of speaking out over others. Life is created. I believe things shift and rearrange in our thinking when we hear and speak encouragement, and that the spirit grasps more than we can comprehend. Suddenly, it becomes more influential than we realize. Have you witness one motivated out of encouragement? Their demeanor changes. They radiate! They are empowered. I am sure the same is true for you. I know it's true for me. Encouragement is the language of heaven.
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, NASB)
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25, NIV)
As I ponder over these things, I want to be one filled with encouragement, who readily gives, because I myself have received from the Father. Let us not forget the greatest encouragement of all--to receive the words that God is speaking over us. Take time to be affirmed by Him. If you are a child of God, you can hear His voice. Immerse yourself in the Word. Let us be people that overflow with kind words, because we ourselves have been filled. You never know what impact a word may have in someone's life, whether we see the fruit or not. It is always worth it to speak and sow life.
I write from the place of personal experience, observation, and reflection on who God is. As always, I encourage you to pray, search the Word, and seek Him on these topics.