For instance, one of the great encouragers in my life is grandma Jeanne, who lives in New York State. We’ve never met in person, but we’ve been electronic pen pals for close to a decade. I can always count on her for words of biblical truth and encouragement when I’m grappling with a particularly tough question or issue.
Some of my most powerful encouragers are long dead, working in my heart by their example. One I think about often is the English missionary William Carey (1761-1834), who brought the gospel to India. There was nothing glamorous about Carey’s life. For years, he labored and sorrowed and suffered under often horrid conditions, apparently in vain. He did not baptize his first convert for seven years—seven years! And by the time of his death some 34 years later, his mission could point to the conversion of only around 700 people.
Yet Carey’s tireless efforts, which included Bible translations, schools and promotion of various social reforms, laid the foundation for the growth of Christianity in a nation enslaved by a particularly evil and oppressive form of paganism. And many point to his work as the inspiration for the great missionaries of the 19th century, from David Livingston to Hudson Taylor.
Surely it was God Himself who encouraged William Carey, because it doesn’t sound like he received much help from those around him.
Thinking about these things this morning, I considered how often I have failed to be an encourager myself—and how deliberately becoming one would be a worthy goal.
After all, it doesn’t always have to take a lot of time. The book of Acts tells us repeatedly of the encouragement offered by members of the early church—for instance, the support, confidence and inspiration delivered in a brief letter that they sent to the Gentile brethren in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. The result? “When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement” (Acts 15:31).
Just so: encouragement can cause others to rejoice.
I’d like to be the catalyst to rejoicing on the part of a brother or sister in Christ today. How about you? Let's pray that the Lord would give us that opportunity, and show us how.