October 02, 2013 - Recently a colleague of mine asked me to step into his office.
"Do you remember last May, when you stopped me on the sidewalk at conference and told me what a great job I was doing?"
I paused for a moment to remember and he continued.
"When you did that, you didn't realize that my wife was standing there and heard what you said. It meant a lot to share that moment with her as she hears mostly complaints from people. We both felt so blessed to hear your words. Thank you."
It was a moment I had forgotten but it made a difference for them. All I did was offer a word of encouragement but it was something much more.
The power of an encouraging word cannot be overstated. It can change the way a person sees the world, the day and themselves.
Encouragement is not just saying nice things to someone. It is more than being polite or kind.
Encouragement comes from strength and conviction of faith.
When we offer encouragement, we are saying three truths. One, we believe that God is at work in life and is stronger than any burdens we carry. Secondly, to encourage someone affirms that God is using their efforts in ways that go beyond what they may be able to see.
Finally, when we offer encouragement to the discouraged, we are inviting them to look beyond the challenges in front of them and see the bigger picture of God at work in the world.
Perhaps, we are assisting others to discover grace where they could not see it. In turn, they can become those who offer hope and grace to the world.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage... (Romans 12:6-8 NIV)
Some have the gift of encouragement. God has given them the unique gift of standing strong in faith as they walk with words that inspire and encourage.
Yet the Gospel invites all of us to stand strong in faith as we stop the negative and attacking language we so often hear and regrettably use.
We can choose to grow in faith and our awareness of the power of God's grace in the world.
Then, even in the face of the most difficult moments of life, we will be more than nice. We will be able to stand strong in faith as we encourage others to do the same.
The Rev. Richard L. Dake is pastor of Clarkston United Methodist Church.