I started working out at the gym a couple of months ago. CrossFit is my deal. I find it much more enjoyable…ahem…as *enjoyable* as lifting weights can be.
It’s a combination of lifting weights, aerobic activities (running, rowing, etc.), jumping/climbing, and gymnastics-type moves. Whereas normal weight-lifting can get boring through repetitive movements, I’ve never once been bored.
I’ve also never once gone home not sore.
As I was finishing up one of my runs just the other day, rounding the last corner before the mile run was over, I was about to go into cruise control. The last 400 meters were going to be easy, I thought. I was a sizable distance behind the next runner, and…who cares? It’s just a run…I don’t have to win this.
Until one of the coaches barked a word of encouragement my way.
I didn’t see it coming. I had already pushed the cruise button. I had taken my foot off the gas and was ready to coast. But the coach jarred me back to the grind. When I was tempted to coast, I was reminded to work even harder.
There have been a number of times where I’ve been directly encouraged. Sometimes it’s been in a cheerleading-type, “Way to go!” way. Other times it’s been a more constructive, “If you’ll just change ____, things will be easier” way.
In the process, I’ve learned much about how encouragement works.
7 truths about encouragement
1. Encouragement speaks things into existence that are not yet.
Am I good at working out? I don’t know…ask my stick arms. But they won’t be stick arms forever. Encouragement sees things that will be, based on trajectory instead of current circumstances. It focuses on potential, not only current reality.
2. Encouragement breeds hope.
When I’m ready to quit, a word of encouragement gives me a burst of energy. It breathes a bit of life into my fatiguing body. Encouragement is the breeding ground for hope, where none currently exists.
3. Encouragement builds relationships.
I feel a closer connection with those that have given me a timely encouragement. I feel like they believe in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. And I’m convinced that relationships are an under-valued key in so many areas of life. Especially decision-making.
4. Encouragement propels you further, faster.
I felt a surge of adrenaline when I heard, “You can do it, Ben!” When you encourage someone, your words help carry someone a little further. Even when you’re trying to climb a couch.
5. Encouragement tells you what can be.
Encouragement tells me that I could be better than I am right now. That I could run a bit faster. Lift a bit more. And not give up. Encouragement helps close the gap between the deficiencies you see in yourself right now and the picture of who you could be in the future.
6. Encouragement communicates, “I believe in you.”
Everyone needs to hear this. You need to know that someone else sees the same vision you do. Someone else believes you can close that gap. Someone else believes you can produce more, and become the better version of you that God intended.
7. I don’t always want encouragement.
Strange and twisted, no? Sometimes, I just want to give up. My body’s tired and my mind is mush. I’d rather throw in the towel for the day. But when I press through, I find potential that I didn’t know existed. “When you feel like you’ve used every ounce of energy you possess, you’ve still got extra reserve you can draw on,” my friend told me. Turns out he was right. And I hated him for it.
You’re an influencer of someone. Maybe you’re a pastor. Or a banker. Or a small group leader. Or a dad. Or a coach.
Those you lead can’t continue to do what God’s called them to do without a timely word of encouragement. Daily.
You’re also influenced by someone. Maybe your pastor. Or your banker. Or your small group leader. Or your dad. Or your coach.
Those who lead you can’t continue to do what God’s called them to do without a timely word of encouragement. Daily.
Time to put this on your to-do list.
Genuine encouragement is a gift you can give.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13
Who needs your encouragement today?
My son asked me to go outside and play football with him yesterday. Mind you, he’s 3. So football for him looks a lot safer for me now than it will in a few years.
We were throwing the ball back and forth, and he was loving every minute of it. I’d throw it as high as I could, and he’d watch it come crashing down to the ground and bounce strange directions. He’d mimic me and watch it bounce again.
He’d say, “Daddy…watch me!” And I’d watch him throw the ball up in the air and hear him squeal with delight that he did it.
Of course, when he would, I’d go nuts, making a big deal and encouraging him that he threw the ball.
Then one time, unintentionally, I didn’t encourage him. I didn’t tell him he did a good job. I watched him throw the ball, then walked over to pick it up and continue the cycle.
It’s not that he didn’t do a good job…I just didn’t tell him that he did.
And he asked me a question that caused me to stop mid-stride:
Dat cool, daddy?
He wanted to know if he was still doing it right. He wanted validation from someone who knew the ropes, and knew what a “good throw” was supposed to look and feel like. He wanted to hear from his dad that I thought what he was doing was cool.
Don’t we all have a bit of that longing inside of us?
We all want to be validated by someone who knows the ropes. By someone who’s been in our shoes and walked where we’re going. Who can shed a little light on our paths to make the journey a little more navigable.
Older leaders: we need your encouragement. We need your ‘atta-boy!’ We need your wisdom and insight. We need your gut-level response to our gut-level response.
Don’t give up on us. We need you.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13
*Photo credit: BackDrop Express
image from iStockphoto, user: LDF
You might think that great leaders always leave you confident of the product (or service, or idea) that they’re “selling.”
You might think that great leaders always leave you with a clearer understanding of a key idea or concept.
You might think that great leaders have to be a certain age or stage in life.
But if that’s your sum total of a great leader, you’ve missed out on the one thing that all great leaders do well.
Great leaders leave you feeling better about yourself.
When you meet with a great leader, you feel more confident in God’s call on your life.
They aren’t afraid to point out holes, and prod into the areas that need work. But somehow, when your time with them is up, you feel more confident and sure of your leadership than before you’d met.
Great leaders look for tiny glimmers of hope and expose it for you to see. They look for areas where God’s working and say, “Do you see that?” They listen for God’s voice and sound the trumpet when He’s working in your life. Great leaders see the best in you and say, “Do more of that!”
I only know a couple of great leaders. And I love when I get to sit down with them.
Great leaders encourage.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up… – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
I was into mountain biking for a while, but going to school in West Tennessee, the flattest part of the state, doesn’t afford many mountains. So I traded the mountain bike in for a road bike. I rode some with my roommate, but also a lot by myself. I would tell people, “I love just getting out there and riding by myself.” I must not have liked it that much, because after college I gave up biking.
In the last couple of months, I’ve picked it back up. I ride three times/week. Twice it’s a shorter sprint, and once/week is a long ride. I’m loving it! And I’m sticking with it. Why?
I experience community when I ride my bike.
You see, I don’t ride alone. I ride with three guys from my community group, one of their sons, and my uncle. Somehow, in riding 30 miles with people, life happens. Significant conversations happen. The distractions of normal life are stripped away, and riding through the country opens up the heart. I’ve built great relationships with these guys, and I look forward to our rides together.
Biking alone is ok, but I
- get tired more quickly
- don’t have the motivation to keep going
- don’t have the motivation to get up early and push myself
- get bored
- go shorter distances
- quit earlier than I intended.
When I bike with the guys, I am encouraged to get up early, to keep riding, to push myself even harder, and to finish the ride.
That’s what authentic, God-honoring community does.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. -1 Thessalonians 5:14
When life falls apart, we tend to lose hope. Whether that’s getting a flat tire (I just had one!), getting a headache, hearing tragic news, or losing your job, our response is often to recoil and lose hope.
When life falls apart, do you run to God or from Him? Those are the only two options. The biblical ideal is this: “we rejoice in our sufferings.” (Romans 5:3) What?!? Rejoice in our sufferings? Isn’t that counter-intuitive? How could somebody ever be joyful in the midst of pain? Emotions aren’t something you can control, right? They’re just a reaction, aren’t they?
Being joyful in the face of difficulties is a work that God must do in you. It’s a process, and doesn’t happen overnight.
“Suffering produces endurance.” (Romans 5:3) “Produce” implies that there is time between suffering and endurance. No runner will tell you that they built up endurance in one week, or even in one year. It takes a lot of time. The same holds true for:
“Endurance produces character.” (Romans 5:4) Former Princeton basketball coach, Pete Carril said, “Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.” Hardships have a way of revealing the worst in us, but endurance in the face of them produces character. This passage in Romans finishes with:
“Character produces hope.” (Romans 5:4) What is that hope in? That our sufferings are not in vain, but that they bring glory to God (Romans 5:2). We rejoice because we are being made into the image of Christ, the One who died for us. We don’t rejoice because we enjoy suffering. We don’t hope because we think that life on earth will some day be rosy and easy. We have hope because Christ died the death we deserve, and is shaping us into his image so that, when this life is over, we will be ready for an eternity with God.
In your suffering may you “not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
The next time that life falls apart, turn to God, and let Him do a work in you. May your suffering ultimately produce hope in Christ.