I saw a quote from a French writer that said, “Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” And I believe that. Learning is a risk and students need a healthy amount of encouragement in order to step out there and try something new. But they aren’t the only ones. You and I need encouragement too!
I did a little word study on encouragement. The scriptural root words are interesting. In the Old Testament the primary word means “strong”. It carries the idea of making sure…to be steadfast…even to the point of making repairs (like Nehemiah did to the walls in Jerusalem-same word). In the New Testament, the primary Greek word means to come along side. It is the act of helping.
My devotional bible is a NIV translation (easy to read, but true to the original intents of the authors). In that translation of the book of Acts, there are at least 8 references to “encouragement”. But as I was studying those same passages in a KJV translation, I noticed that those words were not all translated with the English word “encouragement”, but instead some were rendered “ to edify” (Acts 9:31) or “to exhort” (Acts 13:15) or “to comfort” (Acts 16:40).
And it got me to thinking about how encouragement comes to us in all those varied forms. In one situation when a friend encourages us, it takes the form of comfort. Consider when there is the loss of a loved one. Encouragement isn’t loud and dramatic. It is quiet, soft spoken and laden with emotion.
On the other hand, consider when a friend is lagging behind in their spiritual growth and commitments. The encouraging word you offer might be pointed, directive and enthusiastic. It is still full of grace, but the encouragement part might be “in their face” a bit. It’s still encouragement!
Or consider when the circumstances of life drag someone down. The encouragement from a friend edifies. The biblical meaning of this word means to build up. At its root, it conveys the idea of “mending nets” as a New Testament fisherman might do before they head out for another long day of fishing. In our culture, we too often need to “mend our nets” and the encouragement from a friend does just that.
So go ahead, find a way to encourage someone today. As John Maxwell has said, “Man does not live on bread alone; sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”