August 17, 2012

The Oil of Encouragement

By Skip Heitzig

An old saying goes, “If you want to have a friend, be one.” The Bible puts it this way: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). It’s called “taking the initiative.”

Jonathan didn’t choose to have David as a friend; he chose to be a friend to David. There’s a big difference! He didn’t operate on the basis of his need and demand David’s attention. Rather, he operated on the basis of supplying David’s need. Ruth was this way with her mother-in-law Naomi. When Naomi was ready to leave Moab alone, Ruth reached out and said, “Where you go, I will go” (see Ruth 1:16). It was the basis of a lifelong friendship.

When you take the initiative, you’ll find that people will see your willingness to invest yourself, and they’ll reciprocate. You may think, “I'm too shy!” but probably most of the people around you are as well.

Friendship is maintained by the oil of encouragement. William Barclay said, “We have a Christian duty to encourage one another.” When Jonathan gave David his robe, his armor, and even his weapons (1 Samuel 18), he was providing encouragement to David, to counteract King Saul’s hatred. There have been many trials in my life when the right person at the right time kept me going, by encouraging me with some word or some gift.

Encouragement is the ability to come alongside someone else and cause them to be more mature. It is so needed, but unfortunately it is so absent…even among believers. We have all heard Christians talking about others and gossiping, when the Bible tells us to “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV).

Today and every day we have an opportunity, and a duty, to encourage somebody. “Let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, NIV).

We have a great example in the New Testament: the apostle Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). When all the other disciples were afraid of Saul (Paul) and doubted his conversion, Barnabas took him under his wing (see Acts 9). When Paul wanted to leave Mark behind, Barnabas went so far as to split with Paul so he could partner with Mark (see Acts 15).

By encouraging Paul, Barnabas was affecting the man who would write nearly half of the New Testament. And his ministry to Mark encouraged the man who later wrote the third Gospel. You don’t know what effect your encouragement might have!

I love what one person said: “A pat on the back, even though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results.” What are you like? Are you prone to give people a good kick in the pants to “get them motivated,” or a pat on the back?

Let’s apply that pat on the back, the oil of encouragement!

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