God has placed a need in every human heart for affirmation and encouragement. I remember the day that I learned this truth. My passion for encouragement started many years ago at my son's little league game. Standing there on the sidelines, watching David give his best, I heard the coaches yelling. Rather than encouraging these boys, they were badgering them.

I soon realized that affirmation was much more productive than criticism. I began to translate that into my life as a parent. I discovered that even discipline becomes far more effective when it is built into the fabric of affirmation. I decided that I would always let my kids know that I stand with them 100%.

Encouragement's Challenges
Encouragement is not just important for our children. It is vitally important for every person alive. If we don't get it, we hurt inside, and it usually shows in our behavior or our attitude.

But let me remind you that encouragement has to be done out of a real willingness to honor Christ. In order to truly minister to people, our hearts and minds have to be focused on Him and His ways of encouraging.

There will be times when encouragement is difficult. It's very easy for me to get wrapped up in my schedule and responsibilities. But, encouragement just requires that we take the time to focus on others. For some of us that is an important challenge.

Give and Take
In the life of every encourager, there will be times of receiving as well as giving. Throughout my struggle with cancer I was placed in the position of receiving. The love of God shone through many friends and even total strangers.

I'll never forget the radio station in New York that dedicated their afternoon drive time to me. They asked all their listeners to call in with a special message of encouragement. They sent me the tape and I listened to it in my hospital bed. I cannot tell you how moved I was to hear all these people from New York telling me, "We're praying for you, David. Hang tough. You're going to make it."

Encouragement Champs
Without question, my wife Donna has been my greatest encourager. We've had some challenging times, and through many of them, she would have just the right word.

One discouraging day during my illness, I was waiting for a painful procedure. I said to Donna, "I'm not sure I can pray." And she said, "Well, I can." And she prayed a beautiful and strong prayer that ministered to me deeply. God made her strong at a time when I was weak so she could encourage me through prayer.

Encourage Yourself
For every person who seeks to encourage, there will be difficult days. At times like this, we need to follow the example of king David who "strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (I Samuel 30:6). When our reserves are getting low, we have the blessed resource of being connected to Almighty God Himself. When we need encouragement, we can open the pages of His Word and let Him encourage us.

Accept the Challenge
I challenge you to get in the game of encouragement. You never know what life you may touch with your words or your example.

And, once in awhile, encouragement will ricochet right back at you as it did to me last year on Father's Day. My son Daniel had finished his junior year playing football at Appalachian State. His team had won the conference championship and each player received a championship ring. Daniel gave me his ring with a card that read: Dear Dad, I want to thank you so much for all your love, prayers and wisdom. When I was ready to quit two years ago, you convinced me to stick it out. I want you to have this ring to put on your desk. Whenever you feel like giving up or not finishing something, I hope the ring will remind you of the advice you gave me. I love you Dad. Daniel. Encouragement came full circle!