At the beginning of this summer, we set out goals as a staff. All of them were great, and I found the goal of praying through doors to be the most difficult and most rewarding I have ever had. But one that struck me was the second – use edifying language.
I remember having a concept well before summer that I shared with my Awanas group. What if we were just as quick, sharp, and clever with our compliments and praises as we are with our insults, pokes, and jabs? One of the kids spoke up – “Because it’s no fun.” She was absolutely right. Our little jokes thrown at one another, even if there is no truth to them or animosity behind them, are very subtle attempts to set others lower so that we can feel higher. We naturally seek to lift ourselves up, even at the expense of others. But to compliment and praise with the same passion and quickness? That would mean we would seek to put others above us and gain nothing for the effort. But this is exactly what Christ desires of His children. Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” With this challenge in my heart and edifying language as the goal, I set out to find out what might be the result of trying to be a constant complimenter and encourager rather than looking for the quick witty insult.
How did it go? To be honest, I am not entirely sure. I do know this – I felt awkward and clumsy. It was like finding out that the way I had learned to play an instrument was completely wrong and fumbling to relearn it the right way. So many of my attempts at encouragement simply came off as cotton candy that is sweet for a moment but not very filling. Other attempts were meant to be grand and substantial, but they only came out as unintelligible and insincere. But the desire never wavered. Every now and then, God gave the words for the moment, and before I knew what was happening, encouragement was being poured out.
I’ve been thinking heavily upon that word – encouragement. It is more than simply saying nice things as we often tell the Kindercampers. The root is found right in the spelling: courage. By simply taking the word for what it is, I am to take courage and put it in others. And where is courage needed? It is needed for those who are faint of heart. It is for those who are weary in the journey. It is for those who have seen the battle hot around them and running seems to be the only option left. It is for those who have been wounded deeply, either by the scathing wounds inflicted by another or even by their own reflection in the mirror. The best picture I can think of for encouragement is Lucy in the Chronicles of Narnia. She was given a small vial with an amazing elixir. Just a drop from this wondrous gift would heal the deepest wounds and revive the weakest heart. In every story Lucy appears, she uses that powerful medication with exceptional skill.
I have been given a similar vial. The elixir has been made with powerful ingredients. Living water flowing with eternal life. Blood from the Son of God shed to purify, cleanse, and transform. Love, the kind that seeks only to be pure sweetness to those who partake. The Holy Spirit, whose ever-consuming fire courses through the veins with fervent power and warms the entire body. The Holy Word of God, which satisfies the starving and fills the empty. How could I possibly walk with my brothers and sisters in Christ on this journey with such a potent gift in my hands and not offer it to them daily?
I may fumble this treasure as I seek to offer it. But I long to see it work. I want to see courage fill their hearts, courage that serving Christ in the face of a world that is cold, wicked, and cruel is indeed the worthwhile fight. Courage that lights up the torch in their hand and illuminates the fearful darkness that surrounds them. Courage that could even take them through the valley of the shadow of death and bring them to the other side victorious. That is the encouragement I seek to give. I know that in order to give it, I need to empty this vial of myself and fill it up until it is overflowing with the ingredients above. That will take daily surrendering and prayer, but my God is faithful. He would not give such a command in Ephesians if He did not provide the means. So tomorrow, I will set out again with that elixir in hand with the hope that I might put true courage in the hearts of the saints who need it.
On a different note, I discovered through much toil and searching the technical capability of posting music on this blog. It seems fitting with such a blog that I post a beautiful encouragement in song from Andrew Peterson’s latest album, Counting Stars called “In the Night My Hope Lives On.” God has filled the Scriptures with treasures for us that can fill our hearts with courage. This song highlights several and is orchestrated well with the acoustic guitar, the dobro, and the fiddle.