Where Never is Heard a Discouraging Word
I ran across a bumper sticker the other day. It read: “Bark less. Wag more.” Seems like pretty good advice to me. Simple yet effective. It reminded me of a lyric from an oldie but goodie we used to sing when we were younger.
“Where seldom is heard a discouraging word.”
Encouragers. You know the people. It's the girl in the softball dugout who never plays an inning, but nevertheless cheers the team on come rain or shine. Who always has a hearty “Good job!” or a simple pat on the back after a strikeout followed by, “You'll get ‘em next time.” It's the friend who offers a shoulder to cry on during a time of great personal loss. It's the little boy who runs full speed to greet you after a hard day's work with nothing more than a warm hug, a smile and a “I love you.”
We all need encouragement, don’t we? Some have described it as oxygen to the soul. Refreshing. Exhilarating. Even life-giving. It lifts the wounded heart. Words of encouragement makes a person feel good on the inside.
Consider if you will the account in Acts 4.32-37.
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Here we are told that all the early believers shared everything they had. Many sold their homes and land, giving the money to the apostles to distribute as needed. In the midst of all this, one who encouraged the early Christians is singled out. His name was Joseph, but after observing his life, the apostles changed his name to Barnabas. Why the name change? Because Barnabas meant “son of encouragement”. Did you catch that? The passage tells us that Joseph was called Barnabas by the apostles. Not his friends. Not his family. The apostles. What an impression he must have made on these men. They saw him as an encourager.
Later we find Barnabas befriending and endorsing Paul when he wanted to connect with the Jerusalem brethren. Using his own good standing with the apostles, he convinced them that Paul was a true disciple of Christ (Acts 9.26-27). Consider also the fact that his role as an encourager was critical during Paul’s first journey. Can't you imagine what an impact Barnabas’ influence and simple words of encouragement would have been? I do. Especially when it came to converting souls and in helping them remain strong in the faith in light of a crooked and perverse generation. Isn’t that just what he did previously in Antioch? (Acts 11.22-24)
I don't know about you, but I sometimes struggle with seeing the sunny side of things. Stress and the everyday bump and grind of work leaves me some days with a pessimistic view of life. How often do we find ourselves tearing someone down rather than lifting their spirits with an encouraging word or two? Discouraging words too frequently are spoken. And the results are devastating. Wasn't it James who, when talking about our tongues, said:
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
As Christians who share in the joy of having our sins forgiven and who understand the hope that is in us ought we not to be encouraging people? Shouldn’t we look for opportunities to build up rather than tear down? Exhorting one another keeps one from despair and hopelessness. It prevents hearts from being hardened by sin.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
There are people who are hurting right now. People you know. People whose paths you cross daily. People who are in a dark place. A very dark place. Where one unkind word spoken in haste may very well send them over the edge. And yet one encouraging word. One random act of kindness may be just the thing that raises their spirits and makes them view life with a brighter and better perspective. Far too many people have left the faith due to an unkind word. The Proverb writer says . . .
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
Do you see the best in people? Do you see their positive points, their gifts and abilities, their potential? Or do you see their faults? Do you find yourself always criticizing people when they make mistakes? You want to make a difference in someone's life? Exhort. Encourage. Lift up. Let's all strive to be a Barnabas to those we come in contact with.
We have hope in Him. We are saved by Him. We have peace through Him. Encouraging words lead others to Christ. Encouraging words strengthen the faith of those undergoing trials and temptations. We may not know what everyday struggles our brothers and sisters are dealing with. But we can make a difference.
Let's make our lives one where never is heard a discouraging word.
And the skies are not cloudy all day.