by Paul Tripp (www.paultripp.com)

When was the last time you encouraged someone?

As we walk through life in a broken world, encouragement is an essential skill. Are you willing and equipped to do this in the lives of others?

First, we have to define what biblical encouragement is not.

Biblical encouragement is not about trying to make someone feel emotionally better, temporarily.

  • “Hang in there; you can make it.”

  • “It’s not really as bad as you think.”

  • “You’re not the only one who has faced this.”

  • “It’s going to be okay.”

  • “This too will pass.”

These statements may offer momentary comfort, but they never lead to lasting change. At best, you might see their mood lift for a moment, only to watch it melt away when they are faced with difficulty again.

A second mistake we often make while trying to encourage is to explain what the problem is and why it’s happening. An explanation may be helpful, and at times necessary, but it doesn’t always comfort. In fact, the more accurate their assessment, the more discouraged they may get!

The biggest reason believers get discouraged is because they don’t see Christ, or they forget to look for him. Therefore, biblical encouragement that leads to lasting change is about helping people see Christ with the eyes of their heart.

There are three aspects of Christ that we need to encourage people to see and look for:

The Presence of Christ

Your goal here is to help people develop a “Christ is with me” mentality. This perspective on life is captured in Psalm 46:1—2: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea” (emphasis mine).

The Promises of Christ

Christ has made countless promises that can radically alter the way we perceive and respond to difficulty. You can encourage others by helping them remember what is promised. These promises should not be viewed as mystical, pie-in-the-sky dreams, but as an accurate assessment of their right here, right now resources as one of God’s children. Help them to connect the transforming promises of Christ to their everyday situations, locations, and relationships.

Their Potential in Christ

When we struggle, we measure our potential. We assess ourselves to see if we have what it takes to get through the trouble. The problem is that most of us are poor spiritual accountants. When we add up the equity that defines our potential portfolio, we often forget to calculate the most essential asset: Jesus Christ!

The radical truth about our potential is that, as God’s children, our potential is Christ! To view ourselves any other way is unbiblical and inaccurate. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

How’s that for an assessment of personal potential?

Our help and hope in trouble never rest on the shoulders of our wisdom, strength, or character. When we see Christ with us, we realize that we have more than ourselves to rely on. He is here and able to do what we could never do.

Today, why don’t you commit to encouraging people with the presence, promises, and potential of Christ!

Reflection Questions

1. When was the last time someone encouraged you with biblical truth that led to lasting change in your life? What can you learn from their encouragement to help you be a better encourager?

(For these next questions, consider a person who is discouraged or suffering:)

2. How can you communicate that Christ is a very present help in their trouble?

3. How can you practically incarnate the love of Jesus by using more than just your words?

4. What are some specific promises available in Scripture for what they are experiencing right here, right now?

5. How are they inaccurately measuring their potential? What are they emphasizing too much and/or not emphasizing enough?

6. How can you graciously and lovingly help them apply Galatians 2:20 to their troublesome situation, location, or relationship?

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