I’ve started a new book by Larry Crabb and Dr. Dan Allender called Encouragement: The Unexpected Power of Building Others Up. The principles within have really hit the mark in many areas of my life and so I’d like to share what I’m learning with you. It’s a great book for any Christian and I’m pleased to find it is especially adaptable for those of us living life abroad. Whether we’re in an expat community or serving in the mission field, we are without our home church community. But our need for encouragement remains strong. In fact, it’s probably greater. The three pivotal truths the authors list in chapter one are a clear reminder of why this is true:
- People are hurting more deeply than we know (and more than they themselves sometimes know, like the person who is not yet aware that cancer has formed in his body).
- Relationship with Christ provides resources unique and indispensable to substantially heal now and perfectly heal forever.
- Only an encouraged community will be able to sustain missional involvement.
All of us feel the need for just a word of encouragement from time to time. It’s amazing what a well-timed word will do for the soul. I often pray for it for myself…and for others close to me. But, I’ve found that as much as I need encouragement, it’s not very natural for me to give encouragement as freely as I should. Encouragement is a deliberate act that requires selflessness and should be motivated by a genuine desire for the welfare of others. And the case is made in this book that ultimately, encouragement should motivate others towards strengthening their relationship with Christ.
“As Christians, regardless of our gifts or training, we are called upon to encourage our brothers and sisters. Whatever direction our particular congregation is moving, church life will include spending time in the presence of other Christians. And when we meet together as God’s people, we are to encourage one another, to say and do things that stimulate others to a deeper appreciation of Christ and to stronger commitment to our relationship with him and with each other.” (pg. 15)
I’ve never found this truer than during the last 5 years, since I left my home church in the U.S. My fellowship with other Christians has been essential to my well-being and I hope I am a source of encouragement for my friends as well.
This week I received a note from a dear friend who recently repatriated to the U.S. from Papua New Guinea. When she was living in PNG, we were part of a women’s bible study together. For her, it was the first time she had done a bible study with other women. Her desire to continue in the states led her to find a new group. She wrote to tell me that her new leader was a former fellow expat and friend of mine. I was so encouraged! It is amazing to see God’s hand in lovingly placing my friend in a new place for her own encouragement, through our connections within the community of believers.
The author of Hebrews expresses what is near and dear to my heart,
“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25, HCSB)
I look forward to sharing more insights from this book as I read forward and I would very much like to know – What encourages you?