Encouragement begins here.

The Work of Encouragement (2)

And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. Luke 19.5, 6

A heart of love
Encouragement is the work of God’s Spirit. He gives us courage from within, where He dwells in the soul and is working to make us more like Jesus. But He often does the work of encouragement through others, in various ways, to ignite the spark of courage in our souls, so that we begin to grow or move in the direction He intends.

The Spirit was working on Zacchaeus. Only the Spirit could move him to seek Jesus. People are not naturally inclined to do so. If there is going to be any movement toward Jesus, or toward becoming more like Jesus, it will only be because the Spirit makes it happen. So the Spirit was already stirring Zacchaeus’ soul for something new.

Then Jesus looked at him and called his name.

Zacchaeus “made haste and came down” and received Jesus joyfully after Jesus spoke to him, revealing His will and instructing him in what he should do: “Zacchaeus, come down, for today I must stay at your house.” The Spirit used the words Jesus spoke to set off a charge of spiritual energy in the little man’s soul. He immediately obeyed and was filled with joy.

The Spirit of God was working in Zacchaeus to put in place a heart of love for Jesus. Jesus, from His heart of love for the lost Zacchaeus, spoke in the power of the Spirit to his ready heart. The Spirit struck like lightning in Zacchaeus, and he was immediately filled with courage to do what Jesus commanded.

All simply because Jesus acknowledged him.

Small beginnings
Sometimes the most energetic storms will begin with a single lightning strike. In the case of Zacchaeus, a dramatic and radical change of life began when Jesus looked up at him and called him by name. That simple gesture of acknowledgement led to conviction, repentance, renewal, restoration, and incorporation into the Kingdom of God.

It doesn’t take much to acknowledge people. Not everyone we acknowledge will be charged with spiritual energy by the gesture. But encouragement can often begin with our simply acknowledging someone, and we can do that in a variety of ways.

For example, address people by their names: “Zacchaeus…” In his book, The Naming of Persons, Swiss psychiatrist the late Dr. Paul Tournier explained that our names are our most precious possession. When our names are used or called, we perk up and pay attention. Hearing our name puts us on “ready” to receive whatever might come next.

We naturally brighten when someone calls us by our name. Perhaps using our names is one way God Himself gets out attention for His love and calling: “I have called you by your name; you are Mine” (Is. 43.1). When God gives us the faith and courage to believe the Gospel, He begins by calling us by name. It’s not an audible call, but it is intensely personal, and one we hear in our heart, as the Spirit comes to give us a new heart and the faith to believe in Jesus (Gal. 4.4-6).

By using people’s names – in conversation, meetings, emails and texts, and more – we acknowledge them as persons, individuals who are unique and worthy of being acknowledged as such.

We can also acknowledge people by praying for them by name and then, following the example of the apostle Paul, telling them we have prayed for them. We see this in many of Paul’s epistles. He will often mention that he prayed for people so that they would understand he had them on his mind when he was doing important business with the Lord. Acknowledging that someone is important enough to take before the Lord in prayer can provide a powerful spark of encouragement.

You can also acknowledge people by commenting on their insights, contributions, or ideas, or on something they did or achieved. We saw Paul doing this in his two epistles to the Thessalonians and his second letter to the church in Corinth. He mentioned specific things they had achieved or become, and he commended them, before encouraging them to excel still more.

Be sure also to thank people who have acknowledged or encouraged you, or in any way have served you by example, words, or deeds. Such acknowledgements can go a long way toward ensuring that whatever those folks did for you, they will continue to do for you and others.

People are not encouraged when they are ignored or made to feel unimportant – not sufficiently important even to remember or use their names. Get in the habit – like Jesus – of looking people in the eye, using their name, and mentioning something about them that is Christlike or potentially so. Such acknowledgement may be just the spark someone needs for the next step into exceedingly abundantly more of Christ and His Kingdom.

Work on love
But you’re not likely to become more consistent in acknowledging people if you’re not growing in love for them. The Spirit works through us when He overflows from us to bring refreshing grace and truth into the lives of those we hope to encourage (Jn. 7.37-39). Unless we are nurturing love for others in our heart, it’s not likely that the Spirit will have many waters of encouragement to flow from us.

We grow in love for people by praying for them, giving thanks to God for them, and for many things about them, interceding for their needs, and asking the Lord to prepare us for the next opportunity to encourage them in Him. If we would like people to pray thus for us, we should pray for them, especially for the people we know we’re going to see throughout the day.

Effective, fervent prayers for others will issue in words and deeds expressing that love – not long speeches or jumping-in-front-of- a-bus works of heroism, but consistent and carefully-chosen greetings and words, and simple gestures of acknowledgement and appreciation that affirm a person’s significance in the Lord.

Acknowledgement is not all that encouragement entails. But it’s a good place to start. And a good practice to work on in any case, whether or not anyone is ever encouraged, like Zacchaeus, to make further progress in their walk with and work for the Lord.

For reflection
1. How did Jesus acknowledge the woman at the well? Peter, when he asked to come to Him on the water?

2. What is it about being acknowledged by someone that can provide a spark of encouragement?

3. How would you like people to acknowledge you today?

Next Step – Preparation: Use part of your prayer time to acknowledge the people you will see today and to prepare to acknowledge them when you’re with them.

T. M. Moore

Small Stuff

We can encourage people in even small and seemingly insignificant ways. Our book Small Stuff helps you be more aware of the opportunities for encouraging others that God brings to you each day. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore