The Work of Encouragement (3)
“…lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28.20
“…I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14.16, 17
God with us
Undoubtedly the greatest comfort and encouragement any of us can know is the Presence of God with us, in all we do, at all times, working within us and displaying Himself around us for His glory and our benefit. We are not alone. Ever.
Not only is He with us, but He continuously attends to us and to all our needs. If He were not so attending to us, we would cease to exist.
This is something I fear we too often take for granted. And when we do, we miss the opportunity to know the love of Christ, the power of His grace, and His true Presence with us, willing and doing of His good pleasure. The more we are mindful of and give thanks and praise for the attending Presence of the Lord, the more our confidence in Him grows, the more our love for Him increases, and the more we are encouraged and emboldened to live for Him in every moment and every facet of our lives.
Sometimes, that attending Presence and love of Jesus comes to us from a fellow believer.
In the Old Testament we frequently read that the Lord “remembered” His people – as in Exodus 2.24: “So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” Our translations of that Hebrew verb, remember, can be a bit misleading. It’s not as if God somehow lost sight of His people, captive in Egypt, or that it slipped His mind concerning what He had promised them. In contexts like this, what the Scriptures want us to understand is that God was attending to His people, even in their separation from Him. Indeed, this was the main reason for sending Moses to them, through him to acknowledge them as His people and assure them of His attention, love, and Presence with them. As the people observed God attending to them, they took courage, and followed Moses out of Egypt and through the Red Sea to the mountain of God.
Isn’t this much like the way we are with our children sometimes? Running alongside them as they take off the training wheels for the first time, continuously repeating, “I’m here, I’m right here.” Holding their hand and assuring them of our love as they endure some painful disappointment. Cheering them on by name with words of encouragement and gentle reminders: ‘“You can do it, keep your eye on the ball.”
Children thrive on such attention, and so do we all. The more we attend to one another, the greater will be the opportunities for the Holy Spirit to do a work of encouragement through us.
The work of attending
When you were in school, your teachers took attendance every day, to know who was present and ready to work. In some ways, the work of attending is like going to school, where you make your presence known (“Here!”), prepare your tools for the work of the day (books, pencils, notebooks), pay attention to the teacher, make sure of your assignments, and offer your work when called on to do so.
Acknowledging people by name and affirming them for who they are and what they do is a good place to begin lining up the spiritual charges that might connect between us and another for encouragement. But attending to the people around us is just as important. We need to be available to them, equipped and ready to serve as we are able, and ready with a word or deed when the opportunity arises.
Attending to others grows out of our love for them. It includes acknowledgement, which it reinforces continually, but goes beyond to more personal involvement. You’ll want to check up frequently on those you are sent to attend. Let them know you’re praying for them. Ask about their walk with and work for the Lord. Pray with them. Share some thoughts or resources. Ask questions and listen attentively. And offer to help any way you can.
All Christians are called to do works of ministry (Eph. 4.11, 12). That word, ministry, derives from a Greek word that indicates a person waiting on tables at a banquet. He keeps his eye on those to whom he is assigned, checks with them from time to time to see if they have any needs, and is ready with refreshment or to remove dishes as needed. Such a minister doesn’t hover or nag; his goal is to attend with grace, not to be obsequious or overbearing. Thus, he must try to fit into the situation of those he is called to attend – discreetly, thoughtfully, and helpfully.
We are attending to others when we adopt the mindset of a servant, keeping an eye on those God has assigned to us in our Personal Mission Field, coming alongside them as we are able, listening, affirming, offering suggestions, and doing whatever we can to help them in their calling from the Lord.
Think of all the people who are in attending roles: attending physicians, flight attendants, personal aides and attendants, grooms, butlers, and servants of various kinds. Their diligent, dutiful, and timely attending helps others be the people and do the work they’re called to be and do. Each of us is called to be an attendant in the Kingdom of God (Mk. 10.42,45), looking out for and attending to the needs of those to whom the Lord sends us day by day.
Thus attending to people doesn’t come naturally. We don’t want to be nags or a hovering and unwelcome presence in people’s lives. But everybody needs help and encouragement. Every one of us appreciates the attention we receive from those who love us. We need to study up on the work of attending and acquire some new skills in this discipline, so that we can be used as channels of God’s grace to the people around us. Because in some of those people, the Spirit’s work in us, leading us to attend to the needs of others, will strike a spark with the work He’s doing in their souls. A bolt of encouragement will flash, and the one we attend will have courage to live and serve in ways beyond what they’ve ever dared to ask or think.
I know, attending to others like this doesn’t seem very heroic. Or to require many special and extraordinary gifts, special knowledge, or abracadabra sudden flashes of genius. Attending to others is like God’s attending to us – continuous, careful, little by little, and always motivated only by love.
And powerful to encourage.
1. Who presently attends to you in ways that help you be who you are and do what you do? What do those attendants do that’s so helpful?
2. Attending to others is a skillset. What should such a skillset include?
3. How can prayer help you to become a better attendant of others?
Next Step – Transformation: What opportunities for attending to others will you have today? Prepare for them in prayer. Get your skills ready, and do the work of attending to others as the Lord leads.
T. M. Moore
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.