The Work of Encouragement (6)
And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. Acts 3.7, 8
Peter the encourager
The story of Peter’s healing of this man who was lame from birth demonstrates the components of encouragement we have examined thus far.
How many people, used to seeing this beggar “laid daily at the gate of the temple” simply walked past without looking at him or saying anything to him (v. 2)? Undoubtedly, he was used to that, and to the discouragement and humiliation that must have come with it.
Peter and John, however, stopped and acknowledged him. “Look at us,” Peter said to the man. Who had ever spoken to him like this before? Probably very few, if any. “So he gave them his attention” (v. 4). Now the apostles, having acknowledged the lame man and beginning to attend to him, affirmed his need “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you” (v. 6). And Peter went further to advise the man what he must do, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (v. 6).
Just that fast – acknowledge, attend, affirm, advise. A man who had never walked before now felt something happening within him. He had heard the Name of Jesus, perhaps, but had he ever heard it spoken over him before? Not likely. He wanted to believe. He longed to be able to do what Peter advised. He was encouraged to hope that his life might be about to change.
And yet, he still sat, his eyes fixed on Peter. So Peter “took him by the right hand and lifted him up” (v. 7). As the man responded to that assistance and began to move toward getting up, “immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength” (v. 7). His incipient faith was rewarded with miraculous strength from God. And so, “leaping up”, he “stood and walked and entered the temple with them – walking and leaping and praising God” (vv. 8, 9).
The Holy Spirit enabled this man to have the courage to attempt something he had never done before. Something he may have thought about, perhaps longed for, but ultimately always despaired of being able to do. The courage and strength to walk came by the work of Jesus and His Spirit, through the words and help of Peter and John.
Just so, we should expect the Spirit to work in encouraging us, and in using us to encourage one another.
A little help from a friend
I suppose that lame man would have simply continued to sit in that gate had not Peter reached out and taken him by the hand, lifting him to his feet. That was all he needed to jumpstart the faith that was beginning to enliven his soul and transform his body. Just a little help from a friend.
Lending people some assistance, like Peter did this lame man, can help them act on the courage God is giving them to go beyond in their walk with and work for Him. If we want to be true encouragers, we must be ready to assist people in acting on the courage God is giving them. It’s not enough just to advise someone concerning a decision or course of action. Courage will rise within them, toward whatever exceedingly-abundantly-excel-still-more next step the Holy Spirit is preparing if we make ourselves available to assist them in getting off the ground and standing up.
What forms might such assistance take? While the specific forms of assistance we might render are probably infinite, let me mention just a few that I have found helpful.
First, open a door for someone. One of the reasons people don’t grow in the Lord any more than they do, or don’t serve Him effectively, is that they can’t see the way through to do so. Their Christian life looks like a closed door, behind which they are safe, and beyond which they have no idea what they might encounter or expect. You can open a door for someone, like Peter did, and help them take a first step toward new growth or ministry, offering a bit of vision, joining them to practice some new discipline, take up a new work, or begin some new effort of service for the Lord. If you’ll go through the door with them, they might find the courage to continue on their own, as the Lord leads and enables.
You could also make a contact with someone who can help them, someone on the other side of that door who can open it to welcome your friend into the next phase of his walk with and work for the Lord. Someone who’ll teach them a skill, walk a mile with them, or bring them into some existing work.
People can be encouraged to grow or serve by our sharing a resource with them as well. That can take many forms – a book to read, perhaps a small financial investment in their new effort, or, most of all, the gift of your ongoing time and attention as they take those first steps toward leaping and praising the Lord at another level.
Follow Peter’s example and lend a hand. Do something together, even if it’s just to help your friend take those first new steps in the Lord’s leading. Lend your strength and time in your friend’s effort to act on the courage the Spirit is giving them.
You can also make room in your own life or ministry for someone to serve with you. As you grow and work together, you’ll be encouraged by your friend’s participation as much as your friend will by the new experience of growing in and serving the Lord.
Finally, pray and convey that you are praying for your friends as they embark on those first next steps of growth and service in the Lord.
A way of life
Encouragement is a very practical discipline. It’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t need a lot of theological dressing-up. It’s just you letting Jesus be Jesus in and through you, to connect with His Spirit in a fellow believer.
Encouragement can become a way of life if we will make the practice of these simple disciplines a feature of all our relationships. Always acknowledge people – their uniqueness, works, words, hopes, and fears. Pay attention to them; ask questions; listen carefully. Affirm where you see Jesus at work in them, whether in something they say, do, or are learning or becoming. When it’s sought, advise them according to your knowledge of their calling and God’s will. And be ready, when a lightning strike of encouragement flashes, to assist them in moving forward in any way you can.
Isn’t this what you would like people to do for you? I know it is for me, and I am often encouraged, especially by Susie and my friends, that there is more to know about Jesus, there are more opportunities to increase in love for Him, and more ways to serve Him than I’m currently pursuing. It takes courage to keep pressing on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And with a little help from your friends, you can keep going forward, leaping and praising God as you go, living for His Kingdom and glory and encouraging others all along the way.
1. Can you think of a time someone lent you a hand to take a next step of faith? Explain.
2. How did Peter’s lending a hand to this lame man help to firm up his faith?
3. Do you feel like encouragement is beginning to be more a part of your walk with and work for the Lord? Explain.
Next steps – Transformation: Today, practice the disciplines of encouragement with everyone you can, calling on the Lord to give you the courage you need to do so.
T. M. Moore
Resources for the Journey
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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.