Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.


People don't do what we expect, but what we inspect.

The Work of Encouragement (7)

Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Luke 10.17-20

Evidence of encouragement

How can we know when we have been encouraged? Or when we have encouraged someone else?

We said that courage is that disposition of the soul – heart, mind, and conscience – that leads us to go beyond where we have ever been with the Lord before – exceedingly and abundantly beyond, both in our walk with the Lord and our work for Him. Encouragement is the work of God’s Spirit. He is the Encourager Who dwells in all who believe to make them willing and able to do what pleases God (Phil. 2.13). Frequently, the Spirit will use one of the followers of Christ to take part in His work of encouragement.

The work of encouragement – acknowledging others, attending to them and their concerns, affirming and advising them, and assisting them to take the next steps in the Lord – brings the Holy Spirit in us to connect with the Holy Spirit in others so that a bolt of encouragement occurs, giving others the courage they need to overcome whatever has been holding them back to begin making more progress in the Lord.

That courage can be for any number of actions – seek forgiveness, heal a broken relationship, take up a new work, bear witness to a co-worker or friend, overcome some besetting sin, begin a new practice of spiritual disciplines, and much more. Courage begins its work, like Peter, stepping onto the waves, in next steps of action toward a fuller realization of the Kingdom and glory of God. Courage grows as we act on it; it multiplies itself within us, by the work of the Holy Spirit, so our initial encouragement becomes ongoing courage to will and do according to the good pleasure of God.

When we’re on the giving end of encouragement, we need to do what we can to help the person we’re seeking to encourage take the steps God calls him to take. If we’re the ones being encouraged, then the same is true. Courage is confirmed and, in a sense, unleashed, as we take the next steps of obedience according to the leading of God.

We can be helped in doing what we agree needs to be done if those who have encouraged us thus far will continue to do so by checking with us to assess our progress. The old maxim is as true for believers seeking to improve in the Lord as for everyone else: People don’t do what you expect, but what you inspect.

Jesus understood this principle, and so did His disciples. That’s why, when their first courageous mission had been completed, they reported to Jesus, and received His assessment of their work.

The work of assessment
Checking-up on those we have encouraged enables us to do several things, all of which are forms of assessment. Besides continue to strengthen our relationship with another believer, we can review the decision that was made as a next step of encouragement. Talking about what was decided allows us to reconnect the charge of encouragement between us, as well as to make sure we’re both on the same page about the specific form of courage being taken.

When the project or action has been thoroughly reviewed, it’s time to hear a report about progress. What was done? Was that in line with what was agreed? What happened as a result?

It is important to keep the focus on what was done and not so much on what came of it. We have no control over how our efforts to love our neighbors will affect them. All we can control is what God gives us the courage to do. Whatever that is, we must do it faithfully and diligently, as often as it was agreed the work needed to be done. God alone can bring Kingdom results from our efforts. But He will use our efforts to the extent that we are faithful and diligent in them.

At this point, it might be a good idea to consider any changes, corrections, or additional steps that should be taken to shore up or complete those taken thus far. At the same time, you’ll want to celebrate the work that has been done, and to give thanks and praise to God for the courage provided and the progress made.

Finally, it might be appropriate to encourage augmenting the initial effort, rather like Jesus did when His disciples returned from their first mission. He had sent them to preach and heal; now he was giving them more power, “to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” so that “nothing shall by any means hurt you.” The natural follow-up on any first steps is to consider the next steps to take, and to try to enlarge the vision of what is to be accomplished as the work continues.

It's important
We need to take people seriously when they are planning some act of courage in a new direction of growth or ministry. It will be easy to become discouraged in this effort, so following-up to see how things are going is essential.

I am always encouraged when someone asks me about something we previously discussed – what I’ve done, how it’s going, what progress I’m making and so forth. Such assessing of my work makes me believe in it more and want to excel still more in whatever I’m doing. A careful assessment of one’s walk with and work for the Lord can itself compound the encouragement process, if the one who is doing the assessment understands the discipline of encouragement, and is not simply lording it over us.

Learn to encourage others – the whole beautiful process – and together we will be more courageous in seeking the Kingdom and glory of God. Encouragement is important. It matters. It’s something we all need, and something we can all learn to give.

For reflection
1. Why is assessment an important part of the encouragement process?

2.  How can careful assessment lead to more encouragement?

3.  Where do you feel like you need some encouragement in your own walk with and work for the Lord?

Next steps – Transformation: Whom will you encourage today?

T. M. Moore

At the website
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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.
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