The Gift Of Encouragement

by Rev. Randy Brown

Hasn’t the music been tremendous tonight? Amen to that. Thank you. Kitty, thank you, it’s good to see you here. I saw where in the bulletin it says something about being on loan today. We want to negotiate that contract. We’ll even get you a new voice coach, okay? But thank you, thank you for your blessing.

You’ve heard the phrase and you hear it all the time, especially the last several weeks – Tis, the season. Tis the season, tis the season, the season for giving. This is a time for giving, there’s always a time for giving but I want to talk about tis the season for giving one particular gift during this time.

It’s a gift that is priceless. It’s a gift that any person can give, it’s a gift that every person can give. It’s a gift that you need from time to time and a gift that you need to give from time to time. It’s a gift that everyone here can afford to give but as we give it, it needs to be real, it’s needs to be authentic and it needs to be genuine.

Because if it’s not those things then it sours and it stinks, it is the gift that does just as much, if not more, for the giver than it does for the receiver. This past week I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this gift. It is the gift of the opportunity to exchange the gift of encouragement. I want to talk about the gift of encouragement for a few moments this morning.

Hopefully, it is something that we experience both regularly in the form of giving and the receiving of this precious gift: the gift of encouragement. I would say that if you go to just about any place of business, any establishment if you go somewhere this week you will see someone, somewhere along the way that is standing in need of this gift of encouragement.

It may be at a doctor’s office, it may be at a hospital, it may be at a nursing home, it may be at the mall. There are people who stand in need of this gift of encouragement, perhaps it’s you or the person sitting next to you. Everywhere you look there’s someone in need of this gift of encouragement. It’s not just the people here but it’s people everywhere that need this gift of encouragement.

People in the law enforcement community, the people that we’re with, need that gift of encouragement. People in the health care fields they need that gift of encouragement. People where you work need that gift of encouragement. Have you identified in the last couple of minutes somebody that you know that needs this precious gift: the gift of encouragement?

Perhaps it’s your own life and it’s not even the end of the month and the bills are already piling up and we don’t know what we’re going to do. Maybe it’s a family who is facing a crisis, some tension and the stress and the strain is high and just a word of encouragement would help so much. Maybe it’s a teenager looking for what they’re going to do with their life.

What career choices are they going to make, are they going to make a difference or are they going to mess it up? They need a word of encouragement and you can give them that word of encouragement. Are there areas in your life where you may need an encouraging word? Has your mind raced at some point today to someone that you need to call this afternoon or write a note to this week and share a word of encouragement with them?

You know what I’ve discovered about encouragement, I’ve discovered that when it comes to the gift of encouragement, when it means the most, when people need it the most, it’s when they deserve it the least. If you’re on top of the world and your approval ratings are high and everything is going well and you’re making all A’s and all of us think you don’t need encouragement, you got the world by the tail.

Let something happen, make a mistake, let a harsh word come your way, suddenly you’re the one in need of encouragement. An encouraging word normally happens when we need that encouraging word, when we need it the most is when we deserve it the least. A word of encouragement will benefit both parties, a word of encouragement will almost work a miracle.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story, it’s not a preacher story it’s historic fact. There was two Roman Catholic churches, it was two Priests, it was two alter boys helping the Priest and what happened was each of the alter boys dropped the communion chalice. One of the Priests turned to the altar boy and said I will never, ever ask you to help me do anything again.

Real word of encouragement wasn’t it? The other Priest looked at the other altar boy and said to him, have you ever thought about becoming a Priest? History will tell you that that first altar boy became known around the world as a man by the last name of Tito, who was a Godless, communist dictator. The other one is known around the world as Bishop Fulton Sheen, one of the most beloved Catholic Priests that has ever been born.

All the difference in a word of encouragement, it’s a gift, don’t you need that word of encouragement, don’t you know somebody else that needs that word of encouragement. An encouraging word does as much for the receiver and as much for the giver. Be that person that gives the gift of encouragement at this holiday season. The base term encouragement means that the person doing the encouraging believes in and sees the value of the life of the person who needs to be encouraged.

People go through hard times all the time, we don’t need to just pass them by, we need to encourage them. We need to put our arm around them and pep them up and speak a word, a positive word into their life. That’s the gift of encouragement, won’t you share that gift with others this Christmas season?

The gift of encouragement, now I want to tie this altogether because I believe that Jesus personifies the gift of encouragement as God would give it to all of us. The scripture says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that who so ever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

Jesus is the personification of God’s gift of encouragement to you and to me. Think about it, in the story. There were a group of shepherds, now the shepherds they were outcasts, they were thought of as a low class people. The towns people really didn’t give them the proper credit for the proper worth. It would have been easy for them that night sitting out under the stars to feel defeated and it would have been easy for them to fill full of all kinds of self-pity.

These shepherds they were unclean, they couldn’t enter the temple, they couldn’t do the things that “normal” people could do because of their profession. God sent to them the word of encouragement and the word of encouragement came in the form of an angel who said, “This night is born to you in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord.”

If that encouragement was not enough, what happened next, the heavenly host sang the Hallelujah chorus to a group of unworthy shepherds. That was God’s way of saying to them, a word of encouragement. He’s always encouraging us, look at the woman at the well. She goes out in the middle of the day to draw water in the heat of the day. She goes there not because it’s the time to go but because nobody else was going to be there.

She didn’t want to have to fear all the snide remarks that people make as she goes through the streets of the city. She goes, as she passes by she knows the people, she knows what they’re going to say, perhaps she even knows more about them than they think she knows. Jesus gave to her a word of encouragement, what word was it?

Would you like living water? What an encouraging word Jesus was to her because this water that I give to you, Jesus said, “you will never thirst again.” A word of encouragement – Jesus gives to her that gift.

Then there was the woman that was caught in adultery and a trial took place; if you study this story you’ll realize that the trial was not to try the woman – because in the law, they said she could be stoned without a trial. The trial was to try Jesus, they wanted to trap him but yet he turned it around on them and he gave to this woman a word of encouragement. You know what that word of encouragement was? He said to the crowd, “You that ... Go ahead and carry out the duty, let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

She was sitting there just all scrunched up with her eyes closed tightly, waiting for that first stone to come hurling through the air. That’s not what happened, soon she heard the stones hit the ground and the dusty sandals walk away. Now here’s the gift of encouragement that Jesus gave to her. “Neither do I condemn you go and sin no more.” What words of encouragement! She was free; she was forgiven!

Then there was a man with leprosy, he couldn’t go home, he hadn’t seen his family in years, didn’t know what his children had grown up to be. Didn’t know if he had grandchildren to be held. Couldn’t go to worship, he’s unclean and Jesus says “be clean” and that was the word of encouragement that Jesus gave to him.

Then there was a man by the pool of Bethesda and every time the water was stirred he tried to get into the water and he always came in second and he never was healed when the water was stirred. Jesus came by one day and offered him a word of encouragement, his word of encouragement was “rise up and be healed”. What words of encouragement Jesus personifies God’s encouraging word to me and you.

You know in society many times we are bewildered with what happens in our country and in our world and many times we look to heaven with clenched fists and we say what’s going to happen next? What’s the world coming to? That’s the wrong question, especially the wrong question at Christmas time, this time of encouragement.

The question is not look what the world is coming to, the question is … look who is coming to the world. Emanuel, God with us, the personification of encouragement. No wonder Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He had been encouraged by his relationship with Jesus and you and I encourage that same way.

You’ve heard it said and perhaps it’s true, that a baby is God’s sign that the world should continue and we celebrate that at Christmas time. His name is Emanuel, God with us. He encourages us not to be afraid. Three times in scripture we’re told of Jesus mistaken identity at first and then he says, “it is I be of good cheer.” The first time was when they were out in the boat and they thought it was a ghost that was coming and they were scared. Jesus calmed the waters and he said, “no it is I, be of good cheer” – the cheer of His presence. The second time was when He forgave people and He said, “Arise, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven” – the cheer of His pardon. Then the third time we read these words, “It is I be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” His encouraging word for us comes in His presence, in His pardon and in His power.

He encourages us, what a gift but it’s a gift that you and I can receive and we need to receive for our own needy lives but it is a gift that we need to share with others. Let me illustrate and I’ll be finished.

A Mom took a very young child to the concert hall; they had pretty good seats. It was shortly before the concert was going to start with the Master Pianist. The mom said to her son, “you sit right here, don’t you move a muscle, I’ll be right back” and she left. A few minutes later she came back and he was gone and the curtain was raised up. Guess where he was? He was on stage. And, guess where he was on stage? He was at the piano for this master musician that was supposed to be giving a concert. And guess what he was doing? He was playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. And guess what happened next? The master musician came around and put his right hand on one side and began to fill in some of the music scores and he came around and put his other hand on the other side of the keyboard and he began to play more. He said to the young boy “don’t stop, don’t quit” and they played this beautiful rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Nobody at that concert that night could tell you another song that he played, but they knew that this master musician, master pianist and this little boy played a masterpiece known as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

You know what I believe, I believe wherever you are in your life that God is coming to you this Christmas and he’s coming up behind you and he’s putting his arms around you and he’s saying “don’t stop, don’t quit” because we have a masterpiece to perform. The gift of encouragement, receive it and pass it on.

That’s what the book says, the book never lies.