"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing," 1 Thessalonians 5:11
As Christians, we're instructed to encourage one another. Here are four ways we can boost the morale of our brothers and sisters.
Don't be afraid to discourage
It may seem ridiculous to envisage a good encourager as simultaneously being a good discourager, but it is necessary to be able to do both. Being a source of positive encouragement for someone else isn't about supporting them in all that they do but supporting them to do all they can to be more like Christ. Encouragers need to steer people away from sin as well as steering them towards living as Christ instructed.
So if you're aware that the person you're seeking to encourage is going down a route that conflicts with their faith, do your best to discourage them from continuing in that direction. This might mean talking to a friend about the negative impact that their actions are having on them and others or highlighting the incompatibility between their choices and their faith.
Remember honesty works both ways
Sometimes people try to realise dreams which don't play to their strengths or live lifestyles which stunts their spiritual growth. Encouragers need to be honest and help individuals face up to the reality of their choices. This can be a tricky conversation to have so it's important to let the truth speak for itself and exercise care with the words you use.
As you are doing this, opening up about your own experiences with fear or failure and how you managed to overcome them is crucial, too. By doing this you provide the person you're encouraging with a living, breathing example of where they can end up if they make the right choices. Your story will illustrate the promise of change made possible by perseverance.
Be a child of light
When whatever we're trying to do seems impossible, that's when we need someone to encourage us. When we feel engulfed in darkness, that's when we most need a guiding light.
Encouragers should be children of light, spreading love and helping others to see that there is a way through their pain, confusion and turmoil. They should also work to shine a light on what's waiting for the individual on the other side of their struggle.
Hope is at the heart of encouragement. Think about what positive outcomes await the person you're building up. These changes may relate to their health, faith or relationships. Each bit of hope will spur them on even further and give them something to focus on when things get tough.
Give praise, speak positively
Complimenting someone on their achievements and voicing positive affirmations are a great way to build them up. That's exactly what Paul did in his letter to the Thessalonians when he credited them for doing what he instructed them to.
Saying, "You're doing a great job. Keep it up," is a simple way to boost someone's confidence and can make such a big difference to their day. When encouraging someone you know, be as specific as you can with what you say by expanding on exactly what it is that they're doing well.
It's vital that the person whose confidence you're boosting is reminded that they have more than you on their side. As well as praising them, don't forget to praise God for their progress, and do it in their presence.