If I were to ask your closest friends, would any of them say that you were an encourager?
In these days of political pessimism, financial negativism and moral decline, finding encouragement in most situations is difficult at best. Let’s talk about it. A few years ago, Jason Quick gave a great example from the realm of professional basketball in The Athletic, 7-6-19): When Damian Lillard received the news that one of his new teammates had a checkered reputation, Lillard immediately took steps toward building relationships and rapport. But that wasn’t an exception he made for a difficult teammate; that’s been Lillard’s style in general.
He is the Portland Trail Blazers’ brightest star and unquestioned team leader. Lillard has made it a point to always embrace his peers and offer as much conversation and encouragement as possible.
Rodney Hood, another newer addition to the Trail Blazers roster, said, “He never has an off day as far as attitude. A lot of guys in his position care about themselves first. But he is always checking up on guys — texting me after a good game, a bad game, telling me how important I am to the team. He’s a rare leader in this league. And that’s a big reason why Portland has sustained its success. He’s leading the way.” Hood’s words about Lillard are consistent with the testimonies of many other current and former teammates.
Upon receiving the news that he was being traded to the Trail Blazers, Hassan Whiteside reacted with boyish jubilance on an Instagram video. “We got shooters,” Whiteside exclaimed. “Let’s go!!”
However, Lillard knew the upcoming season would have its share of challenges and that Whiteside would be an important piece to the Blazers’ puzzle of championship aspirations. So upon receiving the news, Lillard called Hassan.
“I said, ‘Listen, I understand you are going to get mad sometimes. I understand you are going to get frustrated with coach. I understand that if that is who you are, that is who you are. But this you need to understand: I’m here to bring the best out of you. If we are going to win, I’m going to need you, and you are going to need me.’”
Several years ago, a young girl, 18-year-old Paige Hunter, was recognized with an official commendation by the chief of police in her community, Sunderland, in the United Kingdom. She was honored for her compassion and encouragement in helping those who were “in the midst of a mental health crisis.” This young lady has written more than 40 heartfelt notes of encouragement, attaching each of them to the railings of the Wearmouth Bridge there, and thereby providing a critical boost for those who are struggling and considering ending it all. The local officials know of at least six individuals who changed their minds after reading one of Paige’s notes.
In another story, there was a fireman who went up a tall ladder into a burning building. He rescued a little baby and was coming down that same ladder with that baby in his arms. Flames were leaping out of the windows as he was passing by them. Smoking was pouring out of those same windows as well, and the fireman seemed like he was about to be overcome.
When the fire chief on the ground saw his man struggling, he turned to the other firemen around him and said, “Cheer him on, boys! Cheer him on!” As those comrades began to cheer him on, the fireman with the baby was buoyed in his spirit and was able to get down the ladder with the baby safe in his arms.
People need to be cheered on each and every day. Everyone needs encouragement, and the positive you can make with a kind word can indeed change a person’s life. When that kind of encouragement is missing in the life of a man or a woman, they are easily overcome by the flames and the billowing smoke of life. They may even go so far as to jump off a bridge. But if others will come around them and encourage them and spur them on, it can make a world of difference in their life.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
Maybe today you need a shot of encouragement in your life. Or, just maybe God is telling you that you should be more intentional at encouraging someone else. No matter how much we’ve achieved or what our status, we all have the power to build a culture of trust through consistent encouragement. Whatever it is, remember that the greatest encouragement you can give or receive is one that is based upon your identity in Christ. So remember that in Christ, you can be encouraged knowing that His Holy Spirit dwells in you.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area minister who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at email@example.com.