Words of encouragement and strength for a friend or from a friend are food for life. I’m sure we have all had the experience of lifting up a friend through words of encouragement and strength. Or, having a friend lift us up through their words and acts of love which brought encouragement and strength.
Encouragement seems like it would have a pretty straightforward meaning and it does. Yet, there is more to encouragement than just patting someone on the back, saying ‘good job,’ or giving out a thumbs up. All those are nice, but what is encouragement and what should it do for us and others? Why speak words of encouragement and strength for a friend?
Definition of Encouragement
Here is Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definition:
- 1a: to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope : HEARTEN she was encouraged to continue by her early success
- b: to attempt to persuade : URGE they encouraged him to go back to school
- 2: to spur on : STIMULATE warm weather encourages plant growth
- 3: to give help or patronage to : FOSTER government grants designed to encourage conservation
Inspiration for Life Today has 4 words that comprise our theme- Inspiration, Encouragement, Imagination, and Enthusiasm. Here we are focusing on how God’s word gives instruction to us about encouragement and making it part of our lives by speaking words of encouragement and strength to a friend. You can read more about encouragement in What Is Encouragement?
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary gives this additional information about “Encourage.” “ENCOURAGE suggests the raising of one’s confidence especially by an external agency. the teacher’s praise encouraged the students to greater efforts INSPIRIT, somewhat literary, implies instilling life, energy, courage, or vigor into something.” “Encourage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encourage. Accessed 16 Mar. 2022.
Encourage is connected to inspire. Again, the Merriam Webster Dictionary tells us, “When inspire first came into use in the 14th century it had a meaning it still carries in English today: “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural influence or action.” It’s this use that we see in phrases like “scripture inspired by God,” where the idea is that God shaped the scripture in an active and explicit way.
The meaning is a metaphorical extension of the word’s Latin root: inspirare means “to breathe or blow into.” The metaphor is a powerful one, with the very breath of a divine or supernatural force asserted as being at work.” “Inspire.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inspire. Accessed 16 Mar. 2022.
Encourage and inspire are related to one another. Think about the God-given power we have to “breathe or blow into” another person, by speaking words of encouragement and strength for a friend in need. We raise their confidence and inspire them in the ways of God.
Words of encouragement and strength for a friend involve far more than you might have imagined! God breathes His life and Spirit into us. He encourages. He inspires. He imparts strength through His love. We are made in His image and do the very same thing for each other. We need God’s strength, courage, inspiration, and power. We also need to give those things to friends and enemies! Sow words of encouragement and strength for a friend.
We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.”
Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 15:1-6 NLT
The Importance of Friendships
I’m pretty sure we all know the importance of friendships. Part of being a friend involves breathing life, hope, encouragement, and joy into their lives. Part of having a friend involves receiving those things from the other person. One lonely night in 2015, after my husband had died, I was sitting in my chair crying, lonely, and lost. Around 9:30 that night, I received a phone call. A friend called just to “encourage” me. We weren’t close friends, but she reached out to give me exactly what I needed at that moment. Just knowing that someone was thinking of me and praying for me in my moment of need, meant everything to me. She blew strength and courage into me just by caring enough to call.
Friendships are about trust and support, no matter what. Friends don’t have to agree on everything. I have some very close friends. We love each other and would stop to help each other at a moment’s notice. We also have some areas of life where we do not agree, so, we have agreed to disagree and refused to allow those differences to separate us. There is nothing in this world that is more important than loving one another. Jesus gave us His commandment:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 ESV
We shouldn’t be known for how loudly we can shout or trying to spread a gospel of hate in the name of Jesus.
The way we show the world who we are is through love – Jesus’ kind of love.
As believers, we have a clear mandate to love others. If we are truly doing that, differences of opinion on matters not related to salvation should never separate us or create caustic, angry reactions. Maintaining healthy friendships comes through words of encouragement and strength as we remember the importance of friendships.
If we love as Jesus loved, we also encourage, inspire, lay down our lives, support and agree to focus on what matters to God. The most important thing in any of our lives is to obey the first and greatest commandment:
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NLT
Differences of Opinion
No difference of opinion about any earthly matter should come before that. If we allow anger and hate to come between us and those we are supposed to love, then we also allow it to come between us and our God.
The importance of friendships is shown in the fact that Jesus had friends at all different levels and maintained those friendships through words of encouragement and strength.
Should we take a stand when the Word of God is being twisted and perverted to justify sin? Of course. Jesus, confronted the Pharisees about their twisted interpretations of the word that showed up in their greed and hunger for power. We can do the same thing. However, it must be based in love, not self-righteousness, or religious attitudes. Love is the foundation of life.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT
The second commandment, “And, love your neighbor as yourself,” means that, if we love God and love our neighbor in the way we should, we will not allow differences of opinion, or worldly matters to separate us. Today, the world is desperately divided by worldly matters that cause us to disobey the very commandments we say we believe in. The division is fed by anger and hatred. Those two things are part of the flesh and the old man that we are supposed to have died to.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 NLT
One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. Romans 1:10-12 NLT
As humans, we do things that God most certainly disagrees with, but He doesn’t react to our failures. Instead, He continues to encourage and strengthen us through the Holy Spirit. Yes, we may experience some discipline and the consequences of our failures, but God does not threaten or turn away from us. He doesn’t lose His temper and scream at us from heaven. Instead we are encouraged to speak words of encouragement and strength for a friend.
So, as the heavenly example shines, we can follow if we choose to. There is a seductive quality to hate and anger. It feels good. We can justify it. But, giving in to it is a complete failure to understand and follow the example of our Savior. Instead, like Paul, we must reach toward the goal.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 NLT
What to Do Instead of Fighting
Instead of hate and bitterness, we can embrace the qualities of encouragement, strengthening one another, and loving to the point of laying down our opinions and lives for one another. Disagreements over non-essential aspects of the Word are pointless. Having divergent opinions is not a sin unless it leads to harmful words, uncontrolled anger, hate, bitterness, and separation.
When we are tempted to speak words that tear down instead of building up, we need to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ and focus on speaking words of encouragement and strength to a friend. Doing this helps us remember the importance of friendships.
We are not meant to be alone in this world. God created us for community. Yes, we have tribes, family groups, national identities, and other things that help define us. But the one thing that must define above all is that we “love one another as Jesus loved us.” Encouragement, strength and life-long friendships will naturally grow and develop in that atmosphere, building up those in our community and then beyond. Speaking words of encouragement and strength for a friend is sign of health in our spiritual relationships.
Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 2 Timothy 2:23-25 NLT
Community cannot be continued in an atmosphere of strife. We are accountable for our words and words of encouragement and strength for a friend will build, not tear down, community. Read the New Testament to see how often Paul spoke out against those who sowed division between believers. Sowing division is the opposite of sowing words of encouragement and strength for a friend or many friends.
Words of encouragement and strength for a friend are building blocks for a life of faithfulness. As we strengthen others, we grow stronger. Encouragement given and received, benefit the giver and the receiver. So live a life filled with words of encouragement and strength and treasure the importance of friendships.
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29 NLT
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. Colossians 3:12-16 NLT
I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. Colossians 2:1-2 NLT
I could quote many more scriptures but these should be enough to help you understand the value God places on encouraging and strengthening each other. I pray that you will fill your conversations with words and deeds that impart encouragement and strength for a friend or enemy.
Be a person who continually speaks words of encouragement and strength for a friend. And, remember the importance of friendships.
You might also enjoy – What is Encouragement?
Inspiration For Life Today uses verses from different Bible translations. To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit this page – Scripture Citations.