“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness,” Hebrews 3:13 tells us. First Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Throughout Scripture we see instructions to encourage one another and verses that are meant to encourage us. Why is encouragement emphasized in Scripture? Primarily because encouragement is necessary to our walk of faith.
Jesus told His followers, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). Jesus did not shy from telling His followers about the troubles they would face. In fact, He told them the world would hate them (John 15:18-21; see also Matthew 10:22-23 and 2 Corinthians 2:15-16). But Jesus’ grim forecast was tempered with cheer; He followed His prediction of trouble with a sparkling word of encouragement: He has overcome the world. Jesus is greater than any trouble we face.
Without encouragement, hardship becomes meaningless, and our will to go on wanes. The prophet Elijah struggled with discouragement (1 Kings 19:3-10), and so do we. It is important to remember that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). This truth makes encouragement all the more important. It is not just that we face the world’s displeasure; we are caught in the crosshairs of a spiritual battle. When we are encouraged in Christ, we have strength to put on our spiritual armor and remain steadfast (see Ephesians 6:10-18).
Even in places where Christians do not experience overt persecution or hatred, we all know that life can be difficult. Discouragement is not an uncommon human experience. At times, recognizing that there is meaning in the seemingly inconsequential things we do seems next to impossible. We may want to give up. Yet He who calls us is faithful, and He gives us the power to be faithful, too (1 Corinthians 1:9).
A man in the early church named Joseph was given the nickname “Barnabas,” which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). What a blessing Barnabas was to the believers of his day! Through the encouragement of Barnabas, the apostle Paul was first accepted by the church in Jerusalem (Acts 9:27). Through the encouragement of Barnabas, Mark was given a second chance after an abject failure (Acts 13:13; 15:39).
Encouragement makes it easier to live in a fallen world in a holy way. Encouragement makes it easier to love as Jesus loved (see John 13:34-35). Encouragement gives hope (Romans 15:4). Encouragement helps us through times of discipline and testing (Hebrews 12:5). Encouragement nurtures patience and kindness (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and Galatians 5:22-26). Encouragement makes it easier to sacrifice our own desires for the advancement of God’s kingdom. In short, encouragement makes it easier to live the Christian life.
Without encouragement, life would soon feel pointless and burdensome. Without encouragement, we can be overwhelmed by the very real pains of our lives. Without encouragement, we feel unloved. Without encouragement, we begin to think that God is a liar or is unconcerned with our welfare. So, the Bible tells us to encourage one another, to remind each other of the truth that God loves us, that God equips us, that we are treasured, that our struggles are worth it.
Encouragement gives us the will to carry on. It is a glimpse of the bigger picture. It can prevent burn-out. It can save us from believing lies (“sin’s deceitfulness”). Encouragement helps us experience abundant life (see John 10:10).
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” God’s Word is full of encouragement. Pleasant words, indeed.