Encouragement as a Fountain of Life
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. (Proverbs 10:11-12)
A friend of mine attended a church with a woman who had the gift of encouragement. This woman was known for lifting the spirits of everyone else in the church. My friend told me, “One time I helped to lead a ministry, and afterward this woman gave me the most warm, insightful, encouragement-bomb I ever received. I almost didn’t know how to handle it.”
Proverbs says “the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” – that is, godly people speak to others in ways that bring life to their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even enemies. Their words can soothe pain, restrain disputes, elevate the discouraged, and give hope to those fortunate enough to hear. What are a few “words of life” you can say today? Who would you like to say them to?
I find it’s helpful to have a few guidelines in mind to help me encourage others. Here are a few thoughts:
(1) Listening is a prerequisite to speaking. Asking how your friend is doing and empathizing with his or her struggles is the groundwork for encouragement. Often, just listening and caring about the struggle is as appreciated as anything you say.
(2) Encouragement is sincere, flattery is not. Don’t say something disingenuous, but think about what affirmation you can offer honestly. Flattery tends to backfire, anyway.
(3) Focus on praising character and actions. If you’re trying to think of a compliment for someone, there are two basic categories: commend who they are (character) and/or commend what they do (actions). These categories help us reflect on – and therefore appreciate – our friends’ positive traits.
(4) Scan the environment for things to encourage. The best encouragers are those who practice. Get in the habit of looking for things to praise. A few more encouragements to a few more people everyday adds up to tens of thousands of life-giving words over a lifetime.
Of course, this call to speak life-giving words is an extension of the gospel itself. Jesus transformed lives when he declared things like this to those who believed in him: “Truly, your sins are forgiven,” “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you,” “You are Peter, and on this Rock I will build my church,” “Your faith has saved you, go in peace,” and “Behold, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
That is, Jesus transforms the identities of those who come to him in faith. As the Son of God reigning in power, his words offer the only life that matters. As the popular Hillsong worship anthem puts it, “I am who You say I am.”
So today, ask God’s Spirit to impress God’s Words from God’s Son deep into your heart. And living in the confidence of your identity in Christ, express encouragement to everyone you can, that your presence also may be “a fountain of life.”
Father, thank you for words that have brought me from death to life. Help me to pass on your love through encouragement of others today. Show me who I can praise and give me the words to bring joy to their lives. In Christ’s Name, Amen.