by Kay Carey
I only know a few words in Greek such as koinonia, agape, charis, chara, eucharisteo, etc. The newest addition to my Greek vocabulary list is “parakaleo” which means “to exhort, to encourage”. Do you know how many times it appears in the New Testament? More than 100 times…which leads me to conclude that God really wants us to do this while we are on this earth.
I am grateful that Pastor Kenny mentioned the book titled “Encouragement” last summer in a staff meeting. I read the book and it really helped me to realize that that we are called to encourage our fellow Christians regardless of what our circumstances and feelings are. The author reminded me that there are many people who are hurting more deeply than we realize including those in our local church. On Sundays, we tend to put on our happy faces but we never know what other people are going through in their private lives.
Encouragement can come in many forms. A note, an act of service, kind words, acknowledgement of any praiseworthy behavior or performance can be encouraging. They are all good but Dr. Larry Crabb defines it as “the kind of expression that helps someone want to be a better Christian, even when life is rough”.
He points out that not all conversations are encouraging because they often can be self-centered and we never move beyond talking about ourselves or the trivial. Most of the time, we feel that we just don’t know enough about other people to encourage them.
How can we overcome this condition in our local church? My approach is one person (couple, family) at a time. After the Sunday service, I try to approach a person (couple, family) whom God indicates. Starting with a smile and looking into their eyes, I ask them how they are really doing. The responses vary but the results have been very positive and rewarding. Often times, I get to pray for/with them when prompted by the Spirit after the conversation. I am grateful for the work of the Holy Spirit who guides me through this journey of “parakaleo”.
It’s a win-win situation! Not only do I get to know them and encourage them but I feel so blessed knowing that they are encouraged and drawing near to Him no matter what their life situations may be. In fact, that’s what encouragement is supposed to accomplish in God’s family.
Why don’t you join me in this adventure of “parakaleo” with God’s help to encourage each other more intentionally? Let´s start with our faith family on Sundays. Then extend it to whomever God puts in our life wherever we are during the week. Start with a smile and “hello”. We will be encouraged as we prayerfully and intentionally seek the Lord to indicate to us who needs encouragement today…
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)