A Ministry of Encouragement

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Synopsis of A Ministry of Encouragement

Good and joyful morning this morning to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or milk, or tea, or whatever is your favorite. We’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from: Philippians 2:1

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. 4 Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. 5 Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. 7 He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. 8 And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.

I usually end my messages with a little humor. Today I want to begin with humor. Have you ever noticed that men and women differ in their use of humor? Men’s humor is more competitive, and therefore more sarcastic. Women’s humor is more supportive.

For example, famed comedian George Burns, remembered especially for the television show he hosted along with his wife, Gracie Allen, was roasted by some of his friends. Here are some of the things they had to say about George Burns, known to be a tightwad.

MILTON BERLE: “I have to say this about my friend George. He looks just the same today as he looked forty years ago . . . old.”

RED BUTTONS: “George Burns, what a man. He read in the paper that it takes ten dollars a year to support a kid in India . . . So he sent his kids there.”

BOB NEWHART: “The way George Burns sings, even E. F. Hutton doesn’t listen.”

I can’t even imagine women roasting one another like that . . . at least in public. Can you imagine a woman emcee saying about another woman, “She looks just the same today as she looked forty years ago . . . old”? Generally when women make remarks like that, it is not meant as just a joke. At least, that’s my observation. Men tend to be more competitive in their communication and women tend to be more relational. Women are more apt to encourage one another. You’ll hear it at church. One woman will meet another and one will say, “How nice you look! What a beautiful dress. I believe you’ve had your hair cut. It looks so good!” Can you imagine two men greeting each other that way? “Mike, how handsome you look today. That suit really makes you look buff.” It just doesn’t happen. And what a shame. We all need encouragement. Don’t we? Is there anyone here who is offended when someone gives them a genuine compliment?

A man was talking about his grandson, a two-year-old with Downe syndrome. “Like most children that age,” he said, “our grandson has difficulty understanding the word ‘No.’ He’s always testing the limits. However, I’ve noticed that if you applaud him for anything, he’s apt to do it again. I’m learning to say know ‘no’ less often and to say, ‘Good job!’ a lot more.”

Hey, that’s true of everyone. That wonderful old philosopher Dr. Samuel Johnson once put it like this, “The applause of a single human is of great consequence.” And it is.

Even our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, needed tangible encouragement to spur his sometimes sagging confidence. When Lincoln was tragically killed, several items were found in his pockets: an embroidered handkerchief, a watch, and some confederate money. But most interesting of all was a ragged copy of a newspaper article. The article had been written during a time of great controversy and turmoil in the country. In the text of the article, the writer praised Lincoln’s virtues, approving of the decisions he had made in office. Lincoln was not that different from the rest of us. He needed to be appreciated. We need to be affirmed, appreciated, applauded.

St. Paul was an encourager. He applauded those who deserved to be applauded. He acknowledged those who needed to be acknowledged. He was continually expressing his appreciation for the people who kept the churches going. Criticism gives off its own unpleasant aroma. It fouls the air in homes, in offices, in government–wherever people are tempted to fill the air with negative thoughts. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar has a name for it—“stinkin’ thinkin”. What we need are people who fill the air with the aroma of encouragement.

I believe that is one reason God gives us grandparents. Experts tell us that for every criticism a child hears, he or she needs to hear 10 “‘attaboys” or “attagirls.” But parents are human. And sometimes emotions bubble over. It’s helpful in such situations to have another family member who will be present with unconditional love.

Richard Allen Farmer is a professor at Gordon College and a much sought-after motivational speaker. When he was a youngster, his grandparents bought him a small plastic cartoon projector as a Christmas present. Bringing a couple of reels of black and white cartoons, his grandfather taught Richard how to thread the projector. He patiently demonstrated how to bend the film around the sprockets and thread it into the take-up reel. After one demonstration, his grandfather said, “Now you try it.” Richard threaded the projector correctly. His grandfather said, “I have the smartest grandson in the world!”

Years later, Richard asked his grandfather if he remembered that incident. He didn’t, but Richard sure did! “For all the years following that day until now,” says Richard “I have thought I was bright, skillful, teachable, quick to catch on.” Then he adds, “I would probably also have remembered if [my grandfather] had said, ‘I have the dumbest grandson in the world.’ And my life might have demonstrated my belief.” A simple word of encouragement from his granddad was life-changing for Richard Allen Farmer.

That’s why God created churches. Have you ever thought of the church as a center for encouragement? Some of you grew up thinking of the church as a place of condemnation. How sad. “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” I wonder how anyone ever thought of that as Gospel–Good News? But usually it’s just a handful of people who are the most critical.

A farmer went to a restaurant owner to find out if he wanted to buy a million frog legs. When the proprietor asked where he could find so many frogs, the farmer replied, “I’ve got a pond at home just full of them. They drive me crazy night and day.” They agreed on several hundred frog legs. A week later, the farmer came back with two scrawny sets of frog legs and a foolish look on his face. “I guess I was wrong,” he stammered. “There were just two frogs in the pond, but they sure were making a lot of noise!”

In most churches you will find only a few people who are really critical. Unfortunately they sometimes make a lot of noise.

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