Ever Was Heard an Encouraging Word

Mike Howerton remembers the two vastly different ways two of his high school coaches approached encouraging the team. Howertown remembers that in one game, his team was losing. During halftime, the two coaches would give two very different pep talks.

Image © Rolf Jansson from GoodSalt.com

“Coach Crow [came] in growling, spitting disdain in his words at us: ‘What a bunch of losers. Whaddya say let’s get your girlfriends suited up; they’d do a better job. Your flimsy arm-tackles make me wanna puke. I’m gonna go look for some diapers for you babies to wear in the second half; maybe then you won’t embarrass yourselves so bad.’ He’d leave, and absolute silence would descend, virtually no sound except for the muffled sobs of Monty, our kicker, in the corner. Then our defensive head coach, Coach Rush, would come in. He’d look each of us in the eyes with his steely glint. When he began to speak, you could feel strength flow into your limbs. He would begin with something like this, measured, masculine, and building in intensity: ‘I don’t see high school students. I see lions. This locker room is filled with lions. A bunch of lions is called a pride. A pride of lions hunts together. A pride of lions kills together …. Lions are majestic to behold …. Lions are the kings of the land, and this is your land. You are the pride here. But there’s one thing I haven’t heard you lions do tonight. I haven’t heard you roar. Now we’re gonna go out there … and everyone in this two-bit town is gonna hear you roar because you are LIONS and LIONS ROAR!’ And we’d erupt in an ear-splitting roar (even Monty) because we weren’t seniors or juniors; we were LIONS and LIONS ROAR, and we’d go out to inevitable victory. When Coach Rush died unexpectedly a few years later, he was so beloved that there was a motion to name the stadium after him.”1

Which coach would you work harder for? Not much of a decision, is it? It’s hard to keep doing your best job when all you ever get is negative feedback, isn’t it?

In the early scenes of the movie, Full Metal Jacket, the drill instructor seems to single out one particular recruit, then takes every opportunity to verbally abuse and denigrate this recruit until finally we see that the recruit has committed suicide. Clearly, whoever made up “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” did not understand the power of words. The marks made by sticks and stones heal, while the wounds left by words sometimes never heal.

All the more reason, as we interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ that we take extra care about what we say. Paul seems to have understood how important encouraging words were to the Thessalonians:

“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,” I Thessalonians 2-3

Can you imagine how differently things might have gone if Paul had started his letter with a laundry list of all the things the Thessalonians were doing that needed help? Do you think that their church would have been very successful if all they ever heard was what they were doing wrong? I’m pretty sure they would have gotten discouraged and given up.

How are we doing in our own churches? Check this out:

“There are many who, with proper encouragement, would begin in out-of-the-way places to make efforts to seek and to save that which is lost. The Lord blesses those self-sacrificing ones, who have such a hunger for souls that they are willing to go anywhere to work. But, in the past, how much encouragement has been given to such workers by their brethren? Many of them have waited for something to do, but no attention has been given to them.

“If the ministers had given help and encouragement to these men and women, they would have been doing the work appointed them by the Lord. They have been the spiritual poverty of unworked fields, and have longed to do something to help. But it has taken so long for encouragement to come to them that many have gone into other lines of work.”(E.G. White, Spalding and Magan Collection, p 176)

We need to be kind to our church families. It is so easy to gossip and back-bite. We get so close to each other that we can become hyper-critical, but that’s not what’s going to help us become effective Christians or a vibrant church. That’s not what’s going to help us show others how much Jesus loved us and how He died so that we could spend eternity with Him.

Stop and think. What’s something we can do right now that will show our church friends how much we appreciate them? How can we show them that our church family would be diminished if they were not with us? Is encouragement as simple as a quick hug in the foyer on Sabbath morning? a phone call? an email, note, or a text? It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It doesn’t even have to cost any money. It’s as simple as saying to someone, “I appreciate you.”

This week’s assignment: Think of at least one person in your church family who you can encourage.

“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,” I Thessalonians 2-3

  1. Mike Howerton, Glorious Mess (Thomas Nelson, 2012), pp. 144-145


Ever Was Heard an Encouraging Word — 11 Comments

  1. It's all about the simple things that we do in life that makes the church a better place of gathering to worship.

  2. Thank you so much for helping us to remember that we can speak life into people and situations by our words.

  3. It is so easy to get so involved in what "needs to be done" even on Sabbath morning that one can forget to give that encouraging word to someone who is not on your "to do list". We do need to be reminded often how important it is to give the smile and greeting. Also, how important to learn the names of those who are not in your circle of friends. I try to make a point to learn the names of the children and greet them by name.
    They need to know that they are an important part of the church family.

  4. I wonder if the reason we are critical is because we do not/have not gotten close enough to our family of believers. The statement about walking a mile in another's shoes comes to mind. To get close we have to care, invest time, be someone who can be trusted. I think of a word picture from a book I read, saying we are like a group of people in a circle, all sitting on chairs that face outwards.

    I like the EG White comment -approx. "when we love the world as Christ loves it, then for us His work is complete. We are ready for heaven, for we already have it in our hearts." That is my prayer that God will open my eyes to the incredible value of even the "least" of my brothers and sisters. We are all created to be masterpieces, with the potential placed in us by God to do amazing exploits in Christ.

  5. I am reminded of the text in Proverbs 25:12 and Proverbs 25:13. It goes something like this: (All heaven rejoices when) valid criticism falls on an obedient ear.
    I had the privilege of attending Gladstone Camp meeting last week (Oregon Conference of SDA's). On Friday I was up early and went for a brisk walk around the outside perimeter of the camp ground. As I was approaching the north gate near where our trailer was parked there was a crowd, some with numbers, some without, some walking briskly, and some running. I joined them at the north gate. As we finished the 5K I was reminded of my life aim, to join the crowd of the redeemed, the holy angels, and Jesus, our giver of life.
    I have joined, how about you? Don't you think it would be good to bow you head where ever you are right now and make, or renew your commitment to Christ?

  6. When I first heard this message in 2006, I accepted the callenge and put a plan into motion to drive my Sports Car from Cape Town, South Africa (through as many African countries as I can afford ) to Egypt and across to Slovakia then to London then from New York to Portland, Oregon. I have a message to share with God's People and a Bridge to Build from the City of Cape Town to The City of Portland. I am planning to leave Cape Town on 1st March 2013. Pray with me for the success of this Unique Humanitarian Overland Expedition.

  7. I loved this message and makes me remind how Jesus treated the sinners and his kind love for mankind, and sacrifice at the cross.
    Amazing grace!


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