Earlier this week, I received an email from a pastor I’ve never met. He wrote to tell me that one of my research studies had been helpful in his ministry context. He also shared that he would be praying for me in the future. It was such an encouraging message in the midst of such discouraging times.
As I mentioned in a previous post (you can read it here), there are several reasons why many in the church are frustrated and discouraged right now. Unfortunately, checking news sites or scrolling through social media usually doesn’t help. In fact, I often feel more frustrated and discouraged after spending time on Facebook or Twitter. And I’m quite sure I’m not alone.
That’s why emails like the one I received this week are so precious. It was a simple message, but it had a profound impact on my day. This pastor was living out the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” This pastor was acting as an agent of encouragement.
Agents of encouragement are ordinary people who simply make an intentional effort to encourage others. The Bible is full of such people. Joseph was an agent of encouragement to his brothers after their father died (Genesis 50:19-21). Nehemiah was an agent of encouragement to the workers on the wall when they were ready to give up (Nehemiah 4:14). Barnabas was such an agent of encouragement that the apostles gave him the nickname “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36).
I’m sure you can think of folks in your life who fit that description as well. Agents of encouragement are all around us. Perhaps that describes you. If so, keep it up! In these difficult days, we need more encouragement, not less.
If, however, you find that this is not the way others would describe you, here are ten ways that you can become an agent of encouragement today:
- Post Bible verses on social media. One of the best ways to encourage others is to share God’s Word. Download the Bible App from YouVersion (or a similar product), which creates a new graphic with a different Bible verse every day, suitable for sharing on social media. You can download one of their daily graphics, or customize your own.
- Send an encouraging text. Something as simple as a quick note of encouragement via text can make a significant impact on someone’s day. I have several friends who regularly send me texts of encouragement, and I’m so thankful for each of them.
- Make a phone call. A friend of mine called recently just to check on me. We had been on a couple of Zoom calls together, and he called afterward just because I looked like I needed some encouragement. Mission accomplished!
- Start a movement of encouragement on social media. Once a day, tag a friend on social media and share briefly how they have been a blessing to you in some way. Challenge them to tag another friend and do the same thing to pass on the encouragement to someone else. Use the hashtag #AgentsOfEncouragement. Let’s reclaim social media for its positive qualities!
- Pray with someone. I’m often encouraged when someone tells me they have prayed for me. I’m even more encouraged when they pray with me in person (either physically or virtually). Who do you know that really needs to be encouraged today? Give them a call or a visit (with appropriate physical distancing) and pray for them in their presence. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
- Serve someone today. Do any of your friends and family have a need that you can meet? Maybe you can pick up groceries or a prescription for an elderly loved one. Maybe you can meet a financial need. Or perhaps a child in your neighborhood needs a new mattress. The possibilities are endless, but you will be an agent of encouragement if you can identify and meet the needs of others.
- Perform random acts of kindness. My wife is an expert at this. She is always looking for opportunities to bless others in unexpected ways. She has baked cookies for her hairstylist. She has dropped off coffee for the dog groomer. She has delivered soda to the doctor’s office staff. And she has encouraged many people along the way. The good news is that you can too!
- Write a handwritten note. In the digital age, handwritten notes are somewhat of an endangered species. But, that’s why it makes it so special whenever I receive one. Without the luxury of a backspace button, the sender had to think more carefully about their words. As a result, I cherish these notes and cards. I have a file in my desk where I keep those I have received. Whenever I’m having a rough day, I pull out the file. It doesn’t long before my day brightens up!
- Show interest in others. You never know what others may be going through. Your cashier at the grocery store could be experiencing great personal tragedy. Your server at the restaurant may be battling depression. The receptionist in your office building may feel invisible to those around her. A simple question such as “How is your day going?” may open up a door of encouragement to those around you.
- Prevent the spread of discouragement. As I alluded to earlier, it seems that discouragement and frustration may be spreading more rapidly than the coronavirus. However, just as we’ve all taken steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you can also take steps to prevent the spread of discouragement. One great suggestion that I read recently is to “pause before posting” on social media. Not a bad idea.
I’m so thankful for the agents of encouragement in my life. They have improved the quality of my spiritual and emotional well-being in innumerable ways. Because of their influence in my life, I want to commit to being an agent of encouragement as well. Will you join me?