Tag Archives: Encouragement

A Son, Reading, and Encouragement

This morning I had one of those moments that makes me love being a dad. Our middle son is smart, intelligent, goofy, and loud; but he has trouble getting things to stick in his mind. It is not that he refuses to pay attention, he tries very hard. It simply takes more time for his brain to accept new information than it takes some people.

As this school year starts, he has been working very hard on learning to read, but keeping everything straight in his head has been an effort. So this morning, when he came running into my office with his book in his hand, a smile from ear to ear, and his mother struggling to keep up, I immediately stopped what I was doing to listen.

When he read those 5 words to me, he could hardly get them out for all of his excitement. Shea told me afterward that when he read them out loud in the schoolroom this morning, the rest of the boys jumped up and down with excitement, congratulating their brother for his hard work and accomplishment.

As I think about those moments in their aftermath, I am reminded of an important spiritual point. When we have a brother or sister who has struggled with confidence in their Christian life, or dealt with great difficulty in trying to remove a sin from their life, or has faced great hardship and made it through to the other side, how do we respond? Do we think to ourselves: “it’s about time,” or, “I wonder what took them so long?” Do we half-heartedly acknowledge their efforts, but think to ourselves how much easier it should have been? It should not be this way.

Each of us have our mountains to climb that for another is but a small hill. When it comes to the Christian life, the important matter is not how quickly you reach the top, but that you continue to strive to reach it. As Christians, we should always be joyful and excited when that struggling Christian finds the confidence to re-dedicate their life. When the soul that has struggled with addiction has finally made progress in kicking the habit. Or when the one who has struggled to understand God’s Word finally has the light bulb moment.

Everyone does not reach the same plateaus at the same time, and we should always be grateful that God does not expect us to. Let us always encourage our friends, loved ones, and brethren. Let us be those that others can look to knowing that we will build them up, not tear them down. Because the goal of Christianity is to reach the finish line, not to get there first.

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Encouraging Families with Special Needs Children

     It is my privilege to have a number of friends and acquaintances who have special needs children. While the needs differ and the ways in which those needs present themselves in the children may vary radically, some of the stories of the ways these families have been treated over the years have broken my heart.

     For some reason, there are those in our assemblies that seem to believe that such a place is not for children, especially those that are not completely silent. It seems almost inevitable for some parents of special needs children that shortly after any change in behavior, outburst, or loud noise emanates from the child that the glares, stares, and condescension begin. Some begin to wonder why they cannot control their child, others wonder why they haven’t already taken them out, and some are asking themselves why the parents ever bothered bringing them in at all (of course, the same reactions have often been seen by any parent that has an infant in the assembly as well).

     Following services it is those same individuals who make off-handed and insensitive statements under the auspices of “trying to help.” These statements are really nothing more than a venting of their own personal frustration and a determination to let the parents know how the offended party feels. Thus the parents leave sad and frustrated because all they have been trying to do is what is right; yet, somehow that has been lost in the equation.

     In James 2, James writes about those who show partiality to one group over another based upon certain factors (in that instance he speaks of the clothing that is worn). However, the same principle applies in many areas of those who walk into our assemblies. On one hand people want to say everyone is welcome, but on the other hand some of those same people want mothers to spend the entire service ostracized from the rest of the congregation with their young children. Every congregation talks about the need and importance of having children among them, then has members who complain because they are disruptive.

     We need to remember that families with children, whether they have special needs or not, have a great responsibility. It requires a great deal of dedication to be there for every service, take part in church functions, and fulfill their responsibilities in other areas as well. All of the difficulties in each of these areas are magnified exponentially when one or more of the children have special needs.

     Therefore, when you see that family with those beautiful gifts of God sitting in front of you, be thankful. Instead of wishing they would “take the kid out,” be thankful that those parents are dedicated to the service of God to such a degree that they are willing to go through the struggles to do what it right. Be thankful that they have not used their child as an excuse not to do what God has commanded, but that instead they serve as an example and encouragement to all of what it means to put God first.

     Instead of talking about them behind their back and being insensitive to their struggles, encourage them. There is nobody more aware of the possible distractions than those two parents. Let them know you see their struggle and that it is okay. Let them know that you are proud of them for their dedication, courage, strength, and love. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help them and remind them of the love of Jesus in the way you seek to strengthen them.

     It should be our prayer that God continue to bless these wonderful examples of love and devotion. Let us ever be those who lift up their hands in their difficulties instead of adding to their troubles.

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“Dad, I don’t want to play outfield!”

My two older boys are playing baseball this spring and both are really enjoying it. However, for my oldest it has been an experience in growth of character and patience. You see, he moved up into a new age bracket this year. He is now one of the youngest players on the team. Whereas in years past he has been among the biggest and most talented on the team, this year he is the shortest, far from the fastest, and not the most developed technically.

Therefore, it was with sadness a couple of weeks ago that he was told he would be playing in the outfield for the most part this year. For young kids, being told to play the outfield is like being told to stand in the corner and watch everyone else play. In their minds, it is the same as being told you are not as good or useful as other players on the team. However, such could not be further from the truth.

I tried to explain to my son that every position is there for a reason and has value, and without someone in that position it would be impossible to win the game; but he just couldn’t see it… until the first ballgame. He started the game in right field, and part of his responsibility was to back up first base on throws across the infield. After two plays backing up the position correctly (which kept runners from advancing, and, in turn, scoring) he looked at me and said that he didn’t think right field was so bad after all. He finally saw the value in it.

The exact same lesson needs to be learned within the church as it pertains to roles and responsibilities. Paul discusses the various gifts and abilities Christians have in Romans 12:4-8. There are things that some members of the body of Christ can do for which I am not equipped and vice versa. Understanding such is the essence of being able to function as the body of Christ.

It must be understood that “all members have not the same office” (Vs. 4). We all work together as a team, as “members one of another” (Vs. 5), and we all have value in our given areas. Just as with a baseball team, where everyone does not have to be the biggest or the fastest to have great value, so it is with us.

All of us may not be capable of delivering a sermon from the pulpit, leading a song, or teaching a Bible class, but that by no means insinuates that we have no value. For that card sent, that call to the sick, those words of encouragement, that food for the grieving, or that invitation to the lost soul is of just as great a value as all of the other works that are done, and it serves to complete the functions of the body.

While my son has learned a good life lesson on what it means to be a part of a team and to do his job to the best of his ability; the same lessons also need to be applied to our lives as Christians so that we can be fully effective for the cause of Christ. Let us never downplay or demean the usefulness and value of a child of God simply because they are not doing the same things we are. Let us instead lift them up and encourage them to further develop their strengths and be thankful for all they do for the cause of Christ.

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Who Needs Our Comfort?

As Christians, we serve a wonderful and caring God who is seeking to give us all that we need to adequately navigate the lives we seek to live in service to him. He is described in 2 Corinthians 1:3 as the God of comfort, and such he certainly seeks to be; both through his Word and his promises. However, there is another reason mentioned for his giving of comfort. It is so that we might also be able to comfort others as we have been comforted. This, of course, raises the immediate question: “Who needs our comfort?” An understanding of the answer to this question is pivotal to our ability to adequately fulfill our mandate as comforters.

There are many categories which could be considered: the first one which comes to mind for many people is the needy. This is certainly one of the reasons for God’s giving of the commandments concerning the need “to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (Jam. 1:27). We are commanded to see to the physical needs of our brethren, but also to those outside the body of Christ. Paul wrote, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10). Therefore, it is obvious that God intended for us to use our ability to comfort others in such a way as to help those who are physically in need.

A second category belongs to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The time of grief is one in which the one grieving desperately needs the comfort of loved ones. It is not an easy time to endure, but one which all who walk the face of this earth will encounter at some point. However, the apostle Paul wrote that we are to comfort one another with his words concerning the dead (1 The. 4:18). He states that those individuals who die in a right relationship with God have nothing to fear, but at the second coming they will meet Christ in the air just as those who are alive (1 The. 4:13-17). However, such comfort can only be given if one is a child of God.

A third category of those who should be assisted with comfort are repentant sinners. It is sometimes amazing to see how people respond to those who repent of past transgressions. Some will say “he didn’t mean it,” or “she’ll be right back at it shortly.” There is nothing given by way of encouragement or comfort, only skepticism and criticism. However, Jesus stated that there should be rejoicing when the penitent return. All three of the parables in Luke 15 deal with the nature of finding something which was lost. When a lost and erring member of the body of Christ returns, that one should not be met with skepticism, but encouragement and comfort in the decision which they have made. Peter stated that God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore, we must be ones who seek to comfort those who are weak, but seeking to do right so that they might be better equipped to stand against the wiles of the devil.

There are many different types of comfort, and all of them have their place. There is verbal comfort which we can provide through the words we use to comfort others in time of need. There is physical comfort. Whether it is the bringing of food, a hug, or something else, there is comfort to be gained from the caring concern of others. There is also spiritual comfort which God makes available to us through His Word. This comfort is as important as any other because it tells us how God feels concerning each situation man encounters.

May we ever strive to be the types of comforters we need to be. Men and women like Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37; 11:22-24) who are willing to give, not only of their physical means, but of their spiritual lives as well to the betterment of others.

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