Monday, April 09, 2007

In Courage: Bipolar Encouragement

Hopefully by now you see the enormous power encouragement can have if it is actually put into practice. Unfortunately, encouragement is not bias towards being used only for good. When we encourage someone, we have the opportunity to either encourage them to do what is right or to do what is wrong. Encouragement's bipolarity, or its potential to be used by two extremes (good or evil in this context), can be a dangerous thing as it gives evil the same amount of access to its power and influence as it does to good.

Peer pressure (which is nothing more than a glorified term used to describe evil encouragement) is a very common use of encouragement for negative purposes. Like many, throughout my school years I was faced with plenty of peer pressure. There were times when my peers would pressure me to do drugs, go to parties to get drunk, mess around with girls, and plenty of other things that the Bible clearly says to stay away from. Fortunately for me, I grew up in a Christian home where things like that were discussed and I was able to steer clear of what I was being pressured to do.

But what about the people who were baby Christians at that time or weren't Christians at all? Were they able to steer clear from all of those things? I suppose we'll never know. However, based upon the fact that many of my old school friends are now consumed by lifestyles that God never intended for them to have, I think it's safe to say that either a lack of good encouragement or a surplus of evil encouragement in their lives gave way to the lifestyles that they chose.

It's quite possible that we may be the only positive encouragement someone is exposed to. Therefore, it is very important for us as Christians to get in a habit of encouraging others to do what is right. One way to do this is to watch what we say: "Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them" (Ephesians 4:29). We must also realize that proximity, or nearness in location, isn't necessary for encouragement. You don't have to be within speaking distance of someone in order to encourage them. Actions speak louder than words, thus we must make sure our actions provide a good example that will encourage others to do the same.

Are you doing your best to be an encouragement to those around you by watching what you say and by keeping your actions in check? Or do you encourage others to do things that are not right? The sooner we realize that encouragement is bipolar, the sooner we will be able to put into practice the kind of encouragement that God wants us to produce: encouragement that causes others to see God and His will for their lives more clearly. We should not be like the wicked people that Romans 1:19-32 talks about; people who do things that are detestable to God and, even worse, encourage others to do the same. We should strive to be examples of the amazing life-changing love that God provides for all that choose accept Him.