Can I Encourage You?

I tend to resist self-imposed nicknames. You know what I’m talking about; we all know that one guy who tries to get a nickname to stick that he came up with for himself.

Ok Brad, err, I mean MAVERICK!” – Then the whole friend group laughs. Except for Brad.

Just me? Ok.

That notwithstanding, one of the homies, James, gave himself a nickname that I find pretty apropos. James is a talented creative with nasty pen and a flow (he can write good rap songs and deliver them to the audience with passion and efficiency) as unique as his whole person.

James refers to himself as “The Most Encouraging Rapper” (I think of THE WORLD). And here’s the thing – It’s true. I mean, listen, is there hyperbole? Sure. But James is one of the most encouraging guys I’ve ever known.

And it’s off-putting sometimes—the type of guy who asks how you’re doing and wants to know the honest answer. And wherever you land in terms of your response, James will encourage you. He will celebrate the positive and express his love, but he will also remind you amidst the turmoil with his presence as a friend.

I could probably benefit from being more like James. If we all kept it a buck, I’m betting most you could as well.

It’s interesting because I think some components go into us becoming more encouraging of others, and I’m just spitballin’ here, so don’t jam me up if this isn’t an exhaustive list …

I think encouragement is a natural byproduct of the discipline of gratitude being rooted in our hearts. If you have a trash attitude and complain about everything, it’s going to be hard for you to dip into a well that has been poisoned.

I wish we were more comfortable expressing genuine love to each other. See, we’ll think about it – “Man, ‘so and so’ is going thru it, I should reach out …. Nah that’s weird” – And instantly we begin to talk ourselves out of encouraging others. We need some boldness to be a good encourager.

You know, if you start encouraging people left and right, folk might think you’re crazy. Why are you so optimistic? Why are you so weird? Chill out bro – But if we’re doing it for the right reasons, I could care less how you respond; I’m just going to stay faithful to loving you and wishing the best for you! We need to be committed to being faithful encouragers. Did you go to one game to cheer on and support your kids on the basketball team two years ago? Cool, do it again, and do it more often.

Ok, so motivation; why should we do this? What’s the right reason? – I don’t know, God says to? Building up your neighbor (Romans 15), spurring each other on to good works (Hebrews 10), we’re encouraged to encourage (1 Thes. 5), you too have the internet, I mean “Bible” – pull up a chair and eat.

So there’s that, but what about our inside motivation? 1 Timothy 1:19 says, “Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear” – So are you encouraging people to build them up out of your love for them, or are you trying to get something in return? Huh, youth pastor – you ever show up to a game to “encourage some kids,” but really, you want to be seen there? Or, more specifically, you want them to see you, so then they feel like they owe you a trip to your youth group? Me too. Or you encourage someone so that they can then follow some dumb societal norm of then obligatorily encouraging you? We’re raggedy like that, aren’t we? 

There’s a woman who lives in Vacaville, CA. I’ve never met this woman, I have never spoken to this woman …. All I know is her name, address, and the fact that she might be the most encouraging woman in the country. At least in California, but the most encouraging person in Vacaville. Ms. Kris has sent me six handwritten greeting cards since late July. Each card is filled on both sides of the inside and usually a fair bit on the back. It is filled with prayers, Bible verses, quotes, uplifting language, holy desires for God’s will, all used to encourage me, motivate me, and propel me.

Ultimately, Ms. Kris wants me to stay in the game. Sure, she wants to keep me in the youth ministry game, but more importantly, Ms. Kris has been around the block, and she’s hip to things that though I know them to be true, I still need to be reminded of from time to time. She knows that following Jesus is a marathon, not a sprint, so she encourages me to slow down and find healthier rhythms. She knows that doing ministry in the hood is hard, so she encourages me to express gratitude and count my blessings.

There’s this image I’ve been chewing on lately of Aaron holding up Moses’ arms in Exodus 17. He was tired; he was sore; he lacked energy, catch this – he couldn’t keep going. I don’t know you. But if Ms. Kris can help keep my arms raised from Vacaville, CA, so too can I from Lansing, MI to where ever you are:

Hey, you’re tired, family – Take a break. Talk to whoever you need to about building in time during your PAID HOURS for you to rest. You are worth that investment.

The frustration you feel about lacking the motivation to get up and go do what you need to do, I feel you. You’re not alone.

I want you to sit and marinade (dare I say “meditate”) on why you got into this wacky world in the first place. You’ve been a part of the proverbial needle being moved in the life of a young person. Probably more than 1. Definitely, more than you’re aware of.

I know you have busted your ace over the last 18 months, and yet you feel like you wasted a year and a half of your professional career – But it wasn’t a waste, and you’re not defined by the work you do.

The Kingdom needs you in the game. You do play a vital role! 

Who can you encourage? Who can you speak life into? Our students, our volunteers. How about the custodian at the middle school? How can you help keep his arms raised? Or the teacher who is overwhelmed, we need her in the game too! The guy who runs sound and PowerPoint in the main service – How will you encourage him?

Ms. Kris prays for me – the health and well-being of my soul, my leadership, my safety, my endurance, my heart, and on and on and on. She prays for the students involved in our organization.

I want you to trust me when I say that I am praying for all of those same things for you and so much more.

If James weren’t an encouraging guy, I’d clown him for it. May we say the same of each other. May this generation of youth workers be known for their encouragement to everyone around them.

Love you, family.

Patrick Sauer is the Executive Director of Streets 517 in Lansing, Michigan.

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