Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Never Stop Encouraging

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says we’re called to encourage one another, and that includes online comments.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Why do we think if we write it on the Internet that that makes it okay? Here’s how you evaluate: Is this good for building up? Does it fit the occasion? Will it give grace to the person who hears it?

You don’t have to say everything you think.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for May 17, 2018.

Nancy: As I was putting this series on encouragement together, “Encouraging One Another,” I put a notice out on Facebook—some of you saw this. I just said, “Give me some examples of how others have encouraged you, and/or how the Lord has encouraged and strengthened you in discouraging times. We got so many neat answers to that. I want to share some of those in this program and the next one. But I want to focus on a couple categories that many of these fell into in today’s program.

This woman said:

My husband is a pastor, and twenty years ago we were going through a painful time in ministry. One day one of the ladies of the church came to my home just to give me a hug. No agenda, no complaints, just a hug from a sister in the Lord which said, “I’m standing with you in prayer and friendship. Then she prayed for me. Don’t ever underestimate the power of presence when someone is hurting.

And then this woman said:

There was a semester when four of my students died within a few weeks of each other. My roommate would sit on the floor and weep with me. She didn’t try to explain the situation. She knew me, knew I was hurting, and cried with me. Her willingness to enter into that grief meant so much, and it deepened the impact of her encouraging words later, as she prayed with me again and again and spoke truth that pointed my heart to the trustworthiness of Christ.

Now, there are lots of things that I could point out about those examples of encouragement, but two that kept recurring in the scores of responses that were posted on Facebook were the area of prayer and the area of words—prayer and encouraging words.

One woman said: 

What encourages me is people praying with me and for me. Hearing people pray over me gives me spiritual strength.

I understand that exactly. I found so many times, in fact, over the years as we’ve done these recording days, since the very earliest days, at the beginning of the session, before we actually came into the room like this, right before, some of our team would come around me, would lay hands, would stand around, would pray for me and for that day. And hearing them pray . . . I’ve had this happen thousands of times in my life where in a hard place, just hearing somebody pray would minister grace and encouragement to my heart—or hearing that they were praying for me.

I meet people as I travel who say, “I pray for you every day.” People I don’t even know! And I’m thinking, That is amazing! That encourages my heart. That infuses me with grace and strength.

So I want to challenge you in this area of prayer—praying for people.

One of the Facebook responses said: 

A friend in college once gave me a 3x5 notecard and the only thing written on it were dates. It was full of dates—front and back. She told me those were the days she had prayed for me over the last few months! She gave that tangible picture—‘These are the days I’ve been praying for you.’ That ministered grace.

Another woman said: 

I am always encouraged when someone tells me the Lord has laid me on their heart and that they are praying for me. It is a confirmation that the Lord remembers me. It’s not just that the praying friend remembers you, but that the Lord remembered you because the Lord is the one who prompted that praying friend to pray for you.

Another friend of mine, actually, one of our staff who serves remotely in another state, said: 

What encourages me is a simple text or call just at the right time, just to say, ‘I’m here, and I’m praying for you.’ That strengthens and encourages me.

Have you experienced that? People saying, “I’m praying for you”? Then, can we not be that kind of encourager to someone else?

But not only praying for, but praying with—on phone, in person. Do it now! Don’t just say, “I’ll pray for you.” Do it now, if you possibly can.

It’s become a habit, and I think it’s somebody who earlier influenced me on this. It was a man named Steve Douglass, who is now the president of CRU, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ. I’ve known Steve all my life, and I’ve had many conversations with him over the years—phone calls about this or that. I’ve learned that that man has a habit. He talks to a lot of people over the phone. But when he ever has a phone call with anybody he closes it by saying, “Could I pray for you?”

I learned this years ago from Steve. I can’t say I do it every time, but it certainly is a part of my thinking. It’s a para diem for me. It’s become a part of many of our staff when we’re talking with somebody who’s called in to ask for help with something, for counseling or for prayer, or for something they want to purchase, or whatever, to say, “Can I pray for you?”

Ask this question frequently, “How can I pray for you?” or “Can I just pray for you right now?”

Robert and I do this a lot as we’re out and about. Robert does it a lot as he meets people. We do it when we’re together. If we’re in the aisle of the church after a service, if we’re out for a walk, we run into somebody, and we’ll often say, especially to brothers and sisters in Christ, but sometimes even to non-believers—somebody waiting on us at a restaurant, “Is there something we could pray about for you? Can I pray for you?” And then do it now. Pray with those sisters. You can do this to someone in a text, too, or on email.

I sent an email or a text—I can’t remember which—the other day to someone who needed prayer. We weren’t talking to each other, but I just wrote out a prayer, what I was praying for God to do for that person at that moment.

So prayer is a huge means of encouraging each other. And then words—words have such power to impart grace and strength and courage. Words also have power to kill and destroy and wound and damage. That’s what Proverbs says. “The power of life and death is in the tongue.”

We sometimes focus on how destructive words can be, but I don’t know if we realize how powerful encouraging words can be.

I was interviewing a woman recently, and we were talking about kindness. She told about how her research has shown that a lot of women think kind, appreciative things about their husbands, but they never say it. They’re thinking it, and they just must assume that he feels the joy and the love and the encouragement. Then they realize, “I need to say it—not just think it—but say it.”

Put words to it. Words have such power.

Proverbs 16, verse 24, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (NKJV).

Ephesians 4, verse 29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, [How much? None!] but only [This is a great bar for our words—a measuring stick) such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Do you think that just applies at church? I think it’s supposed to apply everywhere. Don’t let any useless words, corrupting words come out of your mouth, but only such as is good. This is when we’re talking about anything, including, might I say, politics. This is including not just words we say verbally, but words we write.

I had something happen to me on a website the other day where I had posted something. I get a lot of encouragement, and I’m very, very grateful for that. I have so many encouraging friends and supporters of this ministry.

But some woman I don’t know posted a really snarky response to something that I had written on there, and my heart just felt stabbed. Now, I don’t know how she meant it, but I know how I took it. It really hurt. It’s just such a good reminder . . . why do we think because we write it on the Internet that that makes it okay?

Here’s how you evaluate:

  • Is this good for building up?
  • Does it fit the occasion?
  • Will it give grace to the person who hears it?

You don’t have to say everything you think. (laughter.) Nor do I. (laughter) Make a note of that. You didn’t know that. Right?

“Only speak such as is good for building up.” How would this change the climate in your home? How would it change the climate in your work place? How would it change the climate in your church if people only spoke things that were good for building up—as fits the occasion—that it gives grace to those who hear.

Does that mean you can only ever say sweet, kind, gentle things? Don’t you ever say hard things? Yes, hard things can be good for building up. It can fit the occasion and can give grace to those who hear. But make sure that’s why you’re saying it, and make sure you’re saying it in such a way that it will give grace, that it will encourage.

Well, Song of Solomon chapter 4, verse 11, this groom talks about his bride, and he says, “Honey and milk are under your tongue.”

What does honey do? It strengthens. It gives energy. What does milk do? It strengthens weak bones, immature bones. Little children, little babies, need to drink that mother’s milk.

“Honey and milk are under your tongue.” What does that mean? Your words are life-giving. They’re strengthening. They’re encouraging.

That’s a way to measure and evaluate our words: Are they honey and milk? Or are they vinegar? Are they something bitter?

Proverbs 12, verse 25, “Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.”

You’ve experienced that, haven’t you? Haven’t you been on the receiving end of that? You’ve been in a time when you’re anxious, and your heart is weighed down, but somebody speaks a good word, and it just lifts your spirit. Now, who can you do that for today? Who around you is anxious, their heart is weighed down, and you can speak a good word, a promise of God, a truth from God’s Word that will encourage and cheer their heart?

There are a couple of illustrations of this in the Scripture that shows the power of encouraging words. One is found in 2 Chronicles chapter 32, where Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, invaded Judah. He was a ruthless, vicious king. He terrified the people with his threats. Hezekiah was the king of Judah, and the Scripture tells us that he strengthened himself; he fortified the capital city; he made defensive weapons, and then he gave the most helpful thing that the moment could have used. Second Chronicles chapter 32, beginning in verse 6: 

Then he set military captains over the people, gathered them together to him in the open square of the city gate, and gave them encouragement, saying (encouraging words], ‘Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. [That’s because God’s with us.] With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (vv. 6–8 NKJV).

In the middle of the battle, the people were discouraged. They were terrified. They were fearful. And here the king, who could have been fearful himself, said, “Wait a minute! You lost perspective. We’ve got more on our side than they have on their side.” He strengthened their hearts with his words.

Here’s another illustration found in the book of Nehemiah, chapter 4. Nehemiah has been sent to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and the task is enormous, and the workers are discouraged.

Then in Nehemiah, chapter 4, verse 10, it says, “In Judah it was said, ‘The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.’”

So the people were discouraged. There was so much work. They didn’t know how to keep pressing on. And then, to add to that, there were enemies around them who were determined to stop the work. And these enemies tried to discourage and intimidate the Jews with threats.

Verse 11, “And our enemies said, ‘They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.’”

So here they used words to create fear and terror. And even some of their fellow Jews spoke negative, discouraging words relentlessly.

Look at verse 12, “At that time the Jews who lived near them [near our enemies] came from all directions and said to us ten times, ‘You must return to us.’” 

So here are these poor people trying to do the work. They’re exhausted. There’s all this kind of rubble. They can’t get the work done. It’s hard enough job as it is. And then there are these enemies saying, “We’re going to come and kill you, and you won’t know what happened until you’re dead. And then the work will stop.” And even some of their fellow Jews are listening to the enemies and saying, again and again and again, “Return to us. Stop the work on the wall.”

Well, Nehemiah tightened security, and then he bolstered the people’s hearts by speaking words of faith.

Verse 13, “So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes’” (vv. 13–14).

He spoke encouraging words of faith. And what happened? The people were encouraged to go back to work.

Look at verse 15, “When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.”

It’s hard work building the Body of Christ, building a household of God, a household of faith, building the kingdom of God in this world, but we don’t do it alone. We need each other. We need to encourage one another. And we do this through our prayers, through our words. We do this through our words as we speak the Word to others.

I have some friends, a family of seven, who were heading on a trip not too long ago with five young children. It was a long drive ahead, and they just had a lot going on in their family. One of their little girls had just been really, really sick. They were heading home for a family wedding, but there was also a family member who was expected to die while they were there. So they knew they were probably heading not only to a wedding, but also to a funeral. There was a lot going on.

I just set a text to this sweet mom as they were heading out, and I said, “Read Psalm 121.” She read it to her family in the car. She texted me back and said, “That is exactly what we needed.”

What does that psalm say? “The Lord will keep you in all your ways. He will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.” The Word is the Word that ministers hope.

Words of gratitude. Words of appreciation. Words of affirmation.

I’ve been talking with these two young college students I’ve mentioned who are struggling with some major sin habits in their lives. They’ve made some huge mistakes—sins—let’s call it that. But as we’ve been talking about how they’ve failed to keep God’s Word, I’ve kept encouraging them. I’ve pointed out where I’ve seen evidence of grace in their lives, where I see growth in their lives.

And when they’ve made a right choice, in light of all the wrong choices they’ve made, I make a big deal about the right choice. I want them to be encouraged and to know that, as hard as it is to get back to a right place, there is grace, there is hope.

I want them to know they can come and share their heart, and they’re going to get encouragement, that there is someone who is cheering for them.

The words we share can be verbal—voice mail, phone calls—or they can be written—email, notes, cards, birthdays, anniversaries.

I have a sweet friend named Suzanne Dudgeon who, for years, has every time we send out something from the ministry that’s an update—she knows more about what’s going on in this ministry sometimes than I do—will write. I will say she'll write at least monthly. She’s got this round, scribbly sort of handwriting . . . it’s better than mine. At least you can read it! She writes all around the page if she runs out of space. She writes in the margins. She’ll just encourage. “I’m praying for you and Robert. So grateful for you. Thank you for being faithful. I love what you taught on last week.” Suzanne is an encourager in my life.

I got this email from a friend some time ago. She said,

My Dear Friend,

It is 2:00 AM, and you are heavy on my heart and in my prayers. I just want to encourage you that all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears it takes in preparation for your speaking and writing are making a difference in many lives! Because you are on the front lines, I just wanted you to know you have someone lifting up your arms in the battle through prayer while you sleep!

How many of you, when you were a young mom and in that battle, it would have meant the world to you to get an email saying that, or a text? Prayer is encouragement; words of encouragement.

Let me share a few more of the things our Facebook readers commented on when I ask what encouraged them.

One woman said: 

Last year, our family was struggling financially due to a job loss. I was talking to an older, dear friend of mine from church, and she said to me, 'Yes, you are going through hard times, but you are going through them TOGETHER' (meaning my husband and me). This woman is a widow, and she has a deeper understanding of the gift of a spouse. Her words really did change my perspective and helped me focus on what I did have instead of what I didn’t have.

Another woman said: 

I have a sweet, godly friend who would have me over when I was going through a hard time, fix me a salad, listen, and then respond with God’s Word, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. She would speak the Word gently and encourage me to just keep on for the Lord, tell me that He would use this circumstance to glorify Himself in some way, and remind me that I would be able to help someone in the future, and that it was a small suffering compared to what my Jesus did for me! I always left refreshed and ready to face it my problems.”

That’s a life-giving friend who comes alongside and encourages. Are you that kind of friend?

Let me close with this email. I have a friend in ministry who sends out regular prayer updates to his supporters and praying friends. I thought this one really beautifully illustrates the power of prayer and encouraging words. He said,

Dear praying friends,

I believe that the prayers of many dear intercessors have raised my mother up from a point that seemed to be very near despair and death. She has been in the hospital for about a month, and her prognosis was not good.

Recently I sent out an email and asked those who felt led to do so to send a card or Scripture to encourage her. So many of you wrote to her. Let me share the power of what happened through your cards. 

A week and a half ago, mom was in a deep, clinical depression. Then the cards began to come in. The recurring message written in almost every card was: ‘God loves you, and we’re praying for you.’

Mom knows the Lord, but has had a hard time for years realizing in the deep part of her heart that Jesus REALLY loves her. God used you to remind her of what she had known in her mind, and it entered her heart. She would be sitting in a room of people in a group therapy session and come out with the words, 'God loves me.' Or I would just be visiting her, and her eyes would twinkle, and she would say, 'God loves me.' 

I would reply, 'Yes, Mom, He does love you.' 

And she would say, 'And He loves you too, son. Don't ever forget it.' 

The nurse called me Monday and said that we could take her home! As we drove home her attitude was so positive, and she was so full of happiness. Her first action upon arriving home was to make her way over to the piano and play a hymn of praise to the Lord. The change in her in one week is truly a miracle, and there is not any possible explanation for it but the faithfulness of God to a little lady who many were lifting to the Throne of Grace!

As I was helping her get unpacked from her time in the hospital, I read through the cards that she received, and the consistent message of the love of God was in each one. At the bottom of each of them Mom had rewritten the message of each card. In her shaky handwriting it said over and over, 'God loves me.' At some point in all this that message had become a living Truth to her.

Thank you for allowing the Lord to use you as a channel of His love.

The power of encouragement—encouraging prayers, encouraging words.

Leslie: Wow! If we could provide that kind of encouragement to others, who knows the effect it could have.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been in a series called, “Encouraging One Another.” Now, you’ve heard this message in English, but it has the potential of going far beyond the English-speaking world. Here’s Nancy to explain why.

Nancy: Several weeks ago I was sitting in a meeting with the leadership team here at Revive Our Hearts, and Bryan, our digital director, put up on the screen a prototype of a new website that his team has been working on.

It lets users choose different languages, whatever language they speak. Right now it’s got Spanish, French, Farsi (the language which is spoken in the Persian world), and Portuguese. Once a user chooses a language, they can explore dozens of programs from the Revive Our Hearts archives in their language. So women in various countries around the world can use this site to share biblical messages with women in their own language.

I’m so excited to see how the Lord’s going to use this new initiative to set free women around the world as they’re able to hear biblical truth.

Now, the reason we’ve been able to initiate this project is thanks to listeners who’ve given to support this ministry. As I’ve been sharing with you over the last few weeks, here in the month of May, we’re facing some serious needs.

This is the end of our fiscal year, and to wrap up this budget cycle in a healthy place, and to be able to move forward on projects, like the one I just shared with you, we’re asking the Lord to provide at least $680,000 by May 31. That will make it possible for our current ongoing ministries to continue, and we’d like to add many more languages to this website so we can offer hope to more women around the globe and point them to Christ. We need your help to do that.

If you’d like to partner with us at this important time, you can make a donation online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959. I want to just say, “Thank you so much for helping Revive Our Hearts spread the Truth, the Truth about Christ, that is setting women free.”

Leslie: Everybody knows what it’s like to be encouraged with words. Nancy says you can also encourage others through your example. She’ll tell you how to do it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Now she’s back to wrap up today’s program on being kind—whether it’s online or anywhere we communicate.

Nancy: Some encourage us to be sensitive and alert to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to opportunities to encourage and exhort one another. This may not be a natural way of speaking for you. It may be like a second language for some of us. It’s not natural for me.

I have shared before on this program of how my husband, who is a superb encourager and knows that I’m an editor by trade, has said to me on occasion, “Are you being my editor or my encourager?” And even that is encouraging to me because I don’t want to be his editor. I want to be his encourager. I want to be your encourager.

I get paid . . . I mean, my living is looking for mistakes in books, in messages. That’s what I am programmed to do, to look for what’s wrong. So every word in a book is spelled correctly, but the one that’s spelled incorrectly, that’s the one my eye is going to gravitate to.

Well, it’s easy for me to take that approach in relationships, too—with our team, my family. I’m challenged by the example of my husband’s life, and the example of many of you, to become an encourager, to encourage and exhort one another, and to learn that even if it’s not natural, it can be cultivated as we let God encourage us in order to become channels of His encouragement to others.

Thank You, Lord, for being the God of all encouragement, the God of all consolation, the God of all comfort. How You pour encouragement into us through Your Word and by Your Spirit. Would You make us instruments, channels of encouragement in the lives of others—life-giving, energy-giving—blessings others with our words and with our prayers? I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to encourage you so you can encourage others. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the CSB unless otherwise noted.

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