Years ago I helped run a summer camp with several other Youth Pastors from a group of local churches. One year, the camp administrator had an idea to try something new. It was an event that we called a “Blessing Service”.
The purpose of this service was to allow the adult leaders at the camp to speak into the lives of the students…to pray over them and speak words of encouragement to them. To bless them in this way. We as leaders liked the idea of this service, but had no idea how the students would receive it.
A few days into the week of camp, the night of the Blessing Service arrived. All of the adults stood around the room, and all of the students found a seat. Once everyone was in there, the camp administrator took a minute to explain everything to the students, then he stepped back and let things begin. The mood of the room was very quiet and calm.
After a few awkward moments of silence, some students began to get up and make their way to an adult. What happened next ended up being the memory of a lifetime.
As the adult leaders began to pray over and speak words of encouragement into the lives of the students, emotions became hard to contain. Students were in tears, and often so were the adults.
It started with just a few students being brave enough to get up, but eventually every student was going up to adults. Lines would form as students stood waiting to have an adult pray over them and encourage them.
I remember at one point, when I had a few moments with no students to speak to, I just stepped back to watch all that was happening. And it was so overwhelming. To the point I actually had to sit down on the floor…like I didn’t have the strength to stand…and I began to cry. Because of how beautiful this all was, because of how much I could sense the spirit at that moment, because of seeing so many people praying and encouraging one another, and also because of the sad truth that this isn’t more common.
I believe that is one reason why this service was so powerful. Because the sad truth is, this was something that probably didn’t happen all that often in the student’s lives. And even in the lives of the adults there, this was powerful for us too because again it was rare.
Why? Why is something like that so rare?
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up
We are commanded to encourage and build each other up as Followers of Christ. So why is being blessed with encouragement and prayer something that can be rare for a lot of us?
It is very common to hear discouraging and negative comments in this world. We need to be people who are known more for words of encouragement rather than discouraging words. And as Followers of Christ, we should be the first to offer a compliment, a word of prayer, an encouragement, or something else to that builds up those around us.
Also, truthfully speaking, we need to surround ourselves with people who speak words of encouragement. One thing we often minimize, or even neglect to admit to ourselves, is that the people we surround our self with have a pretty big influence on us. With their actions, as well as with their words.
I’m in no way saying if we are Followers of Christ, we are never allowed to do things like joke or be sarcastic, or have times when we feel negative and express it. Absolutely not! Nor am I saying we can’t spend time with people who do the same.
Joking and being sarcastic can be a good thing (as long as it’s appropriate and not hurtful)…we need to be able to laugh and not be serious. And being honest about our feelings when we are feeling negative is also a good thing…we have to be able to share our emotions with people we trust, good and bad.
BUT, if our norm is to be that way, or if that is the norm for those we spend time with, then that is something we may need to seek to minimize. What is most common about us is what we will become known for, and what is most common about those we spend time with will have an influence in our life.
As Followers of Christ, it is important that we take seriously the words that come out of our mouth when we speak to others, as well as the words we allow into our mind and heart from others. We should be surrounding ourselves with people who encourage and build up, and we should be those same kinds of people too…the kind of people that others would want to surround themselves with.
Ok…so how we can begin to apply this…
Philippians 4:8 says – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things
Think through the people you regularly spend time with. Friends, family, coworkers, etc. As you think about them, ask your self these questions:
- Do their words usually point you to what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise?
- Does what they speak to you encourage and build you up regularly?
- Do their words consistently point you toward Christ and following him?
Evaluate those who have a regular voice in your life by these questions. For the people that do, figure out how to make sure they continue to have a prominent voice in your life. But if there are those that do not, consider how to minimize their voice in your life (unfortunately, we can’t always remove people like that…but we can minimize).
Who should you be hanging out with more…and who should you be hanging out with less?
1 Corinthians 15:33 says – Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
As you seek to Simply Follow Jesus in this life, make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who encourage you and point you in that direction, not who drag you down and pull you away from going that direction.
It doesn’t matter how many cool toys they have, how cute they are, how fun they can be, how rich they are, or what they can do. What matters is if they encourage you and point you to Jesus.
ALSO, evaluate yourself by these same questions, to make sure you are someone who encourages and builds up.
- Do your words usually point them to what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise?
- Are those you speak to feeling encouraged and built up regularly?
- Do your words consistently point others toward Christ and following him?