Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (NKJV)
Some time ago, I led my Sunday School class in a study on spiritual gifts. It was just as much of a learning experience for me as it was for my class. There were spiritual gifts we discussed that I would never have realized were considered spiritual gifts had we not done this study. One of these was the gift of encouragement.
I will be the first to admit that this is not one of my spiritual gifts. Not only is it not one of my spiritual gifts, but it is an area which I really struggle with in my life. For some reason I just have a really hard time being the encourager to others that I should be. It is a whole lot easier for me to encourage a total stranger or a "passing" acquaintance than it is for me to offer encouraging words to my close friends and family. I think it is partly because of my competitive nature. Perhaps sometimes I feel that by encouraging someone else, I am giving them an advantage, or even admitting they are "better" than me.
I suppose this is why today's verse spoke to me so strongly and immediately when it was shared in a recent Bible study group. Upon hearing the verse, I took out a pen and wrote the scripture reference down on my hand (as I had no paper).
I think this is a problem area for Christians, and human beings in general. We live in a world that is so obsessed with "Me, Me, Me". We are taught in school and business to seek to better ourselves, to succeed at all costs. Because of this "Me Generation" in which we live, encouraging one another has become a lost art. But I think it is an art and a gift that we need to genuinely seek to restore to our lives.
All of us know how good it makes us feel when we do receive an encouraging word from someone else — whether it be a simple "Good job!" or a "You can do it!" Encouragement in our lives can make the daily tasks we face so much easier to handle and overcome.
We can offer encouragement in so many ways, many as easy as offering a smile to someone. And yet that simple smile of few words can "sharpen the countenance" of our friends. Many have heard the expression that smiling is contagious, and it is true. A smile offered to a friend will turn into a smile offered by that friend to another friend. Before one knows it, everyone around is smiling.
So as we go out today, let's look for an opportunity to encourage a friend or relative. Let us lift up their spirits, and we will find that our spirits will be lifted up as well.
Prayer: Our heavenly Father, we ask that you give each of us a desire and a heart for encouraging those around us, that we might spread and reflect your love to those around us. Amen.