“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established — that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Romans 1:11,12).

THE PROCESS OF ENCOURAGEMENT IS RARELY A ONE-WAY STREET. Almost without exception, the encourager is encouraged in the very act of trying to encourage someone else. And the reverse is also true. By neglecting to encourage others, we deprive ourselves of much-needed encouragement we might otherwise receive.

Paul’s relationship with the Christians in Rome is interesting. He expected, when he got to Rome, to encourage their faith, but he also expected to be encouraged by them as well. Great apostle though he was, he needed the mutual strengthening that would come from their association. He needed their strength hardly any less than they needed his. But his encouragement would come from helping them — not by saying, “What can you do for me?”

Perhaps the mutual nature of encouragement is one reason that so many of us spend so much time in the dark valleys of discouragement. We spend so little time trying to encourage anyone else, it’s little surprise that we find ourselves so downhearted. Epidemics of discouragement should be expected in societies that are as self-centered as ours. One of the most disheartening things in the world is to be focused on whether others are lifting us up and brightening our spirits as they “ought” to be doing.

But even when we’re encouraging others, we won’t be encouraged if we don’t listen to ourselves. When we’re figuring out what the other person needs to hear, we usually discover things that we need to hear, but those lessons will be lost on us if we don’t listen to our own instruction. And really, why should our friends take our advice if we’re not willing to take it ourselves? “Physician,” our friends might say, “heal yourself!” (Luke 4:23).

But teaching — whether by instruction, exhortation, or encouragement — can be a wonderfully beneficial exercise. It can help both parties, the giver no less than the recipient. So look for somebody to encourage. Find out what truth they need to hear, and then listen to that truth yourself. You’ll be encouraged.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own” (Ben Sweetland).

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

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