Discouragement will drain your energy, especially when you face trials. That’s why it’s very helpful to spend time with people who know how to encourage. Some people know just what to do or say to remind you that life is worthwhile, even in the midst of pain and failure. They know how to inspire when there seems to be nothing to hope for. Barnabas, an early follower of Jesus whose name means ‘son of encouragement,’ was just that kind of guy. Continue reading →
Spiritual growth is a fragile process. Without vigilance and encouragement from others, you live with the prospect of slipping back into sin. In the face of this, you need help from others who have courage and sensitivity toward your situation. Harsh condemnation will not help you, but neither will friends who flatter you with falsely positive words. Working with faithful support is what you need.
Consider John’s short letter in the book second John. In this letter, John balances condemnation and encouragement, proving himself to be a wise counselor and a great example to us. Recognize the past successes of others and affirm your brothers and sisters in Christ. At the same time, be willing to point out hazards ahead when you see them. Share your hard-won wisdom with warnings when necessary. Pointing out the obstacles ahead and encouraging others to be careful is the loving thing to do.
Loving one another is the most basic act of obedience to God. It’s also an essential element in your spiritual growth. At times, you may tend to focus inward and become self-centered. We live in a dog-eat-dog, every man for himself world. But that’s not Christianity. Remembering to be loving toward others will not only please God, but it will also help you to think of others and build good relationships.
How can men begin breaking through the masculine myth of ‘you-are-what-you-do’ and see that their true identity is in Jesus Christ. Once you grasp that, you can begin relating to other people, especially other men, apart from what they do. We must open up our schedules, set aside our Day-Timers, and get to the business of allowing our identity in Christ to liberate and transform our human relationships.
A friend named Nathan meets each week with a group of four other men to do what men rarely do. They purposely avoid talking about what they do in order to talk about who they are and how they feel. They’re learning to peel away the layers of ingrained masculine facade; to give and receive the nurture, affirmation, and encouragement they desperately need but are often too ‘manly’ to seek.
Recently Nathan shared a painful issue with his friends. His father lays dying in a nursing home. He’s incapacitated. His mind is totally gone. Nathan visits him, and helps dress and care for him. What he wants more than anything is to hear these words from his father before he dies: ‘Nathan, you’re a good son.’ But he knows he never will.
Nathan’s friends let him share these painful and vulnerable feelings, and offer consolation and encouragement as he deals with his pain and loss. There aren’t many men who function together as these five do. But that can change. And perhaps you’ll be part of that change.