The Valuable Gift of Encouragement By: Jerry W. McAtee In 1 Kings 19:1-16 one finds that Elijah went from the mountaintop to the pit in a very short period of time. Criticism from Jezebel made him afraid; as a result, he decided to abandon his ministry. So, he dismissed his servant, a sign of the abandonment of his ministry, and headed to the desert. In the desert he told God that he was no better than other men and asked him to take his life. This striking story really hit home with me as my wife and I were going through a long period of discouragement while serving as missionaries. Our 12 years under appointment as missionaries in the Middle East and North Africa have allowed us to see just how devastating criticism and constant undermining of a called servant of the Lord can be. It tends to grind away like sand in one's shoes taking away creativity, joy, fellowship and spiritual vitality. The constant stream of verbal and non-verbal abuse and other negative forces take their toll on a person. We have seen it take down new and veteran missionaries to the point that they have resigned their appointment and gone home discouraged, disillusioned and depressed. On the other hand when the missionary has a good, understanding support system, he or she is more likely to work through the situation and becomes like Elijah. God gave Elijah rest, food, spiritual renewal and put a new song in his heart. He was put back to work; a new creation was made. If we allow Him to do so, God will use these difficult situations for His good and ultimate will in our lives. For Elijah, he was carried up by God with the chariots of fire and appeared with Jesus and Moses in the transfiguration. Verses from Deuteronomy and Hebrews remind us of the powerful role of encouragement. Deuteronomy 3:28(NIV): "But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see." Hebrews 10:24 (NLT): "Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds." The world is full of discouragers. Even though our lives/ministries are busy, our minds/hearts sometimes full of concerns, and we are spread around the world, let's think of ways we can nurture each other as a team. Stop and take time to affirm and encourage your fellow missionaries, national friends and family members. God has commissioned us to reach the unreached. Let us continue the gift of encouraging each other so that as a team we can more effectively mobilize the Christian Church to claim the unreached for Christ. Many a time a word of praise, thanks, appreciation or cheer has kept a person on their feet. Blessed is the person who speaks such a word.
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