Cultivating Outward Habits
As we talk about different habits we can cultivate as we draw closer to Christ, there will be things we can do that focus on “us” – habits that challenge our own heart as we listen to God and pour out ourselves to Him. There will also be habits that focus more “outward” – habits that will not only challenge our hearts, but be of immediate value to people around us. Often, the habits we cultivate will have both an effect on our lives and on the people around us.
Look for Opportunities to Encourage
One of the practical ways that we can “love our neighbours as ourselves” (Mark 12:33) is keeping an eye out for things that may encourage them. As we do this, we find ourselves less self-centred. Drawing our strength from Christ’s love, we are even able to put their needs before our own. When we do this, we are able to display to both our own hearts and to theirs what Christ’s sacrificial others-centeredness looks like.
Some Practical Ways to Be an Encouragement
How can I practically encourage my friend? I’m sure there are ideas you have – you have to know your friend to know what works best for them. Here are some tips and ideas to help you get started or be creative:
- Set time apart to give them your undivided attention.
- Get them their favourite drink or chocolate.
- Write out a letter about what you appreciate about them and slip it into their bag.
- Put a post-it note with a verse or a quote on their desk.
- Ask questions (when appropriate).
- Be quiet and listen when that’s what they need.
- Point them back to Christ when they’re going through something.
- Never take their situation too lightly – genuinely care.
- Don’t make a bigger deal about problems than what they really are.
- Say something nice. Not clichéd, just genuinely nice.
Spiritually Encourage Your Brothers and Sisters
As Scripture talks about encouraging each other, it invariably revolves around some aspect of faith in Christ, right living, and persevering in righteousness. As we learn to encourage our friends, it is easy for us just to be nice and make them feel better. But that is not the heart of Christian encouragement.
We need to encourage each other to grow spiritually. We need to challenge each other to choose the right thing even when it’s not our inclination. We need to be willing to have these difficult conversations, showing the audacious love of Christ, so that the Spirit can infuse in us the courage to keep walking with Him.
We can also extend Christ’s love to those who don’t know Him by the way we interact with them when they’re going through tough times. Look for opportunities you can practically help them. The things we listed earlier are still great ways to do this. As often as you get the opportunity, point them to the hope Christ offers.
Live it Out
Write someone’s name on your wrist, or on a sticky note on your desk or in your pencil case. When you see that person today, use one of these practical ways to encourage them.