In my daily Bible reading, I recently re-read the amazing story of Nehemiah, the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. This servant’s heart was broken over the dire state of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah dared to ask the king for assistance in granting him the ability to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, which had been demolished during the captivity of the Babylonians. This once great city in Israel was in disarray, with its walls broken down and its gates burned.
The king was supportive, not only in granting Nehemiah’s request to have leave to do the repairs, but also in granting him the resources that were needed to rebuild the city.
However, almost immediately upon his arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah and his party were confronted with a completely different attitude—coming from a couple of the locals who weren’t keen on seeing Jerusalem become a great city again.
In these few chapters, we have before us two examples of real responses to others. The king was encouraging, but the men who confronted Nehemiah were not. They were discouraging and intimidating.
It is easy to be a discourager, a “naysayer” who only offers a negative perspective. But there is something beautiful about being around a person who possesses a helpful tone, a lending hand, and a positive word.
That latter person causes us to have an extra bounce in our step, and a bit more hope in our heart.
The apostle Paul had such a friend in Barnabas, whose very name means “son of encouragement.”
In the Old Testament, Moses brought Joshua into his care and encouragement, mentoring him and giving him the freedom to linger in the presence of God. After Moses died, Joshua continued to be encouraged by God Himself, when the Lord challenged Joshua to be “strong and courageous.”
And in the Book of John, we see that love itself is a form of encouragement, when John instructs us to “love one another as God so love you” (John 15:12).
A great goal for this new year would be this: Find a way to encourage your spouse, your children, or your friends. Take the extra step, and dare to be different. Voice optimism, believe the best, and lend a hand.
It will not only make a difference in others, but you’ll feel better in your own heart as well.