2 pillars of encouragement in these negative times
I heard about a group of frogs that were hopping through the forest one afternoon, when two of them suddenly stumbled into a pit. All the other frogs looked over the side and said, “Oh no! That’s so deep! You’re as good as dead. You’ll never get out of there.”
But those two little frogs didn’t want to stay in that pit — it was cold and dark down there — and started jumping and jumping for all they were worth. When they kept falling short of their goal, the frogs on top yelled out, “You’re gonna die. Just give up. There’s no way.”
Their advice was so discouraging that one of the frogs actually gave up and died (croaked). But the other frog refused to give up. He kept jumping and jumping. And finally, much to every frog’s surprise, he leaped up to the rim and pulled himself out of the pit.
The other frogs said, “Didn’t you hear us? We told you that you’d never get out.” But the little frog who escaped said, “Oh, sorry. I’m hard of hearing. I thought you were cheering me on.”
We live in a culture of discouraging words today, and maybe you’ve absorbed some of that in recent days. You can’t miss it if you go on social media and encounter all the internet trolls and the ridiculous, mean-spirited vitriol and comments they’ll make. Turn on the news, and it’s even more discouraging. Sometimes it seems like we’re in a national race to follow Sodom and Gomorrah.
All of that negativity, of course, has an effect on the mental health of our nation — especially young people. Depression and suicide rates have gone off the charts. And a recent survey found that fully half of all Americans feel left out, and over half feel that no one knows them well — or cares.
But it’s not just young people. Many senior adults are seeking a word of hope, and a reason to believe their lives still matter.
What do all these people have in common? They need a word of encouragement! They need to know they are needed, loved, and appreciated.
Real encouragement, of course — the kind that endures — comes from God Himself. Remember what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians?
"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word" (2 Thessalonians 2:16, NIV).
In addition to the 24/7 love, fellowship, and counsel of God’s Holy Spirit, He has given us two strong pillars of encouragement in these negative times. I’m talking about the Word of God and the people of God.
Encouragement in the Word
Maybe, like the two frogs in my story, you have found yourself in a deep hole of discouragement. You have found yourself thinking, “I’m such a failure. I’ve always failed and probably always will.” But God has a response to dark thoughts like those. In Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) we read: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The two key words in this verse are “through Christ.” No, you can’t do “all things” on your own, or even very many things. No one can. And maybe you have failed and found yourself on a dead-end pathway. But God will meet you there! If you call out to Him, He will forgive you, give you a second chance, and get you up on your feet — through Jesus Christ who strengthens you.
Maybe someone reading this would say, “I’m just so anxious about the future. There’s so much out there that could go wrong!” Yes, in a world like this, there certainly is. But in Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT) the Lord says, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
You might say, “I have no future, and I have no hope.” But listen to what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 130:5 (NLT):
"I am counting on the Lord;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word."
Where will you find hope? That is where you will find hope. In the Word of God. You won’t find it online or on social media or in newspapers or cable TV. But God’s Word has been pulling men and women out of pits and putting them on good pathways for years beyond counting.
So yes, the Word of God is great encouragement beyond comparison.
But we also need God’s people in our lives to infuse our souls with courage and walk with us through the hard times.
The power of an encourager
In the book of Acts, an encourager named Barnabas stepped into the life of Saul-who-became-Paul at just the right moment. Paul was a new Christian with a scary track record of persecuting believers, and the church in Jerusalem didn’t want to have anything to do with him.
But Barnabas believed Paul’s conversion story, took him under his wing, and encouraged him in the Lord. Eventually, they went on missionary journeys together, where Paul discovered his powerful spiritual gifts of preaching and teaching. After a while, Barnabas was content to let his new friend take the lead, and from then on they were “Paul and Barnabas.”
Where would Paul have been without this encourager who stepped into his life at just the right moment? And where would we have been? Because Paul went on to write 13 books of our New Testament.
That’s what an encourager does. He or she sees the potential in others, cheers them on, and stands by them when things get tough. How important is that? I think we won’t begin to realize how crucial such encouragers are until we get to Heaven and see the big picture.
Have you been encouraged by someone like that? And how about you? Do you know a younger Christian right now? They need someone like you to be a Barnabas in their life and to strengthen them in their walk of faith because no one can make it as a solo Christian. We need more people like Barnabas to step into the gap.
A guy named Mark did this for me. I became a Christian in high school. I had been using drugs at the time, and my life was going in the wrong direction. I heard the Gospel from some Christians at lunchtime on my campus, and had a radical conversion experience, giving my life to Jesus.
But I didn’t know what to do next. There was a little on-campus Bible study I started attending, but they had a weird guest speaker one day, and I didn’t feel comfortable. There were a little too many “Praise the Lords” and “Hallelujahs” for me at that moment.
So, I told myself that I would just be a solo Christian and do it on my own. In reality, I was right on the edge of giving it all up and falling away.
That’s when another student named Mark walked up to me — seemingly out of nowhere — introduced himself and invited me to church.
I told him I didn’t want to go to church. He said, “What’s your address? I’ll pick you up.”
So, the next thing I knew, I was in a car going to church, because Mark was persistent. And that’s when I walked into Calvary Chapel at the epicenter of the Jesus Movement in Southern California. I was surrounded by worshiping people, took a seat in the front row, and Pastor Chuck Smith came out and gave a message from the Bible. And from that moment on, I was hooked.
Who made the difference in my life? A guy named Mark — someone I barely knew. Who made the difference in the apostle Paul’s life? A guy named Barnabas.
Can you be that Mark or Barnabas for somebody else?
It may be one of the most important things you will ever do.
Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. “Jesus Revolution,” a feature film about Laurie’s life from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, releases in theaters February 24, 2023.