Would People Say This About You?

I was reading the words of Paul this week in 2 Timothy and something jumped out at me.

"As you know, everyone from the province of Asia has deserted me—even Phygelus and Hermogenes.  May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me.  He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me.  May the Lord show him special kindness on the day of Christ’s return.  And you know very well how helpful he was in Ephesus."  2 Timothy 1:15-18

Paul wrote these words about a man named Onesiphorus.  He said Onesiphorus was an encourager.  Though Onesiphorus is only mentioned briefly in Scripture, he left a great legacy.  A legacy of encouraging others.  In this passage, we see the marks of an encourager.

An encourager walks in when everyone else walks out.  Paul wrote these words from a prison cell in Rome.  Chained like a common criminal, he sits in a cold dungeon.  He is alone.  It seems everyone else has walked out on him.  He says so in verse 15, lamenting the fact that even those he counted on the most...Phygelus and Hermogenes...had deserted him.  Everyone had walked away from him...except Onesiphorus.  When everyone else left, he stayed.  

Anyone can say nice things when everything is going well.  Anyone can jump on the bandwagon of success.  But it's in someone's darkest hour that a true encourager emerges.  It's when you are in chains, an encourager appears.  Whether it's chains of addiction, affliction or assault, they rally to you.  When everyone else has written you off, an encourager writes your name on their schedule.  An encourager walks in when you are down for the count.  An encourager walks in with hope when you have lost all hope.  An encourager refuses to write you off when everyone else has.  An encourager believes in you when everyone else has lost faith in you.  An encourager cheers for you when everyone else is booing.

An encourager does so with his or her words.  If only we realized just how powerful our words are.  An encourager speaks hope.  An encourager speaks affirmation.  An encourager speaks the truth in love with the intent of helping us become a better person.  An encourager uses his or her words to build up rather than tear down.  An encourager says "you got this" when everyone else is doubting you.

An encourager does so through acts of kindness and service.  Paul also says that Onesiphorus "SHOWED him kindness."  A true encourager not only encourages through words, but through their actions as well.  An encouraging note left on the desk of a co-worker.  A meal brought to someone who's had a rough week.  A tank of gas bought.  A yard mowed for someone who's had surgery and is recovering.  You can encourage with words and make an impact, but when you couple it with an act of encouragement, the impact it makes is exponential.

An encourager looks for opportunities to encourage others.  Paul said that Onesiphorus "searched everywhere until he found me."  Rome was a big city.  I wonder how many jails Onesiphorus had to go to before he found Paul?  It took him awhile, because Paul said he searched everywhere until he found him.  Onesiphorus was intentional about looking for the person he wanted to encourage.

Yes.  Sometimes an opportunity to encourage someone will fall into the lap of an encourager.  But most of the time, the encouragement is the result of the encourager being intentional.  An encourager starts their day by asking God to give them an opportunity to help someone.  An encourager keeps their eyes on the needs of others more than on their own personal needs.  An encourager is led in real time by the Holy Spirit to divine appointments.   

An encourager goes the distance with people.  Paul also says that Onesiphorus "often" visited him.  Many times, when someone is grieving the loss of someone, the hardest time is not immediately after the person passes, but a few weeks later.  Why?  That's normally when people stop calling and supporting them as much.  As life goes on, people get caught back up in the whirlwind and forget to keep encouraging.  

But encouragement like Paul is talking about is not a one and one.  It goes the distance with people.  It says "I'm on this journey with you all the way to the end."  Onesiphorus encouraged Paul through his time in prison and even to his execution.  

An encourager commits to staying with someone for the long haul.  It says "no matter what happens, no matter how rough things may get, no matter what we face,  no matter where the road takes us, I will be by your side."

An encourager does so just by being there.  The verse also says Onesiphorus often "visited" Paul.  He came and spent time with Paul.  There will be times as an encourager, when you won't know what to say.  There will be times when the situation the person is facing is so overwhelming that it will overwhelm you as well and will leave you speechless.  There will be times when your words will seem so empty and shallow when compared to the gravity of the problem the person is facing.  When that happens, its okay.  Sometimes the only encouragement you can offer people is your presence.  The person won't remember what you said anyways.  But they will remember that you were there.  They will remember that you cried with them.  They will remember that you held their hand.  They will remember that you hugged them.  They will remember that you held them up as they were overwhelmed and knocked down by grief and pain.  

At times, this is just what God does for us as well, isn't it.  Remember what He says in Psalm 23?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are with me."

Notice that God doesn't promise to give us all the answers in the moment.  He doesn't promise that we will understand everything at the time.  He doesn't promise to take the hurt and pain away in the moment.  But what He does promise is to be with us.  And as an encourager, you can be God's arms of love and support wrapping around the person...even when you have no answers or words that are adequate enough to share.  Notice, Paul doesn't say exactly what Onesiphorus said.  Perhaps he didn't remember.  But he did remember that he came and was with him.  

I take comfort in this, because I have often been in situations where I didn't know what to say.  I'll never forget what happened two years ago.  I was on my way home, when my cell phone rang.  A girl in our church, who was a senior in high school, had just been killed in a car wreck.  She was on her way home from school, when a reckless driver had run a stop sign and hit her at a high rate of speed.  She had been killed instantly.  Her family had just received the news at their home.  I was to go and try to comfort them.  I walked into that house not knowing what to say and feeling so inadequate.   All I could do was hug them, cry with them and pray with them.  I didn't try to use any cute "Christian sayings" like "All things work together for good" or "she's in a better place" or "God called her home."  I don't remember what I prayed and I'm sure they don't either.  It was all a blur at the time.  But one thing for sure.  I was there.  

I want to be an encourager, don't you?  I want to be like Onesiphorus and leave a legacy of encouragement, don't you?  Let's start looking for opportunities to be an encouragement.  Everyone you meet needs encouragement.  Everyone you meet has fears, insecurities, problems and struggles beneath the surface.

Lets start being intentional about doing acts of encouragement.  Let's walk in and start encouraging the person whom everyone else has forsaken.  Let's go the distance with those we are encouraging.  Let's encourage with our presence even when we don't know what to say.   

Encourage someone today!