Chapter 1. Proverbs on Encouragement

Alan Loy McGinnis, in his book Bringing Out the Best in People, wrote about the importance of encouragement. He said, "A proven motivator will make it to the top before a proven genius. When Andrew Carnegie hired Charles Schwab to administer his far-flung steel empire, Schwab became the first man in history to earn a million dollars a year while under the employment of someone else. Schwab was once asked what equipped him to earn $3000 a day. Was it his knowledge of steel manufacturing? Schwab's snorted reply was, 'Nonsense. I have lots of men working for me who know more about steel than I do.'

Charles Schwab was paid a handsome amount largely because of his ability to inspire other people. Charles said, 'I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among the men, the greatest asset I possess. Any leader who can do that can go almost anywhere and name almost any price.'"

We all need encouragement because there are so many things that discourage us. Encouragement is so important that grade schools, high schools, colleges, and professional teams spend a fortune to make sure that beautiful cheerleaders are on the side lines waving pom-poms and cheering their teams.

The encouraging person...

We will find encouragement in our own lives when we form...

Why is encouragement so important? Why is it such a big deal? I have five thoughts to offer.

1. The Issue of Sight:

Encouragement gets your focus off of yourself and on the needs of others.

* Romans 15:1 — We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Failure to encourage others is one of the key weaknesses in Christianity today. One of the main reasons for this fault is many believers are selfish-minded instead of ministry-minded. We are so overwhelmed by our circumstances, problems, and difficulties that we are distracted from thinking of the needs of others.

It is very difficult to give joy and encouragement when you don't have it yourself. The selfish, unforgiving, bitter, critical, frustrated, fighting, and argumentative person is seldom an encourager. The people doing the encouraging need to be secure, confident, resourceful, and on solid footing themselves if they are going to effectively help others, especially in their faith.

* Isaiah 50:4 — The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

2. The Issue of Strength:

By encouraging others, you endeavor to bring out the best in them and in so doing, you bring out the best in yourself. The ability to encourage is a gift from the Lord. Do not waste it and throw it away. If it is difficult for you to encourage others, ask the Lord for help and for ideas on how to be a blessing to other people.

3. The Issue of Sowing:

You sow seeds that you will reap in the future. When you encourage other people, you will reap encouragement from folks when you face difficult times in the future.

4. The Issue of Submission to Scripture

God exhorts us to lift up one another.

* Hebrews 10:24, 25 — And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

* Proverbs 3:27 — Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

5. The Issue of Spiritual Growth

Encouragement is very important in our own spiritual growth and in the growth and maturing of others. We need it because we tend to be discouraged by disappointments, setbacks, foul-ups, let downs, knock downs, washing out, caving in, or being brushed aside by others who have put us down and beaten us up emotionally by their critical spirits.

Encouragement is also important to our survival in battling for the Lord. It is like oxygen to the soul. Encouragement energizes us like a battery and comforts like sunshine after rain or like coins in our pocket.

Great men have accomplished great things because they were either encouragers or encouraged by other people. Elijah had Elisha, Paul had Luke (1 Cor. 16:18), and David had a Jonathan that encouraged him in the Lord (1 Samuel 23:16). One of the prime cheerleaders of the New Testament was Barnabas. In fact, his name means "Son of Encouragement." His original name was Joses, but was given the name Barnabas by the apostles. His actions reveal why he received this name.

Encouragement is important. When we look through Proverbs, we find that King Solomon had a great deal to say about this issue. There are three areas we will study.

I. What Encourages People?

Solomon lists a number of elements in the book of Proverbs that encourage people. These elements include what we can do FOR people and attitudes they can have in their OWN lives.

1. Speech or Words can Encourage

When geese fly in a V-formation, they are able to travel 72 % farther than if they flew alone. They are able to do this by sharing the load of responsibility in leading the flock. When the lead or point goose tires, he drops back into the formation and another goose takes his place until he tires. The geese at the back of the formation fly in the wind draft of the birds ahead of them. They encourage the lead birds to keep up their speed and momentum by honking at them. Injured, weak, or sickly birds are encouraged by being accompanied by two geese who follow them down to the ground and protect them.

We can learn a lot from the example of these birds by encouraging with our words those who are down and discouraged. Our words should encourage and inspire like the honk of a goose. Words that encourage are inspired by love and are directed toward the fears of the person needing encouragement. Words that encourage come from a person willing to get involved and sacrifice, if need be. A good word cost no more than a bad one so may we produce plenty of them.

The Bible says our words are a very powerful source of encouragement. Never underestimate their influence. Solomon repeatedly stressed the encouraging power of what we say to people.

* Proverbs 10:21a — The lips of the righteous feed many...

The word "feed" has the idea of encouragement. It is from the word ra`ah {raw-aw'} which not only means to "feed" but also "to be a special friend; to be a companion."

* Proverbs 12:18b — ... the tongue of the wise is health.

The word "health" has the idea of encouragement, too. It is from the word marpe' {mar-pay'} which means "healing, cure, or remedy." All these things encourage a person.

* Proverbs 12:25 — Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.

The word "glad" is from the word samach {saw-makh'} which means "to rejoice; to gladden" giving it the idea of encouragement.

* Proverbs 15:4a — A wholesome tongue is a tree of life...

The word "life" speaks of encouragement as this word can also be translated "revival, renewal."

* Proverbs 15:23 — A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!

* Proverbs 15:26b — ... the words of the pure are pleasant words.

* Proverbs 16:24 — Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

* Proverbs 18:4 — The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.

* Proverbs 23:16 — Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.

* Proverbs 24:26 — Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.

Encouraging words bring pleasure and joy. They sweeten the lives of those who are tasting the bitterness of trouble and trials. Encouraging words are refreshing too, like cool water from a desert spring. May we each day endeavor to use our words to encourage people.

2. A Sense of Humor Encourages

* Proverbs 15:13a — A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance...

* Proverbs 17:22 — A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...

Having a sense of humor or having the ability to make other people laugh is a great gift that will encourage you in difficult times or other folks that need encouragement. The joy from laughter has a beneficial effect on your health. It acts like a medicine and lifts the countenance.

Comedian Dom DeLuise relates that there was a dark time in his life when nothing made him smile. He stated: "Everything was wrong — life was hopeless, and I was feeling useless." As Christmas approached, DeLuise's son asked his dad what he wanted for a Christmas present. DeLuise despondently replied, "Happiness — and you can't give it to me."

When Christmas day came and the family opened their gifts, the boy handed his father a piece of cardboard with the word HAPPINESS scribbled on it. The boy said, "See, pop, I can give you happiness!" DeLuise's depression shattered. If you have the gift of making others laugh, use it for the glory of God. Be an encourager!.

3. Satisfaction Encourages People

* Proverbs 13:12 — Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Reaching your goal or enjoying something that you desired or dreamed can be very encouraging. It is like a tree of life or a tree of revival. The word "life" is derived from the word chay {khah'-ee} which means "reviving, sustenance, renewal." Getting what you desire is like a breath of revival sometimes.

Let me also add that many folks have gotten what they desired, only to find that it did not encourage them or satisfy them. They were deeply disappointed. John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, not a Lincoln perhaps, but a decent leader, wrote in his diary: "My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations, and in ceaseless rejected prayers that something would be the result of my existence beneficial to my species."

Be careful what you desire and where you set your heart. Desire those things that please the Lord and learn to find satisfaction in Him. Encourage other people by helping them to reach their goals and realize their hopes and dreams.

"Little Annie" was hopelessly insane. As a young girl she was kept in a cage on the lowest level of a Boston asylum. The doctors saw no hope for her, so she was confined to a damp, dark basement. Here she lived in a world with little light and even less hope. "Little Annie" was like an unpredictable animal. At times, she would violently attack anyone who came near her. At other moments, she existed in a numb state and was seemingly unaware of anyone's presence.

Into this dark dungeon of "Little Annie's" world came an elderly nurse. The nurse had a special compassion for this hopeless cause, and she began to eat her lunch just outside of Annie's cage. The child gave no indication that she even noticed the woman. One day, the nurse left some brownies just outside of "Little Annie's" cage. The girl didn't seem to care. The nurse left them for the girl anyway, and on her return, the brownies were gone. This became a regular appointment for these two women. Each week the nurse brought brownies for "Little Annie."

They began to eat lunch together, and the hopeless cause began to talk to the nurse. The doctors began to notice a change in the young girl, and soon she was moved to the main floor. She began to show great improvement, and after several years of treatment it was felt that she was well enough to return to her home. But this hopeless cause decided to stay at the asylum and help others who were without hope, as she had been. It was "Little Annie" who grew up to give help to Helen Keller and others like her. "Little Annie" was Anne Sullivan, the miracle worker who spent her life encouraging others and helping them to reach their dreams.

4. Superb News Brings Encouragement

* Proverbs 15:30 — The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.

* Proverbs 25:25 — As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.

Great news is encouraging, like cold water to someone who has a parched mouth and is desperately thirsty. Parents are especially encouraged and pleased by a good report card, the engagement of their children to be married, or when a grandchild is born into the family.

Solomon states that good news or a good report is beneficial to a person's health, making the bones fat. Perhaps, there are people in your life right now that would be encouraged by hearing from you. Maybe it is a parent or a missionary that would be encouraged by hearing from you. Why not write or call them? Better yet, why not share the good news of Jesus Christ with someone that needs the Lord.

A young "Jehovah's Witnesses" girl tried to convince a pastor one day of the Divine origin of her cult. For hours they talked about the Bible and God's promises of salvation. Finally, the pastor decided to challenge her. "Tell me," he said, "by what authority do you come out on visitation?" He knew her answer would be, "Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." He replied, "And can you tell me what the word 'gospel' means?" Exactly as planned, she replied, "Yes, it means good news."

He then told her, "You and I have been talking for a couple of hours. You told me that only 144,000 were going to Heaven, and that neither of us had much of a chance for that. You also told me I could not possibly be sure of salvation. Now, as I see it, this is all bad news, not good news. So why don't you go home and study your Bible, get some good news for folks, and then try again to preach the Gospel?"

The pastor was right on target. The message of false religions or cults is bad news with no hope, no guarantee, no peace, and above all, no Jesus. It is the message of Christ that encourages like cold water to a thirsty soul.

5. Sidekicks or Friends are a Source of Encouragement

* Proverbs 27:9 — Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.

* Proverbs 27:17 — Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

One of the greatest treasures that a person can enjoy is the treasure of having friends. Friends give joy like soothing ointment or the aroma of sweet perfume. As Solomon put it, they sharpen us by knocking off our rust, by polishing us and making us look better and helping us to "be" better. They bring out the best in us by their encouragement.

Someone that can do that for you, whether it is a parent, pastor, coach, teacher, or friend, is worth their weight in gold. If you want to be victorious, if you want to be a champion, if you want to be the best that you can be, you want people around you that will bring out the best in you.

God uses people in our lives, our supporters, our sidekicks, to encourage us. For example, Paul was comforted by Titus. The arrival of Titus was not only a relief, but also a shot in the arm for Paul. He did not feel out on the limb any more.

* 2 Corinthians 7:6 — Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;

When people fail, we need to try to encourage them to go forward.

* Galatians 6:1 — Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

* Hebrews 3:13 — But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Beloved, God uses people to lift us up when we are down. David had Jonathan, Elijah had Elisha, Moses had Joshua, Paul had Silas, Barnabas, Timothy, and Titus. The list is endless.

In the same manner, our Lord wants to use you to encourage others that need it. You can be an encourager, if you will be alert to the needs of others and concerned enough to get involved. You won't be a blessing if you are griping, complaining, critical, and walking around with a chip on your shoulder. It ain't gonna happen! So let me ask, "Does your presence encourage other people? Do you bring them up or down?" May we be challenged by the life of Job.

* Job 4:3 — Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.

The Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517, produced virtually no church-sent missionaries until two Moravians, Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann, left the warmth of their community of Herrnhut and ventured to St. Croix in 1732. It was Herrnhut's leader, Count Nicholaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, who spurred their going. Zinzendorf had visited Copenhagen the previous year on political business. While there, he had met a black man from St. Thomas, who pleaded with him to send someone to share the gospel with his enslaved family members in the Danish West Indies.

Back at Herrnhut, Zinzendorf shared this burden, and it took root. A year later, on August 18, 1732, two young men were commissioned as missionaries in an unforgettable service in which a hundred hymns were sung. Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann soon left Herrnhut for Copenhagen, seeking passage to the islands, but Copenhagen proved unfriendly, and the two men were pelted with obstacles. One disappointment followed another, and much opposition arose to their mission. No one would help them. No ship would take them. Their hearts sank.

At that critical moment, Numbers 23:19b turned up in their daily devotional book, " ...hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" Inspired by these words, Dober and Nitschmann determined to persevere, believing that God would fulfill what he had started through them.

A handful of people in Copenhagen began encouraging them by their help, and the tide of public opinion turned. Two royal chaplains lent their support, and even the Queen of Denmark encouraged them. Princess Charlotte contributed financially. A court official secured passage for them on a Dutch ship, and on October 8, 1732, they sailed for the West Indies, opening the modern era of missions.

The Lord had spoken to them, and He had made it good. He provided the people they needed to encourage and strengthen them on their way and multitudes were won to Christ. Thank God for the friends that encouraged them.

6. Steadfast or Faithful People are Encouragers

* Proverbs 25:13 — As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.

* Proverbs 13:17b — ... a faithful ambassador is health.

Reliable people encourage those who are dependent upon them. They provide security and peace of mind to those who employ them or give them a task to do. Reliable, faithful people relieve you of stress instead of adding to it. Solomon states that the faithful ambassador brings healing or health. What an encouragement. He is like the cold of snow in harvest time.

Cold things are refreshing in the summer, especially in a place where there are no refrigerators. Adam Clarke pointed out that in the Middle East, snow houses were constructed underground where winter snow was stored for summer use. Because of the massive amount of snow, the icy temperature was maintained and the snow was preserved. The snow was used to cool their drinks and preserve their foods.

Sometimes snow would fall on top of Mount Hermon during harvest time, providing cold, refreshing water in the streams as the run off would flow down the face of the mountain into the valleys. Another method of enjoying cold temperatures was through the process of evaporation. To cool their wines, cloth that had been dipped in water was wrapped around wine bottles. The bottles were then hung in the heat of the sun. The strong evaporation carried off the heat in the wine. By repeating this process with the wet cloth, the wine would become as cold as ice.

The king states that those who were reliable and steadfast were compared to the benefits of snow or cold fluids in the heat of the summer. They were a source of refreshment and encouragement. So let me ask, "Are you faithful and reliable? Are you a source of refreshment and healing to others, especially those who are dependent upon you or under your leadership?"

It is a common practice at military academies for the upper classmen to haze the first year students. This is part of the initiation rites. Dwight David Eisenhower, as a second year student at West Point, participated in these activities. One day a plebe, as freshmen were called, bumped into Eisenhower. Such an act was unpardonable, so Eisenhower responded as expected — yelling and screaming at the young cadet.

Searching for the most demeaning thing he could utter, Eisenhower said the plebe looked like a barber. With that remark the plebe drew himself up to his full height, squared his shoulders, thrust forth his jaw, and responded that he was a barber. It was as a barber that he had supported his family prior to coming to the Academy.

Devastated, Eisenhower returned to his room. He retold the incident to his roommate, confessing, "I've just done something that was stupid and unforgivable. I just managed to make a man ashamed of the work he did to earn a living."

In his autobiography Eisenhower wrote that for him this was a lesson about "the lack of consideration for others." In his room that day, Eisenhower vowed never to demean another individual again. It was a promise he kept through his life, even as Supreme Allied Commander during the Second World War and as the thirty-fourth President of the United States. He became an encourager and it showed in the effectiveness of his leadership.

7. Self Control and Serenity Give Encouragement

* Proverbs 15:1a — A soft answer turneth away wrath...

Those who are gripped by anger are encouraged and cooled by a soft answer. Such an answer comes from someone who is patient and has self control. Tenderness goes a long way in encouraging others, especially when they are confronted continually with harshness. It was Henry Drummond who said, "How many prodigals are kept out of the kingdom of God by the unlovely character of those who profess to be on the inside." Our example, especially our love, patience, or tenderness, has a great impact upon others for good. Tenderness goes a long way in encouraging people.

* John 13:35 — By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

An officer was ordered by his commander to guard a mobile cannon. While making his way to his destination in a jeep, he discovered his .45 caliber pistol was missing. To lose one's weapon was considered very serious in the army. He contacted his commander, completed his mission and returned to the base where he was greeted by his captain.

He handed the missing gun to the officer and told him some children found it and fired off one shot. The chills from hearing this felt like icicles running down his back. The captain could have held an investigation and put a bad mark put on this officer's record, but he didn't. He merely scared the wits out of this officer by making up the story about the children and told him to never let it happen again.

By being patient, the captain was able to help the officer that goofed. That officer learned volumes that day in working with people who have failed. His philosophy of leadership today is to pick the failure up, dust him off, and get him moving forward again. The officer's name is the retired General Colin Powell.

8. Securing the Facts Lead to Encouragement

* Proverbs 18:13 — He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Getting the facts of a person's needs is an important part of encouraging them. If they have a financial need, we have more information on how much to give. If they have a conflict or problem with another person, getting the facts enlightens us on how to provide solutions to the situation. This is very important because we may give wrong counsel if we don't have all the facts concerning a conflict. When everything is on the table, however, we can give precise solutions, warnings, cautions, and even rebukes.

9. The Soundness from Sagacity and Horse-Sense give Encouragement

People are encouraged by the wisdom they gain from others.

* Proverbs 3:21-22 — ... My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: 22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.

* Proverbs 8:35 — For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.

Solomon urges us to not lose sight of wisdom. It is interesting that he tells us to not let wisdom depart from our eyes. When you think about it, we lose wisdom because we are lured or enthralled by what we see. Some of those things are not good. Lust, selfishness, and pride tend to blind our eyes to the truth and to good decisions that we need to make. Satan will endeavor to blind us to the consequences of these three things. The result is ruin and heartache.

Perhaps, this is why he said in 3:21 to "keep" sound wisdom and discretion. This word "keep" is from the Hebrew word natsar {naw- tsar'} which means "to guard from danger, to watch over something, to keep something close to you." This is the attitude we should have toward wisdom. It is something we don't want to lose. We want to keep it close to us and hang on tight to it. Solomon gives us the consequence for doing this. We will have "life" and the "favor" of God.

This word "life" has the idea of encouragement. It is from the word chay {khah'-ee} which is also translated "revival or refreshment." The word "favor" also indicates encouragement. It also means "pleasure, acceptance, and favor." All three of those things encourage people. In fact, they are things that most people seek in their lives.

10. Self-Sacrifice or Selflessness in Giving leads to Encouragement

* Proverbs 11:25 — The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.

The liberal soul or the generous soul shall be made fat. In other words, he will be abundantly blessed. When you give sacrificially to other people, you are going to bless and encourage them. Solomon makes it clear that the one who gets the greatest benefit and encouragement is the "giver." You reap what you sow. The giver reaps encouragement from giving to others. He that "watereth" shall be watered.

This word "watereth" is from the Hebrew word yarah {yaw-raw'}. It means "to throw, to pour, to teach or instruct." The idea of generosity is reflected in the meanings of throwing or pouring something. Throwing or pouring are bold actions, not timid ones. Our giving should be bold and generous. They are actions that indicate a release of control.

When you give to others you are releasing the control of your money or possessions and giving that control to another person. It is interesting to note that yarah was also the word used to describe an archer that shoots an arrow. When you shoot an arrow, you are releasing control of the arrow. You are also focusing it on another target. The archer does not want to shoot himself. He targets an item other than himself. Our giving should target people that we might be a blessing to them.

We also water people by teaching or instructing them. We are giving them wisdom which is more valuable than wealth. Solomon said in Proverbs 8:11, " For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it." He also said in Proverbs 16:16, "How much better is it to get wisdom than gold, and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!" When you give wisdom to others you will receive it, too. The consequence of our generosity is we will reap generosity in our own lives.

* Ecclesiastes 11:1 — Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

I like the ancient legend about the monk who found a precious stone, a precious jewel. A short time later, the monk met a traveler, who said he was hungry and asked the monk if he would share some of his provisions. When the monk opened his bag, the traveler saw the precious stone and, on an impulse, asked the monk if he could have it. Amazingly, the monk gave the traveler the stone.

The traveler departed quickly, overjoyed with his new possession. However, a few days later, he came back, searching for the monk. He returned the stone to the monk and made a request: "Please give me something more valuable, more precious than this stone. Please give me that which enabled you to give me this precious stone!" Beloved, do you have the same kind of selflessness as the monk?.

11. The Smile of the King is Encouraging

* Proverbs 16:15 — In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.

The approval of those who are in authority over us is encouraging. Such approval is refreshing and reviving like a storm cloud that showers parched ground. What puts the smile on the king? There are many things that can do this including hard work, integrity, wisdom, and responsible behavior. Such actions please those who are counting upon us.

12. The Sentiments and Sense of Your Parents are Encouraging

* Proverbs 6:20-23 — ... My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. 22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. 23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

Solomon states that the commands of one's parents will lead to encouragement. He illustrates this truth by using the words "lead, keep, talk, lamp, light, and life." All of these words speak of encouragement. Isn't it encouraging to have someone lead you when you don't know where to go or what to do? Isn't it a blessing when someone keeps, guards, or protects you from harm? Isn't it encouraging when someone speaks to you to give you direction and comfort? Isn't it encouraging when you have a light to help you find your way through the dark? Isn't it encouraging when you have life or refreshment and revival?

If you have godly and wise parents, then you especially understand what Solomon is speaking about when he talks about the commandments of your parents.

Another way commandments give encouragement is the fact they create borders. Commandments state what we should do and what we should NOT do. They are like fences or boundaries that keep us on the right path.

Boundaries provide protection. I don't know about you, but when I am traveling in the mountains, I thank God for those fences, those borders that keep me from going off the cliff. I don't want those boundaries to be flimsy and weak. I want them to be firm and strong. As parents or pastors, we need to provide firm, strong boundaries. Some things just cannot be compromised.

Boundaries provide direction and illumination like the lines on a football or baseball field. Just as boundaries channel people into the right area, God's commandments channel us in the right direction. They are there to mark the right path and show us where we should go. The commandments of your parents serve the same purpose. Knowing you are doing what is right gives encouragement. That is the next point.

13. Saintliness gives Encouragement

* Proverbs 11:19a — As righteousness tendeth to life...

* Proverbs 11:30 — The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

Righteousness tends to life, renewal, or revival. Solomon states that the fruits or the consequences of saintliness are like a tree of life. Saintly living encourages the person that is living that way. It also is an encouragement to many who watch the example of a saintly person. Like many branches on a tree, one godly person affects many different lives for good.

14. A Serious Reverence for the Lord leads to Encouragement

* Proverbs 19:23 — The fear of the Lord tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.

Again, Solomon uses this word "life" to illustrate encouragement.

This time he states that the fear of the Lord leads to encouragement. It results in refreshment, renewal, revival, or life. Not only does it lead to life, it leads to a satisfied life. Satisfaction is another description of a person that has been encouraged. The person will rest with contentment.

Why? Reverence for the Lord leads one to do what is right. When you do what is right, you can sleep peacefully at night. Encouragement also comes from the fact that we will not be visited or touched by evil. A fear for God acts as a shield against doing what is wrong.

15. Security in the Lord gives Encouragement

* Proverbs 3:5-6 — ...Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Encouragement comes from trusting or putting your security in the

Lord. When we acknowledge him, He will direct our path. In the Hebrew it reads, "He will make your path straight." A straight path is encouraging for the traveler or the runner. Curved roads are more dangerous. You can't see what is around the bend. You can see further down the road on a straight path, which in turn, helps you to make decision that will protect you from danger on the path. Straight paths require less energy, too, unlike traveling on curves.

The word "direct" not only means "to make straight," but it also means "to make smooth or to make pleasurable." I would much rather travel on a smooth road any day of the week. When I am on the interstate, I find the left lane is much smoother than the right one. Bumpy roads are irritating and are rough on the car. Bumpy paths can be rough on our lives. God said, "Acknowledge Me, and I will smooth your path and make it pleasurable."

II. What are the Things that Discourage People?

Solomon provided an extensive list of things that encourage us and others. He also gives us insights into those things that can suck the life out of us and lead to discouragement.

1. Stress or Worry

* Proverbs 12:25a — Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop...

The word "heaviness" is from the word de'agah {deh-aw-gaw'} which means "anxiety, anxious care, or worry." This word refers to apprehension because of approaching trouble. The word "heaviness" is a fitting word for stress or worry, because it describes the feelings that people have when they are under stress and have feelings of anxiety.

Solomon tells us that worry makes the heart of man "stoop." What does he mean? The word "stoop" is derived from the Hebrew word shachah {shaw-khaw'} which means "to stoop, to bow down, to fall down, to weigh down or depress." It is in the imperfect mood which means stress or worry has a continual effect upon a person.

Stress beats us down because we tend to get focused on our problems to the point where they look like overwhelming monsters that are too big for us to handle. Thus, we feel weighed down or crushed by them because they look so big.

Deep-seated worry is harmful to your emotional and physical health. Dr. Charles Mayo, the founder of the Mayo Clinic, wrote this about worry: "Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the digestive system, and the entire nervous system. I've never known a person to die of overwork, but many who died from worry."

Our English word "worry" is derived from the old German word wurgen, meaning "to choke." The term has come to be used to denote "mental and physical strangulation" to describe the harmful effects of worry.

Notice the location of where this battle takes place. It is in the heart.

It is for this reason we are to guard our heart and yield it to God's control and care. Our minds need to be made up about what we entertain in our hearts. When we fail to do this, our circumstances can overwhelm us and make us feel like a boulder has landed upon us. Guard your heart! Fill your mind with Scripture.

* Proverbs 4:23 — Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

* Psalm 139:23 — Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

* Psalm 19:14 — Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

* Psalm 57:7 — My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.

Concerning the issue of stress or worry, a pastor said to his church, "Now, I'm your pastor and I am going to give you permission to worry. But, you can only worry if one of these 6 things happens to you:

2. Sorrow Discourages Us

* Proverbs 15:13b — sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

* Proverbs 17:22b — ...a broken spirit drieth the bones.

Have you ever been so broken-hearted, that you felt you would never recover? Perhaps you were crushed by the death of someone close to you? Maybe you were hurting because of a misunderstanding. Many have suffered a broken spirit because their marriage fell apart and ended in the divorce courts. A wounded heart crushes a person's spirit and results in intense discouragement.

What we should be asking here is "Do you break people's hearts by what you say, by what you do, by your attitudes, or by your actions?" Are you a heart-breaker or a heart-mender?" When we look through the Bible, we find a number of causes of sorrow. Here are a few things that people do that hurt others or themselves, resulting in sorrow or grief.

* Some Causes of Sorrow

A. Wickedness

* Psalm 32:10 — Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.

B. A Wayward or Foolish Son

* Proverbs 10:1 — A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.

* Proverbs 17:25 — A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.

C. Wine or Alcoholic Addiction

* Proverbs 23:29-30 — ...Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? 30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.

D. Wealth that is Hoarded

* Ecclesiastes 5:13 — There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

E. The Wrap or Control of Money

* Matthew 19:21-22 — ... Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

F. Wrongful Suffering

* 1 Peter 2:19 — For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

Beloved, sorrow is painful. Yet, God can use the sorrow that we face to bring blessing into our lives. For example, when babies are born prematurely, one of the most common, critical problems are with their underdeveloped lungs. In September, 1996, the New England Journal of Medicine reported the results of a pilot study that offered hopeful treatment. The treatment is surprising. In the study, doctors filled the lungs of critically-ill, premature babies with liquid, an oxygen-rich liquid. Through this liquid the babies actually "breathe." Normally, when fluid fills the lungs, people drown. But this special oxygen-filled fluid actually saves lives.

In a similar way, there is a sorrow that kills and another sort of sorrow that brings life. Normally, sorrow and depression drown a person's spirit, but like oxygen-filled fluid, sorrow that comes from God brings repentance and life. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.".

3. Setbacks Discourage Us

* Proverbs 13:12a — Hope deferred maketh the heart sick...

Have you ever had a dream, a desire, a plan, or goal that you really wanted to fulfill, only to have it fall apart or be put on hold? If so, then you understand what Solomon is speaking about here. When desires are delayed, they discourage the heart. Why?

Emotions like anticipation, excitement, and expectation get our adrenalin flowing. When our expectations and desires for fulfilment go unfulfilled, then we are disappointed because what we envisioned and the joy that we expected, are not realized. For example, Haman had a sick, discouraged heart because his dream of being honored by the king went unfulfilled. His presumption of being honored by the king left him with egg on his face.

* Esther 6:11-12 — ... Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour. 12 And Mordecai came again to the king's gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.

King Ahab desired Naboth's vineyard and "boo-hooed" because he did not get it.

* 1 Kings 21:2-4 — ... And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. 3 And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee. 4 And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.

Solomon said that hope deferred makes the heart the sick. It makes the heart to be grieved, wounded, or causes it to be in pain, indicating the power of our dreams and hopes.

The highest ranking American prisoner of war in Vietnam was Admiral James Stockdale. Jim Collins, the author of the book, Good to Great, asked the Admiral which prisoners perished in captivity in Vietnam. The Admiral quickly replied, "That's easy. It was the optimists." He explained that the optimists were the ones that said they would be home by Christmas. Christmas would come and go. The year would pass and Christmas would come around again.

The optimists died of a broken heart from constant disappointments. This emotional roller coaster drained the person of energy and led to death. Hope deferred taketh the heart sick. This phenomenon has been called the Stockdale Paradox. The Admiral stated what was the key to survival. He said, "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end, which you can never afford to lose, with discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

Beloved, never underestimate the power of hope. God gave us His Word that we might have hope. Paul said in Romans 15:4, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."

* Hope

* Like gleaming candles in a blackened cave, hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.

* Like the coach that inspires a losing team, hope motivates when discouragement comes.

* Like the fire of electricity that charges a drained battery, hope energizes when the body is tired.

* Like sugar grains added to black coffee or tea, hope sweetens while bitterness bites.

* Like songbirds that lift their voices in the trees of a cemetery, hope sings when all melodies are gone.

* Like the little lad that gave his lunch to Jesus, hope dares to give when no one is sharing.

* Hope believes when evidence is eliminated.

* Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.

* Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.

* Hope endures hardship when no on is caring.

* Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.

* Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.

* Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.

* Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.

Never underestimate the power of hope. Paul said in the first verse of 1 Timothy, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope." If you are discouraged because of setbacks, put your hope in Christ. May we give others hope by telling them about our Lord.

We have studied so far three areas that can discourage us.

* Stress

* Sorrow

* Setbacks

* Next .... Sinful Speech.

4. Sinful Speech will Discourage People

* Proverbs 15:4 — A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

Perverse, deceitful, or crooked speech crushes the spirit of those who are harmed by such words. The word "breach" is very intense in the Hebrew language. It is derived from the word sheber {sheh'-ber} which means "to crush, shatter into pieces, to crash, destroy or to afflict."

When people are deceived, their spirit is shattered in a variety of ways. Some are wounded by those they trusted. Some are emotionally crushed and find it difficult to trust anyone else for the rest of their lives. Others grieve because they lost something that they treasured because they were deceived. Crooked words hurt people deeply and discourage them immensely because they feel they have been betrayed.

Betrayal is a difficult act to accept. Benedict Arnold betrayed his friend, George Washington, and his country during the Revolutionary War. As a result, many lives were lost. His name has been remembered in infamy since that time. No matter how many noble deeds he accomplished during his life, he will always be remembered as a traitor to his country.

5. Spiteful Words

* Proverbs 12:18a — ... There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword...

Words are powerful. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Not only can crooked, reckless words discourage others, but spiteful, hateful words can wound people deeply like a spear thrust into the heart. They can be so sharp that they pierce the soul like a sword. Sabre words would include the following:

* Name-calling.

* Words that belittle, mock, or make-fun of people.

* Words that rub salt into a wound.

* Words that shame and communicate personal disgust.

* Harsh, hateful words that shatter and melt the heart of people.

When we're angry, we're a lot like a volcano. We erupt, we spew out our lava, and we often blow away a piece of the other person, if not ourselves. Every one of us carries around parts of us that have been mortally wounded by something someone said to us in anger. They may well have forgotten it; we can't ever forget it. See, those are volcano scars.

So why do we do this to other people... usually the people we love the most? Beloved, if you're tired of erupting and leaving volcano scars on people, maybe it's time to follow the steps to becoming an extinct volcano.

* Confess your anger to the Lord.

* Don't let the lava of anger, build up in your heart. Nip your anger right away.

* Listen and be slow to speak. James said in James 1:19, " Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath."

* Keep your mouth shut until you have control of it.

* Make Christ the Lord and Master of your life.

6. Slanderous Words Discourage People

* Proverbs 18:8 — The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

* Proverbs 26:22 — The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

What is a talebearer? The word is derived from the word nirgan {neer-gawn'} which means "to murmur, whisper, backbite, slander, or gossip." This word comes from an unused root word which means "to roll to pieces."

When something is rolled, it is repeated over and again, sometimes to the point where the object is ruined. This is what a talebearer does. He spreads gossip and lies to a point that he ruins the reputation of another person. As the story continues to spread, it gets distorted. This wounds people emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and also physically from the stress and trauma that are created by the talebearer.

The word "wound" has been translated another way by Hebrew scholars. In many of the most current translations of the Bible, it is rendered, "dainty or delicious morsels." Gossipers love gossip. Bits of information are like sweet pastries that they feed upon and also share with others.

The gossiper just cannot get enough of the latest news. He or she has to know what is going on or what is the latest scandal so it can be shared with others. It is the information that empowers him or her with other gossipers. Sometimes the information they receive leads them to make false conclusions which end up hurting themselves and the lives of other folks.

Gossipers can inflict much pain and discouragement, but their words and accusations can come back to bite them. For example, Sarah, the church gossip, busy-body, and self-appointed arbiter of the church's morals, kept sticking her nose into other people's business. Several residents were unappreciative of her activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.

She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked in front of the town's only bar one afternoon. She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing. George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just walked away. He didn't explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Sarah's house... and left it there all night long. What would Sarah say now?

III. People that Should NOT be Encouraged

1. Witless Fools

* Proverbs 13:20 — He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

* Proverbs 15:14 — The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

Fools feed on more foolishness. For this reason you should avoid encouraging them by hanging around them. Companions of fools are destroyed.

2. Wrathful People

* Proverbs 22:24-25 Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: 25 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

Your friends influence you. This is why you do not want to establish friendships with angry people. Their anger will poison you. The writer of Hebrews warned about the poison of bitterness.

* Hebrews 12:15 — Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.

3. A Wild Crowd

* Proverbs 28:7 — Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.

Wild people are encouraged by people that participate in their activities. Solomon warned us that such activities shame your father.

4. Wicked Women

* Proverbs 29:3 — Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.

Harlots are encouraged when you spend your money upon them. May we heed the warnings of Solomon and endeavor to apply these principles about encouragement. May we be a blessing to others.