Seek to encourage someone you know in the new year

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The first of a new year has a certain shimmer to it. It's a shine that denotes new possibilities whereas the end of the end represents the harsh realization that, once again, we haven't held up on our end of the bargain. We aren't 15 pounds thinner, thousands of dollars richer or free from the grips of those vices that continually plague us.

Another year, another round of disappointment. This year, well this year will be different.

Because this year you won't seek self-improvement. You won't set out a half-baked plan to be better. You won't seek inside yourself the strength to reach that goal. Instead of focusing on improving yourself, you'll encourage another person to be the person God wants him or her to be.

A former boss introduced me to this concept a few years ago. At the end of the year, his family would gather around and talk about the new year. Taking turns, each member would address another person present, first acknowledging the unique talents and gifts God gave the person and then challenging the person to use those abilities toward a specific end. This gave the recipient of the challenge an opportunity to look outside of himself or herself and to consider how to use God's blessings to benefit others.

The motives behind these challenges were completely altruistic. It wasn't a time to point out another's shortcomings but to spur the person on to serving others. The result was compelling, my boss told me. It brought a perspective to the one challenged that he or she may not have seen before. Suddenly, he or she felt called to action through equal parts affirmation and aspiration, a concept completely familiar in Scripture.

You see, God created us with the ability to encourage the need to be encouraged, especially when it comes to the often arduous task of the Christian life.

"Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow." (Ephesians 4:9, ESV)

Do you know someone with wisdom? Encourage him or her to seek out a leadership position. Is there someone close to you who cooks well? Encourage him or her to use the ability to help those who are hungry. Does a friend have an uncanny knack for teaching? Encourage him or her to take over a new class at your church. Do you have a child with a flair for the artistic? Have the child create artwork to be given to someone in the hospital.

It may be that the person you encourage to act simply needs a push.

OK, so you might not lose weight, but I guarantee you'll gain something valuable: the ability to see God work in the lives of those around you.

Email Jamie H. Wilson at faithmatterssumter@gmail.com.