Several years back, the Lord started really dealing with me to study the subject of being an encourager. Though I had spent most of my life in ministry trying to help others, I felt a special need to explore the topic even deeper than I had currently known. One day I purchased an old book while at the thrift store called, “Encouragement- The Key to Caring” by Dr. Larry Crabb and Dr. Dan Allender. It changed my life! It also became a newly-cherished treasure to add to my personal library of books.
The things we will explore today did not come from reading this book, however, after reading it, it caused me to examine my heart of things that I felt had become a stumbling block to me in my path to being a good encourager. I then repented and asked the Lord to help me in these areas so that I could adequately fulfill God’s call to encourage others.
Seven Stumbling blocks:
1. Envy and insecurity:
These come from the root of fear which God did not give us. II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” This fear can even become a stronghold in your mind as a result of abuse, abandonment, or rejection from others. When you have suffered from a lot of rejection you are most likely not secure in who you are as a person in Christ, nor secure in the calling, strengths, and gifts that He has placed within you. Rather, you have believed and identified with your rejectors and who they have said that you are.
This insecurity causes you to feel threatened by others who have strengths and gifts that you may admire because their strengths and gifts become a reminder to you of who you are not or wish you could be.
This becomes a stumbling block to being a encourager (one who would put courage and strength in another) because from that insecurity you develop envy toward the person you admire. Envy causes us to want what others have instead of accepting what God has provided for us. Envy also causes us to feel shame and inferiority to the person we are envying.
Galatians 5:26 says, “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” and James 3:13-17 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
Being grounded in the love of God and believing who He says that you are can help you to conquer the stronghold of fear so that you can be an encourager. Discovering your individual God- given strengths, talents, gifts, and ministry calling can help you have God confidence and feel secure and useful.
2. Bitterness and resentment:
These come from the root of unforgiveness. Hebrews 12:15 says, “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.” When someone has violated your trust or treated you unfairly you hold a grudge that can soon grow into bitterness. You feel you have a right to cling to that hurt and hold it tight within your memory and heart especially if they have not given you an apology or repayment of some kind. According to God’s Word, as we study forgiveness, we learn that we are to let go of these debts and the grudges that have grown into bitterness. We are to cancel them completely as we would a debt that has been owed to us. Matthew 6:12, says, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Forgiveness is not a feeling. Nobody ever feels like forgiving. It is not justifying what the person did nor is it forgetting what they have done. It is letting them go and giving them over to God for Him to deal with and judge them for their wrong deeds. Romans 12:19 says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
When we are bitter toward someone with unforgiveness, it is a stumbling block to our ability to encourage them and love them as God loves them because we are resentful and bitter. When we realize our own personal need to be forgiven by God, then we can be merciful to others and forgive them just as God has been merciful to us. Colossians 3:13 says, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Searching our heart for any bitter or resentful feelings toward others can help us discover if we have unforgiveness hidden.
3. Criticism, Judgment, and Condemnation:
These come from the root of pride. If you have felt that you could never do things good enough or right according to what was expected, then you may suffer from the stronghold of perfectionism, criticism, and judgment. Due to our wounded pride, we criticize others because it makes us feel good or superior over the one we are criticizing. Criticizing casts blame. We make assumptions before we have the true facts, and condemn their person, behavior, or actions. Judging others means that we are making a negative evaluation of them without the heart to help them and encourage them.
God said we are not to judge others while ignoring our own problems. Luke 6:42 says, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” We also must be prepared to live under the same judgment if we are judging someone as Luke 6:37 says, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned.”
While we are to discern the motives of others and oppose sin, we are not to criticize and condemn. These things become stumbling blocks when we are endeavoring to be an encourager who would put courage and strength into others. Romans 14:13 says, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”