Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Jennifer Rothschild’s upcoming study, Take Courage, available July 2020. View more teaching clips and preorder your copy of Take Courage at Lifeway.com/TakeCourage.
I learned about the power of encouragement from a guide dog I once had many years ago. His name was William. (I know, I know. His name sounds like it should belong to a U.S. president or your grandpa more than a dog. I got him prenamed.)
It was a steamy July day in central Florida. I had been at the “dog school” for about two weeks of training learning how to work with William. He and I were both getting pretty tired. So far, we had worked on walking together and learning each other’s pace. I had learned how to give him the correct hand commands, and he knew exactly what I meant if I told him, “Busy, busy.” (If you don’t know what that means, well, it’s bathroom talk, so I won’t elaborate.)
So on this day, we were trudging down the sidewalk in Palmetto, Florida, for another training session. The whole class was out with our dogs navigating some busy downtown streets and sidewalks. But William and I weren’t keeping up with the class. We weren’t lost or distracted; we were just hot and tired! We lagged a little as William slowed down.
I stopped and gave him water to make sure he was hydrated since the temp was well into the 90s. He gulped in some H2O and was good to go . . . for a little while. But within a few minutes, he would slow down again.
I tried to cheer him on: “Good dog, William. You’re a good boy!” In response to my praise, he would wag his tail but barely pick up his pace. Finally, I realized we were way behind our group, and we needed to walk faster. I could have gotten a step ahead of my slow-poke William and dragged him, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a guide dog. Ya think?!
Instead of just saying “Atta, boy,” I reached down and patted him on the top of his head and said, “You can do this, William.” To my surprise, he got a little snap to his step. I petted him a little more as we walked, and he picked up his pace. In fact, every time I reached down to pat him on the back or jostle his ears, he got a little more motivated. His ears began to flop as he broke into a gallop! The more I petted, the faster he walked. He needed more than compliments; he needed encouragement. He needed to be infused with courage.
“You’re a good dog” was a lovely compliment to a pup who had no idea what I was saying, but placing my hand on his head encouraged him. It served to infuse enough courage in him to strut all the way to the front of the dog line!
Encouragement gives us courage.
Our English word encourage comes from the Old French word encoragier which means to make strong or hearten.1
That’s what Haggai was doing in Haggai 2:20-23. He was using the truth to make Zerubbabel and the people strong and to hearten them. He didn’t just say, “Way to go laying those stones. You are such talented and stylish stone layers. If Chip and Joanna could only see this!” Nope, he didn’t flatter; he fueled them with the assurance that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do.
I’ll be honest about this, one of the awkward things about blindness is that when I run into you at the store, I can’t tell you how cute you look in that top or how much I love your hair color or how amazing you look since you cut sugar out of your diet. (I will probably tell you how good you smell though! Ha!) But as awkward and as frustrating as that is, it has made me go deeper so that I can give something far greater than compliments. It has nudged me to give something that lasts longer and means far more: courage.
As we finish up today, I want you to pause, put down your pen, lean back, and let me serve you up a venti size cup of courage.
- God has given you all you need for life and godliness, so keep doing your thing because God has equipped you (2 Pet. 1:3).
- Don’t give up for you are not of those who shrink back (Heb. 10:39). Keep believing no matter what!
- You are shining like a star in the universe as you forbear and don’t grumble or complain (Phil. 2:14). Way to shine, sister!
- God will finish what He started in you because He is the One who began this work in you (Phil. 1:6).
- You can be strong even if you don’t feel strong because God is with you wherever you go (Josh. 1:9). So take courage!
Well, sister, encouragement is powerful, isn’t it? It heartens us when we’re weak, emboldens us when we’re frightened, and spurs us on when we’re weary. Serve up a big cup of courage to somebody you meet today. You can tell her she looks cute in her jeans because I bet she does, but don’t stop there. Do what Haggai did. Fuel her with truth. Don’t stop at flattery. Encourage her with the truth of who her God is and who she is because of Him.
When we give specific, biblical encouragement to someone, it helps us grow more convinced of the power of God’s Word to make us strong also.
Here are some fun wallpapers for your phone to remind you to take courage! Click the images below to download or click here to download a printable PDF!
- “Encourage,” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed February 10, 2020, https://www.etymonline.com/word/encourage.