By Todd Peters, Director of The Rock Student Ministries at MBC Tysons
A few years ago I was working in Africa, where average temperatures were in the 130s. At the same time, my bride was at home in Alaska where temperatures were below zero. We decided to meet in San Diego and merge our climates. During our visit, we took our first flight in a hot air balloon.
Immediately, I noticed that our pilot navigated the balloon by increasing or decreasing altitude to make use of existing wind currents. By timing the release of propane fire, our pilot took us upward to catch the desired current. He skillfully judged the winds using flags and smoke from distant landmarks. Sometimes he sprayed shaving cream so he could see the winds below the balloon. It was an amazing experience to ride the wind in silence and with so little effort.
It struck me that people are a lot like hot air balloons. We all need encouragement to rise sometimes, and when it is timed properly, we gain altitude and make good use of the wind currents created by words. This made me think about ministry and being a member of the church. We are all called to minister to one another. A simple definition of ministry could be “encouraging people.” Encourage literally means to “inspire courage.” Who couldn’t use more of that?
If you don’t think encouragement is important, check out some stories from POW survivors of the Korean War. The North Koreans did not allow any praise or encouragement in their prisons. The prison camps did not perform more rigorous physical torture but they banned encouragement. Soldiers recall how men would go off into a corner, sit down and die from lack of encouragement. You don’t have to be in a physical war to die from lack of encouragement.
Jesus gave us a tool to combat discouragement in Matthew 22:39, ”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The Apostle Paul explains how to carry out this command in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and 14, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing…. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” Paul adds in Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Authors Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., use similar ideas in their best-selling book, How Full is Your Bucket: Strategies for Life and Work:
“Everyone has an invisible bucket. We are at our best when our buckets are overflowing—and at our worst when they are empty. Everyone also has an invisible dipper. In each interaction, we can use our dipper either to fill or to dip from others’ buckets. Whenever we fill others’ buckets, we in turn fill our own.”
So how shall we proceed as the church today? Will we start reaching out to encourage one another as commanded by our Lord Jesus? Church, our guidance is clear. May we be known as bucket-fillers; as a people who lift one another up and fill each other with love and encouragement.