I know that “A pat on the back pushes out the chest”. And I’ve also learnt (and taught) that to “En-courage” someone is to “Put courage into” him. Sometimes, all we need is for someone to believe in us and to be our cheerleader; the older I get, the more I want to be someone else’s cheerleader. Don’t underestimate the power of speaking life into someone else’s life – you might just help him to realise his potential and help him to unlock his capacity to do things beyond what he’s normally capable of doing.
As such, in no order of importance, here are my top ten practical ways to encourage someone:
1. Listen to him intently and be genuinely interested in his life. Learn to draw insights out of him and provide a platform for him to share his heart. Don’t patronise him or brush off what he says but take him seriously. A good encourager listens.
2. Give him feedback whenever you see him in action. Every teachable person would want to learn where he did well and where he could improve in; you could be the difference between his future success and failure. A good encourager coaches.
3. Pray for him whenever you get an opportunity to, whether you’re with him or not. God is more powerful and loves him more than you do and so it’s comforting when you direct his reliance above. A good encourager intercedes.
4. Spend time together because giving him your time is giving him a part of your life. Time is an irreplaceable and irreversible entity, so when you take time to hang out with him, it tells him that he’s important to you. A good encourager avails himself.
5. Find out what he’s been up to (and stalk him online). Subscribe to his blog and read it regularly; whenever possible, check out his activity on social media platforms and leave your comments. A good encourager validates.
6. Message him periodically and randomly. It’s always nice to know that you’re on someone else’s mind; whenever the Holy Spirit brings someone to my mind, I will pray for him and tell him that I’ve done so. A good encourager remembers.
7. Rebuke him whenever necessary, in private. It’s better to tell the truth that hurts rather than the lie that kills. This risk you take may just forge a deeper relationship, and to establish your spiritual authority in his life. A good encourager corrects.
8. Praise him verbally and audibly in front of others. Everyone needs recognition; when you acknowledge his good work publicly, he will be motivated to grow because someone took note of his effort. A good encourager acknowledges effort.
9. Remember what he shared with you from the last session. Those without good memories must learn to make mental notes. If it’s important to him, it should be remembered by you. A good encourager recalls.
10. Bless him with a meal or a gift. It’s about the gesture – be it coffee, a pen, a book, a meal or just a pack of chocolates. People like to receive (but it is better to give than to receive). I tell my youths to pay it forward. A good encourager blesses.
That said, I think one of the most powerful ways to encourage someone is to remind him of his potential – tell him that he can do so much more, and have so much more room for improvement. Inspire him to develop his gifts and talents. Plant an insatiable hunger and thirst in him to grow. Remind him (in a loving manner, of course) that he’s nowhere near his final product. I’ve learnt that this is one of the best ways to stamp out complacency and infuse humility into someone.
But some of you might say, “I always encourage people but nobody encourages me!” It’s true and I shall not deny that there’s not enough encouragement to go around the world. But let me be the first to declare that I encourage people more than I am encouraged, and it has done me a world of wonders. Contrary to popular belief, encouraging others is to our benefit.
Perhaps we can take a paradigm shift and think of it this way instead: 1) our job is to encourage others and 2) our prayer is that God will send someone to encourage us. You see, if enough people achieve part 1, then part 2 will naturally be accomplished. Don’t worry about what you cannot control; instead, focus on what is within your control.
The Greek for Holy Spirit is “Parakletos” and the Greek for Encourage is “Parakaleo”. Para means to be “Called alongside” (someone). And that’s what the Holy Spirit does – to walk beside us. So I’m inclined to think when we encourage someone, we are most like the Holy Spirit.
Yes, it’s that simple if you want to mimic the Holy Spirit – you simply need to encourage someone today. (Do it now!)
There’s nothing more rewarding than to see people know Christ. Since I’ve entered full-time ministry, my opportunities to interact with non-Christians have been greatly diminished. I’ve always seen myself as an evangelist because of how I came to know Christ and what He has done in my life, so I am thankful for the opportunities presented to me in iJourney – where I’m able to get to know youths who do not yet know Him, and therein lies the challenge to introduce Him to them.
KK conducted an activity for the students in today’s session and he asked if I had wanted to share anything at the end of his debrief. I declined initially, but when the Holy Spirit started to deposit lessons into my heart, I took it up; I’m always quite impressed by how quick the Spirit can impress lessons into me.
These are my observations from a modified version of musical chairs, where the participants’ difficulty of movement was introduced by tying a person’s arm to his or her leg with a short string to simulate aging:
In life, there are three facts; we will all:
- Get old – the most certain thing about life is death.
- Face new challenges – for that comes with age and changing environments.
- Experience suffering – in various intensities and variety.
And so there are three things we can do:
- Do not complain – for it doesn’t change our situation, solve our problem or make us feel any better about what we are going through.
- Help one another – assistance is always appreciated and it increases efficiency and reduces frustration. A word of encouragement goes a long way, even if it’s just a word. Learn to look out for each other.
- Walk together – competition is good, but it could be venomous. Everyone gets there safely when we walk at an agreed pace, without anyone lagging behind, speeding up or overtaking; don’t leave anyone behind.
I think that when students eventually leave the world of academia and enter what’s commonly known as the “real” world (as if life as students is an illusion) they will be thrown challenges from all directions simply because of how unnecessarily cruel meeting the world’s expectations can get. So instead of fight each other, why don’t we get on the same side, join hands and do battle together? I’m idealistic, but I’m not wrong.
I’ve got another confession to make and tonight this confession turns into a testimony of God’s faithfulness and goodness in my life. My spirit has truly been lifted up!
At the beginning of March, after the REAL 2010 graduation ceremony, I plunged into what I’d call, “Ministry Depression” for a couple of weeks. I remember telling RY, LK and HY how disappointed I was with my beloved REAL 2010 alumni. No, it wasn’t because they weren’t outstanding because they are, but very humanly speaking, I was deeply sad that after two months of investing my life into theirs, I received nothing in return except for handshakes, verbal appreciations and SMS encouragements.
Now, I’m being extremely honest here and I choose to spill my heart because there’s a an important lesson behind it. To be frank, I was expecting more from them; I know I’m not supposed to expect anything – after all, that’s what I’ve been teaching them the last two months – but I am being really human here; I remember telling myself, “You mean, that’s it? This is all I’m getting from the 16 of you after I poured my life into you? Wow. Thanks a lot”. Then I reclused into my own melancholic orbit and I convinced myself to quickly move on from this disappointment. I even wanted to harden my heart to them so that I will not allow myself to be hurt like that again. I’ve always openly declared that I’m a secret melancholy and this perpetuated it. My REAL champs may not have realised it because (I think) I’ve camouflaged it well, but I remember responding to them in a curt and cold manner that was very uncharacteristic of me. Some of my youths think that I’m superhuman because that’s the facade that I project but truth be told, I’m really just an ordinary human being with normal affection and affirmation needs as well.
There was little I could do really, except to talk to God and to let Him deal with me. I retreated into my own prayer closet and I came clean with God. I told Him exactly how I felt about how REAL ended and I asked Him to help me to overcome this disappointment by His grace. (This was before I spoke to my mentor, best friend and girlfriend.) I was rebelliously stubborn and I mentally rejected the scriptures that the Holy Spirit brought to my mind. I didn’t want to hear any “holy-moley-sunday-school-ten-year-series” consolation. And I shut my emotions away. But the more I dissected my heart before God, the more painful it was. A pruning process isn’t pleasant indeed. At the end of my emotional and spiritual tussle, the Holy Spirit led me to two scriptures, in this order:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” – Colossians 3:23
I am convinced that when the Lord ministers to you, you will be comforted. God is faithful and before He rebuked me, He gently let me know that it was all right to think like that and to feel that way, through Psalm 51:17. I just wanted to bare my heart before the Lord and I found great assurance in His divine embrace.
Once the Lord met my emotional needs, He began to address my thinking by pointing me to Colossians 3:23. I repented before the Lord for my poor attitude and mentality that were in the wrong places and I asked Him to give me new lenses to appreciate this situation. I determined it in my heart to continue to love my young people, regardless of whether affirmation was present or not, simply because God loves them and has compelled me to do likewise; I am doing this because I love them – nothing more, nothing less; I wasn’t going to allow a lack of encouragement to stop me from fulfilling my calling to be a youth pastor. This was a test that I had to overcome and by God’s grace I knew that I would overcome it. It was important that I did not lean on my own strength.
Of course, I would never share this unless I have emerged out of the miry clay; it wasn’t wise to air my struggles to the world before the Lord had finished dealing with me. (I did reveal a glimpse of my emotions but only very briefly.) Once I had this issue resolved within me, I shared my journey with RY and asked him how he dealt with this through his years of ministry; I shared it with LK to be accountable to him; I shared it with HY because I am completely vulnerable with her. Yes, I did take a couple of weeks to recover but I was so glad to have trudged through it.
What can I say? God is faithful and sovereign. I believe He has intentionally held back the affirmation of men until I was secure in Him. A week after my lipoma operation, I received the REAL cushion from my champs. I remember telling RY how delighted I was to receive a gift from them and he smiled and rejoiced with me – I was already satisfied and if the gift had stopped there, I would have been a happy man. But my God is a God who dotes on me and goes the extra mile just to tell me that He loves me. I remember GM telling me that this was just “part one of the gifts – part two will blow your mind”. Of course that filled my heart with even more joy, but I didn’t need anything anymore because I already had God’s affirmation. I decided to be phlegmatic about this part two – if it comes, good, if it doesn’t, that’s all right.
Then it came today. And it blew my mind. So I shall let the pictures do the talking.
What can I say? I’m moved beyond words (and the 11 champs I had lunch with today saw my expression) – this incredibly-thick two-volume masterpiece was painstakingly assembled over the course of 10 weeks. The amount of work that has been put into this is immense – and I can only try to imagine its production process – conceptualising it, selecting pictures, printing photographs, pasting photographs systematically, comprehensively adding secular quotes, scriptures, their own reflections, my own quotable quotes which they remembered, cutting all these captions, meticulously sticking it into the album, decorating and designing it, investing money to make it happen…
WOW I REALLY DO NOT DESERVE THIS.
All I have done in the two months with them was just to do what God has always compelled me to do; what I’ve always enjoyed doing regardless of whether I was full-time, part-time or half-time; what Grace Assembly of God hired me to do; and what gave me the greatest satisfaction in life – believing in young people through my speech and actions. To an extent, I was really just doing my job.
AND THEN THEY GAVE ME THIS TRIBUTE.
I couldn’t help but to thank God for His unmerited favour in my life. I am stunned speechless. How can I not love them, love God, love my job and love other young people even more? I’ve said it many times and so I will say it again – there’s a reason why the REAL 2010 alumni will always remain in a special place in my heart. They reinforced it today. I can only look back and thank God for every minute spent with them.
I love you all. Thank you for blessing me. You have no idea how much this means to me. You gave me a reward the world could never give. I really love my job. Thank you, Lord, for placing me in such a privileged position. I love You so much.
During one of the PIERCE mealtimes, I had the privilege of speaking with IP; we caught up on many things – from how I first met him when I was working in 1VOX to how I am now working in church, and how he moved from a pastoral staff in a church to a counselling staff in a school. To be frank, I really enjoyed our little dialogue because of how encouraging he was; I was so ministered by IP’s genuineness and sincere desire to communicate heart to heart, and my spirit was really lifted by that small exchange of words.
Of the many things I caught from his spirit over lunch, this would be my greatest takeaway – he challenged me to “meet felt needs”; he went as far to say that meeting needs is just about the best thing a church could do as a church. I thought about it for a while and I realised that in my ministry, I’ve subconsciously been applying it and I really thank God for that; I saw the needs of my Shepherds and so I set up the DYLM leadership cell group; my RLs saw the needs of their CMs and so they set up the CM cell group; and the CMs are actually investing their time and energy into their cell group to meet the needs of their own cell kids. It would be challenging for each tier of leadership to meet the cascading level of needs if their own needs weren’t met.
Everyone has a variety of needs. Adolescent youths would have needs for identity and belonging; upper-secondary students would have needs for security and recognition; leaders in tertiary education would have achievement and esteem needs; those from a single-parent family like I do would have needs for acceptance and safety; those from financially-troubled households would have physiological needs for food and shelter; and of course, those healing from failed boy-girl relationships would have needs for trust and courage. Bottom line is, there are needs to be met!
Now let me go offtrack for a little while. Of course when I think about needs, Maslow’s much-studied hierarchy of needs spring to mind. While it is a trusted model for sociological and academical application, I find that model inadequate simply because it addresses needs from a secular standpoint. Conversely speaking, I believe that one’s greatest need is to fill the God-shaped hole. And if I may borrow song lyrics from Plumb’s ‘God-shaped Hole’ – “that’s a void only He can fill” . I firmly believe that while meeting real needs are important (after all, Jesus did meet physical needs in John 5), the most important need to meet is the need for God – if that need is not met, nothing really makes much sense. Still, therein lies a great need to meet real needs. RP sums up my sentiments:
Jesus had an extraordinary ability to see beneath the myriad of layers of people and know what they longed for, or really believed, but were afraid of revealing. That is why His answers so frequently did not correspond to the questions He was asked. He sensed their unspoken need or question and responded to that instead. Jesus could have healed lepers in countless ways. To the leper in Mark 1:40-45, He could have shouted, “Be healed … but don’t get too close. I just hate the sight of lepers.” He didn’t. Jesus reached over and touched him. Jesus’ touch was not necessary for his physical healing. It was critical for his emotional healing.
Can you imagine what it meant to that man to be touched? A leper was an outcast, quite accustomed to walking down a street and seeing people scatter, shrieking at him, “Unclean – unclean!” Jesus knew that this man not only had a diseased body but an equally diseased self-concept. He needed to be touched to be fully cured. And so Jesus responded as He always did, with total healing for the whole person.
I had a good chat with JK over lunch today and he shared some of his immediate needs with me. I told him that I was more interested in meeting his needs than having him meet ministry needs. “What you do in ministry is secondary; I’m more concerned about your primary needs”, I said. I encouraged him to get active with the CM cell, and to give his peers an opportunity to reach out to him, as well as for him to mutually minister to his peers. No man is an island and the sooner we realise that the sooner the body of Christ can be in action; we need one another to build one another – no one can do it alone.
Hence, it is my prayer that as you read my thoughts today, you’ll be reminded to either remain connected to your cell group and church, or that it’s time for you to start get acquainted with godly Christian fellowship. A few days ago, I asked IP over a text message if he had any prayer requests. His reply resounded so strongly with my heart’s cry for ministry and how I’m praying that R-AGE would truly become an Acts 2 youth group:
“My prayer needs? To see (R-AGE @) GII grow into the fellowship like in Acts, digging into the Word, meeting together weekly breaking bread and soaking in His presence.”
IP, I will remember what God taught you (and what you taught me) – and I will always have “meeting felt needs” at the top of my ministry priorities. Thank you for such a powerful and profound message – it was something that really pierced my heart during the camp and now, after it. We are in the ministry of meeting needs; if we fail to do that, then we have missed the whole point of church.
I dug out an old notebook a few weeks ago and within the first couple pages I found a list of nine things I had wanted to accomplish that year. I recorded these things in 2003, when I was 20 years old, in the final semester of my polytechnic days.
- Get grounded in the Word.
- Learn piano and guitar intensively.
- Stay single until 21st Oct 2003.
- Transfer captaincy of TeamR-AGE.
- Record FhLY album.
- Record Castor & Pollux album.
- Attain driving licence.
- Cultivate a lifestyle of punctuality.
- Learn to be more pastoral.
It’s interesting to note that the items that I’ve made little progress on are #2, #5 and #6, which are incidentally all related to music! Well, seven years have passed and with each passing year the likelihood of accomplishing these three items diminishes. Perhaps I’m not all that passionate or serious a musician after all. What a sad thought.
All right, that silly introduction above has little to do with what I am about to share.
Music is a big part of my life; I’d like to believe that while I’m not musically trained, I am musically inclined because I pick things up pretty quickly – be it percussions, strings or even song-writing. I’m always attracted to worship teams and as I peered into the 3rd Level Hall tonight to check out the worship team in action, I reminisced my days of being a worship leader and how that I spent most (and the early) parts of my ministry in church in CAMY. I progressed from a 14-year-old backup vocalist to a worship leader in both the youth and adult services.
God called me into worship leading when I was 15 years old, at a “Bondage Breaker” conference in Trinity Christian Centre, and I’ve always pursued this area of service. I was confident that I had the anointing of a Spirit-led worship leader. And God is faithful; throughout the years of worship leading, God always sends at least one person to affirm and to encourage me in my calling, usually by someone who was in the congregation; God has never missed out affirming me on any session and I am most thankful for it.
When I went to Shanghai and saw the “state” of the worship atmosphere in my church, I immediately felt compelled to join the worship team to “rescue” and “value-add” it. The Holy Spirit rebuked my prideful self and I quickly dismissed this arrogant attitude of wanting to “fix things” and to “show them how it’s supposed to be done”. I could easily enter the ministry under the pretense of humility but what good would it do if I served with a wrong heart? For months, it was an internal struggle because I knew that I could contribute positively and to even make a significant difference!
I didn’t feel that God was calling me into worship leading for that season of my life in Shanghai so I avoided the music ministry completely and just waited for His prompting of where I should serve in church. I did continue to lead worship, but only in my cell group. (This sounds really haughty and I apologise for it but) word got around of my skill, effectiveness and experience – “This worship leader is pretty anointed!” and a couple of months later, as if to perpetuate the already dire situation with my pride, I was approached twice by the worship pastor and one of the key worship leaders; they invited me to join the ministry. (It must have been painful to read such words dripping with arrogance but I’m just being honest with my struggles and being real with my journey.)
Yet I’ve never moved into the worship ministry ever again because I was convinced that my season of being a worship leader is over. I felt the peace when I rejected both invitations and I also found the non-entry necessary for the development of my own humility as I stepped away from this area of ministry. I wanted to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and I believe I did the right thing, even though becoming a worship leader again felt like the right thing to do by my own logical deduction! (This isn’t a good gauge but worship leading no longer gave me a kick – I didn’t find it a challenge anymore.)
Instead, I felt the Spirit calling me into mentoring and preaching; in fact, I find that mentoring, preaching and leading are my three primary domains of ministry at this point in my life. Just as how God has prospered me as I pursued His prompting in my worship leading days, I believe that God will also give me success as a mentor, preacher and leader, simply because I desire to be obedient to His will for my life. I humbly ask you to pray with me, please; I only want to be a vessel.
Why do I share these inner thoughts tonight? I believe that it is more important to recognise the divinely-designated season of your life directed by God than to do what the ministry demands or what you’re naturally good at or gifted in. It may not make much sense at first but the satisfaction you get when you review your step of faith is immense. I desire always to walk by faith (to do what God directs) and not by sight (to do what Man demands). And the only way to do so is to remain connected with God.
Oh Lord, thank You for reminding me about John 15:5. Indeed, apart from Jesus, I can do nothing and I am absolutely nothing without Christ! I desire to be near You so that I will do the things that You desire and become the man You have designed. I love You.
Most of you know that my best friend got married today. And since I was their best man, I had the honour of giving a speech. I say that it is an honour because they have given me 10-15 minutes of the most significant and important event of their lives thus far. Thinking about it humbles me greatly. Well, regarding the speech, I enjoyed delivering it and honestly, I thought it was well-delivered; people were kind and generous with their encouragement and that gave me a huge boost too. More importantly, I thought I managed to nail what I had intended to say to the couple, and more specifically to LK.
I think there were two lines in the speech that seem to have caught everyone’s attention and so for the sake of downloading it to my digital memory, I shall share it here.
“… This is the best friend who has given me the privilege to be his best man; and I actually think that I can be his best man because first and foremost, he has been and is the best man in my life…”
“… There’s an old wedding joke about rings; before the wedding – engagement ring; during the wedding – wedding ring; after the wedding – suffering. Well, I have my own version. I’m praying that the two of them would be enduring, restoring, and since this speech is for the groom, maybe a few more diamond rings…”
I knocked out at 2:30am, got up at 6am and spent the entire day playing the role of a personal assistant and time-keeper for LK. I’m comprehensively exhausted. On hindsight, after being involved with so many weddings, this wedding is one that would definitely be closest to my heart – simply because it’s my best friend’s wedding; as I watched the event unfold, I found myself nearly in tears as I prayed in my seat and gave thanks to God for the work that He’s done with the two of them. I shall conclude this short post with a poem I wrote nearly a decade ago, specially for newlyweds.
By Joey Asher Tan
Before me stands a beautiful bride;
Her groom gleams in radiant pride.
A big day, a grand day,
A wonderful day; it is today.
Smiles aplenty, hugs and kisses,
Both enter a stage where one turns a missus.
Unaware what lies before them,
Tests and trials and even small exams.
But one thing I know that will shine through:
It is, “Our love for me and you”.
I say a prayer for them right now,
That God turns all their frowns to smiles.
Beautiful bride, submit to your man;
And may the man stick to God’s plans.
You haven’t married a person you could live with;
You’ve married a person you couldn’t live without.
May God bless you and keep your home,
Now that you’ve found your matrimonial dome.
And now I see a beautiful wife,
Her husband revels in glorious pride.
The last and only time I ran a full marathon was way back in 2006, together with AT. I remember how we encouraged one another to keep the limbs moving, slapped Deep Heat on our legs, consumed those horribly-tasting power fluids, drowned ourselves with 100plus, grunted like a man at every restart and more memorably, how we told each other that we would start and end the marathon together. At the final kilometre, as we caught sight of the end point, we miraculously found strength from I-don’t-know-where and sprinted to the finish line. When we crossed it, our legs never felt that jelly before. It was a defining moment, for sure. Marathons are brotherhood-inducing activities.
Fast-foward four years, I signed myself up for the Standard Chartered Marathon that will take place on 5th Dec 2010. Registration opened today and I took advantage of the early bird price. (Thanks VY, for posting the link on Facebook – can’t wait to train together!) Yes, another gruelling 42.195km worth of sweat and pain. I look forward to the actual run as much as I look forward to the months of progressively intensive training; I remember how AT and I met at Bishan on a weekday at 7pm, ran to Sembawang and back and covered 27km, did our cool-down at 1130pm, looked at each other and wondered how we we were going to make it to work the next day. It was pure insanity, but it was good.
I was so proud of my achievement I kept my finisher’s medal and certificate, as well as my front and back runner’s tag. I also found a picture of myself online running the marathon!
I stayed over at AT’s place the night before and I remember designing the back tag. Adidas ran a campaign on your Reason for Running that year and I took a long time to ponder my message before I wrote that on my tag. Honestly, I didn’t know who or what else to run for except for the glory of God. If I was going to have six hours with thousands of other runners, then I might as well do something with it – so I told myself that I was going to run for Jesus, my King. This gesture to please God turned out to be an interesting experience for me. I had Christians of all ages and gender coming up to me to encourage and to affirm me. It was really quite an experience! I’d encourage everyone to consider taking part in a marathon at least once in their lives; I always tell myself it’d be a tale I’d be able to regale to my grandchildren.
It’s not about how well we start, or how well we run, but about us finishing it as well. Some people say life is short – but how short is it, really, if it’s all we have as mortal beings? Life on earth is actually pretty long – just about the longest duration of any event that we’ll ever experience! To me, life is a marathon – and I am determined to end it well to receive my medal, certificate, memory as well as a good pat on the back and a voice that will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” This year, as with every subsequent year from this point forth, I’m going to run for Jesus again. What about you?