As a young child, I can remember sprawling out across the living room and watching The Wizard of Oz on our old Zenith television. I was fascinated by Toto the dog, the Munchkins, and a bit terrified by the Wicked Witch of the West. At the time, I was too young to have a crush on Judy Garland.
Then there was Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Lion. Actually, the Cowardly Lion. Scarecrow wants a brain, Tin Man desires to have a heart, and the Cowardly Lion needs courage.
It’s an interesting twist on stereotypes. The needs of the Scarecrow and Tin Man make sense – of course a scarecrow wouldn’t have a brain and a metal box would need a heart. But we don’t usually think of lions as cowards.
When C.S. Lewis wrote Chronicles of Narnia, he portrayed Jesus as a lion called Aslan. In the first book, a young girl named Lucy is about to meet Aslan for the first time.
She asks her guide, “Is he a safe lion?”
“Safe?” replied the guide, “Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Lewis didn’t portray Jesus as a lion because of the cowardly reputation of lions.
Through the help of Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Tin Man, the Lion eventually finds the courage he so desired. They en-couraged him, which means they literally helped put courage into him.
In a world that is quick to draw the courage out of us (called discouragement), it is important to have sources of encouragement around us.
It’s more than simple flattery, and it’s certainly not false bravado. Those are artificial sources of encouragement that can be quite dangerous. It’s also more than surrounding yourself with people who always agree with you.
The type of encouragement I’m talking about is more than just a pep talk – though there are times when we all need a cheerleader.
True encouragement happens when you believe in me until I’m able to believe in myself.
- At the burning bush, it’s God answering every one of Moses’ objections with a promise to always be with him.
- It’s Barnabas traveling with newly converted Saul (soon to be Paul) and vouching for him among people who weren’t so sure of his conversion.
- It’s Jesus reaffirming his call on Peter’s life by telling him to “feed my sheep.”
As a pastor, I have literally seen people weep when they begin to realize that God is for them and not against them – that he truly believes in them.
We may not go on a search for the Emerald City and encounter winged monkeys along the way, but every person is on a search for courage. We want to have someone to believe in and to know that someone believes in us.
For me, my church communities have provided me with each of those. Not always perfectly; at times, I have been bitterly disappointed with “church” people. But I’ve been fortunate that the good relationships have far outnumbered the bad ones.
Here’s my point: it’s nearly impossible to find encouragement on your own. You need solid, strong, encouraging people in your life if you truly want to be courageous. You must be intentional about finding them because the discouraging people will have no trouble finding you.
I would also appeal to the more mature of my readers to be intentional about seeking out people who need encouragement. In God’s providence, one right word spoken at just the right time might become a turning point in someone’s life.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
If you are in ministry, here is terrific podcast from Thom Rainer about encouragement for pastors.
Experience and Background
- 25+ years of senior leadership experience
- masters in management and leadership
- presenter at the WFX National Conference
- former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
- helped start 2 for-profit tech companies
To get a better feel for my style and personality, you can watch past sermons on our YouTube channel.
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I’ve written a few books that might help! You’ll find books on preaching, leadership, Ephesians, as well as my first novel. Follow this link to learn more.