Acts 15: 30-32 So they (Judas & Silas) were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation. Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. (NRSV)

Have you been discouraged? Has life been difficult? Have you ever felt down and out?

Well life was difficult for Christians in the first century because the culture they lived in was not attuned to the ways of Christ. When people persecuted them for their beliefs, they became discouraged. Judas and Silas are two whom God sent to encourage other believers, to help their faith become stronger. In fact the words "encourage" and "encouragement" are used countless times in the New Testament. Throughout the centuries, receiving encouragement has been important to all Christians as they grow and mature in their faith.

One morning, Tom Kennedy, from Texas, was attending a conference and praying about something special he could do that day. God nudged him to focus on encouraging others. That day God sent several people his way who needed encouragement. As far as he could tell, Tom did not make a huge difference in anyone's life. it could be that someone's life was changed and he didn't know about it. But that day Tom did learn that people appreciate and are strengthened by words of encouragement. He also learned that each of us is encouraged as we encourage others.

Giving encouragement is really an easy thing to do - a smile, a few minutes to listen to someone, a kind word. I am so fortunate as I have many people in my life who give me encouragement, even if they aren't aware of it. Many times we might be unaware of the affect we have on someone. But i would love to share just one example, and I hope she won't mind my using her name. On Tuesday nights, after choir practice, on her way out, Rita Collins always takes a moment to say, "You did a good job>" It means a lot to me and gives me a good feeling every time, she says it.

Sometimes it is the smallest things in life that mean the most. So take time today to say something nice to somebody, or give that stranger you pass a big smile, and say "Have a good day!"

Prayer: Dear God, lead us to popele who need encouragement, and give us the words to strengthen their faith, in Jesus' name, amen.

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