My high school basketball team wasn't very good at all. I can say this because I was on the team. I remember losing by 30 one game and looking over to the side lines to see the cheerleaders screaming "we're #1." That kind of hopeless optimism is not the biblical picture of an encourager. People around us are losing in the game of life. They are tired and in many cases have been hurt. They don't need meaningless words, they need biblical encouragement.
3 times in Acts 20, the text from this last Sunday, We find Paul encouraging people (20:2,3,12). We can learn from him how to be a biblical encourager.
Encourage people with the Word of God. Paul encourage people by teaching them the Word and we can to. We should be tactful and timely in our use of Scripture with hurting people but we should never shy away from pointing them to the Word of God. The Word is not just an antiseptic to cleans but an ointment to heal and mend. When we encourage with the Scripture we will have the right balance of conviction and comfort.
Encourage people with prayer. At the end of Acts 20, Paul's friends are sad because they will not see him again. They all fall to their knees and pray for each other. Don't just talk about it, pray for people. Few things lift the heart like heart felt prayer from a friend. Also, prayer allows us to encourage a brother or sister from a distance. As we lift each other up in prayer during the week, God is at work in that person' life no matter where they are in the world.
Encourage people with your testimony. Without boasting, Paul recounts his life of faithfulness to his friends at Ephesus. They are encouraged and his faithfulness to the Lord and ultimately God's faithfulness in his life. When we live godly, faithful lives we encourage people indirectly. They see God's mercy carry us through difficulties and they see how we respond and it gives them strength to persevere.
Encourage people with a big vision. Paul's journey to Jerusalem has to many parallels with Christ's journey to Jerusalem to be coincidental. Paul reminds us friends that the mission is bigger than one person. When we remind people that God has a great plan to bring his kingdom to the ends of the earth they are encouraged. Right perspective lifts us out of discouragement by reminding us of God's glory and vision for our lives and his world.