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Encouragement:  A Weighty Subject

Jean Nidetch had a problem. As a 214 pound homemaker she was desperate to lose weight. She fmally went to the New York City Department of Health for help and was given a diet designed by Dr. Norman Jolliffe. After two months of faithful adherence to the diet she grew discouraged. She still had more than fifty pounds to lose. In the midst of her depression she embarked upon an idea. She invited six of her overweight friends to her home to share the diet and talk about strategies to stay on it. Today, almost fifty years later, more than two million members attend over 30,000 Weight Watchers meetings in 30 countries every week.

In an interview she was asked what it was that caused her to be so successful. She gave her response in the form of a story. When she was a teenager she used to walk across a park where she could see mothers huddled together talking while their toddlers sat on swings. The poor kids had no one to push them. "So," she said, "I'd give them a shove. And do you know what happens when you push a kid in a swing? Pretty soon he's pumping, doing it for himself. That's my role in life...I'm there to give others a shove."

All of us need a "push" in life. We all have occasions when we get down and discouraged.  We've had those moments of frustrating failure and we need a shove to pick ourselves up and go on. Or, we have worked, planned, and carried that important project through to its conclusion and there was no one there to say, "You did a great job!" That may be the toughest pill to swallow! That's when we need an encourager...a person who sees, feels, and understands. We don't need a critic or a passive bystander. We need someone to stand in the gap that will speak and act.

The church is designed by God to be a family of encouragers. We don't live the Christian life in isolation. We can't! Let's face it...we NEED each other! The writer of Hebrews was a great encourager. He wrote his "word of exhortation" (13:22) to people with "feeble arms and weak knees" (12:12) who needed to be reminded that God "will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you helped his people and continue to help them" (6:10). This encourager encouraged us to "consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (10:24). The writer calls for a creative spirit of encouragement in God's family. He suggests that we spend time in reflection, evaluation, and appreciation of others so that we can know how to build them up. Let's start today!

For His Cause,
Tim Woodward