There were just too many of them to be coincidental. Either I was in one of those special seasons of life... but, no. It wasn’t all about me. Maybe God was trying to show me something. Or maybe my eyes were opened and I saw more clearly. When Elisha prayed “Lord, open his eyes,” his servant saw what was always there that he had lacked the eyes to notice. In my case, I’m talking about a series of Made My Day Moments (#MMDM; #MadeMyDayMoments). In a short span of time I found myself on different occasions thinking or actually expressing to someone, “You know, that made my day.”
So, here’s where we collide with some Americana. Many would recognize the fictional San Francisco police officer, Harold Francis Callahan, better known as Dirty Harry. With his brown eyes, magnetic stare, and Smith & Wesson Model 29 ’44 magnum with an 8-3/8" barrel, he would dare those criminals caught in the act of mayhem, “Go ahead. Make my day.” Well, I’m not promoting unbridled machismo or a warped sense of pride that says, “Ain’t nobody going to disrespect me.” This is surely not a nod to vigilante justice either. No, #MMDM is all about something that we all need regularly, and that is encouragement! I’m talking about “Made My Day Moments” that encourage our souls.
The Power of Encouragement
When you talk about the power of encouragement you must realize that the stakes are very high. Don’t underestimate the need or the impact this has in our lives. I read about a study which said in the average home, for every positive statement, a child receives ten (10) negative statements. The school environment is only slightly better: students hear seven (7) negative statements from their teachers for every one positive statement. Words have a real power of creating a perception: a way of seeing ourselves. There are lots of people who spend much of their lives trying to compensate for false perceptions that were created when they were young.
A very insightful episode in the life of King David illustrates what I’m saying. 1Sam.23:13-18 tells us:
“Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah,
and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from
Keilah, he gave up the expedition. And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness,
in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did
not give him into his hand. David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in
the Wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at
Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, "Do not fear, for the hand
of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you.
Saul my father also knows this. And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David
remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.”
This passage describes in detail a very low point in David’s life, a real discouraging season. Along with his 600 men, David is on the run constantly, looking for any safe place they could find in the wilderness. Word got out, though, and King Saul has sent out a hit squad once they narrowed down David’s location to this forested land in the mountainous region of the wilderness of Ziph. Then, this fantastic thing happens in verse16: “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David... and strengthened his hand in God.” The New Living Translation puts tells us Jonatahn “went to find David...and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.” This is a rich account of that day’s events, and for David it would have been a MMDM: a made my day moment!
This is a truly great encounter because encouragement is a basic human need, especially in those destined for greatness. God knows this about us. Since the life of faith is likened to running a race – a long distance event, that is, and not a sprint – and it is he who endures to the end that shall be saved, then regular encouragement is a need if we are to keep walking the straight and narrow. We all need a Jonathan to be there and speak into our lives. At the same time, we can be a Jonathan to someone else. In fact, how good it would be if every person struggling to do God’s will had at least one encourager! This directive in Hebrews 3:12-14 couldn’t be any clearer: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”
God knows we live in a broken world where the pull of sin is toward selfishness and despair. Sin steals our joy, our bodies break down, our plans falter, our dreams die, our resolve weakens, our perspective dims... so, “encourage one another daily.” The great preacher and character expositor, F.B. Meyer, said if he had it to do all over again, he’d preach more sermons designed to encourage. With hindsight, he understood how important this was, but also how much was riding on this.
So, as it tells us in 1Thess.5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” This gives us insight into the nature of true encouragement in the Bible. It’s more than saying “Hey, nice haircut,” or “That dress looks good on you,” or a weak “Hey, cheer up, Buddy!” No, the dynamic of encouragement is found in pointing someone back to God’s help and by so doing putting courage back into them. Hence, Christian encouragement is lifting someone’s heart toward the Lord, to remind them not give up on God. Often in praying for couples and ordaining them to God’s work, I will grab both of their hands when I pray, “to strengthen their hands in God.” The scouting report on Paul’s companion, Tychicus, says, “He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts” (Colossians 4:6, 7). Well, wait a minute, I can’t see how anything has changed. David is still a fugitive in the wilderness, and Jonathan has gone back to his residence in the palace. Why make a big deal about all this? Because a spiritual transaction had taken place in David’s soul. David had experienced a new and deeper strength within!
You Are Called
#MMDM means we’re not just supposed to be on the receiving end of all this, but we’re called to be on the giving end as well. It’s the mindset that says How can I be a blessing? How can I contribute toward making your day? Galatians 6:10 tells us: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Can you see it, the MMDM? This may be my acronym, but the biblical phrase and equivalent as we see it in Psalm 40:5 refers to God’s “wondrous works”: “Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” So, whether we’re talking about things big or small, #MMDM refers to those grace-filled reminders that come to and through us.
What about my #MMDM list? Well, let me just mention a few. A few weeks back, I had lost my voice and ended up trying to croak out my sermon, a trial for me, but more so for the congregation. At the end of it all I went home feeling that was a real dud of a sermon (a syndrome unique to preachers). Late in the afternoon I received an email from one of the women in our church who has real substance to her, who thinks things through very perceptively. Essentially, it was about how the sermon that morning had helped her and challenged her in a number of ways, and her response contained real depth and insight. More than just “great Word this morning.” That’s what gets you from feeling like you’ve struck out with the bases loaded in the 9th #MMDM. It was a very timely encouragement to me. Then there was the family experiencing a very deep and hurtful divide among themselves that would not yield to any kind of counseling. During a season of fasting and prayer I heard the report that a radical work of reconciliation had occurred in that family, a real work of God that was a #MMDM. The sister that had been gone from our church for nearly 15-20 years, but who had just returned and expressed to me how it felt like coming home? Another #MMDM. While I was on vacation I had the opportunity for Chaplain Bob Mecado to take me on a tour of the L.A. County Jail, which is the largest such inning to a facility in the free world. It became a #MMDM, first because I was not a resident there, but also because I was asked to preach on the spot with complete liberty to a bilingual class of inmates. The brother who recently sent me a text message: Saved 35 years ago today, Pastor... Tuesday night, September 11, 1979. God has been very good to me. I’m so grateful fo reverything He’s done for me... Oh, yeah! No question. That turned out to be a #MMDM.
There are two other things that must be connected here for the puzzle to be complete. What confirms how vital this is to each of our lives is that God doesn’t just suggest this. It is not simply a recommendation for basic life improvement. No, He explicitly commands it! When something is a command, then we are to take it very seriously. Hebrews 10:24, 25 says: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” This is not an option for the believer, it is a command. It is not something we do on a holiday like Thanksgiving Day, or when we “feel like it,” but on a regular and daily basis.
The other distinctive feature of #MMDM is it involves not just divine but human agency. While God can and certainly does encourage us – and there will also be the times where we will have to encourage ourselves in the Lord – this practice also needs you and me. Joshua is getting ready to take on the biggest challenge of his life. The Lord speaks to Moses in Deuteronomy 1:38 and says: “Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.” It does not say that God turned to Gabriel and said, “Gabriel, My servant Joshua is about to lead my people into the land on Canaan...I want you to go and encourage him.” God does not work needless miracles. If His purpose can be accomplished by ordinary means, He will not use a miraculous agency just for show. No, in this case, the lot fell upon Moses to encourage and prepare Joshua for the task of taking the children of Israel into the Promised Land.
It’s like using a set of jumper cables. In order for them to work, you must bring a car with a working battery alongside, and connect it to a weaker or dead battery with the intention of sparking it to life. That’s encouragement. That’s #MMDM. It was William Barclay who wrote: “One of the highest human duties is the duty of encouragement... It is easy to laugh at men’s ideals; it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word.”
If you’re still doubting my argument here, then just look again at the vital connection that encouragement has to so many areas of our Christian life. For instance, faith (Acts 14:22), hope (Romans 15:4), unity (Romans 15:5), faithfulness (1Thessalonians 2:12), perseverance (Acts 11:23), joy (Acts 15:31), and Christ’s return (1Thessalonians 4:18). #MMDM is a way of extending the grace of God to one another.
Going Into Training
Nothing worthwhile will ever be accomplished apart from a training regimen. The same grace that freely saves us is also the grace “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12). Training is the practice and effort involved now that enables me down the road to do what I cannot do today. There are a number of practical helps to consider if you’re going to be an encourager, to have #MMDMs.
First, this will require intentionality on our part. vs.16, tells us “Then Jonathan Saul’s son arose and went to David in the forest.” There was an unquestioned intentionality to his actions. The Message paraphrase of (Heb.10:24) says, ‘Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out...”
Second, it cannot be done in isolation. Romans 1:12 tells us the secret: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.”
Third, Encouragement involves speaking life words, reminding us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” It is significant that God has designed our mouths to be instruments of encouragement. Proverbs 12:25 (LB) says: “Anxious hearts are very heavy, but a word of encouragement does wonders!” This is an amazing capacity God has deposited in human beings. Ephesians 4:29, 30 says: “Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Our words, empowered by the Holy Spirit can minister grace to others. This will not happen apart from training. Isaiah 50:4 testifies: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.”
Fourth, true encouragement always points people to the Scriptures. Romans 15:4 tells us: “By the patience and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” This is what Jonathan did. He was affirming to David that God’s prophetic promise to him that he would become king would come to pass. It was Billy Graham who said, “I have never met a person who spent time in daily prayer, in the study of the word of God, and who was strong in faith, who was discouraged for very long.” Encouragement is Scripture-saturated.
I’m not a crusader, plus I’m not sure what all the dynamics of something “going viral” are. But if you’re going to start a movement, then #MMDM is definitely a good one. Look around, get involved, and you will find your own share of Make My Day Moments. I love what Jonathan Edwards said about experiencing God: “There is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of that loveliness and beauty, of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness.” As we look at the life of David, what is confirmed is that the future belongs to those who can find encouragement today. To those who can say on a regular basis, “You know what? That Made My Day!”