Dwight Fletcher | Choose encouragement
In 1936, the Olympic Games were held in Berlin, Germany. During that time, Hitler’s influence could be felt quite strongly, as he made it clear that he didn’t want any black people to compete or win. But a young black American sprinter named Jesse Owens had already won three gold medals and was attempting to win his fourth gold medal in the running long jump. Owens recalled how the German crowd was very much against him. He could feel their hostility so much that he began to lose focus. On his first and second attempts, he crossed the line and faulted. One more fault and he would be disqualified. This was very much out of character for Jesse, but the crowd was getting to him. They were jeering at him and shouting against him, and it was rattling him.
Jesse’s main competitor was a tall German athlete named Luz Long. Luz Long hadn’t ever met Jesse, but he could see that he was all shaken up. In front of tens of thousands of people, this hometown favourite, Luz Long, did the unthinkable. He went over and put his arm around Jesse Owens and began to give him advice and encourage him. He said, “Jesse, the qualifying distance is only 23 feet. You’ve jumped 26 feet many times before. Just move your starting mark back three inches, that way you’ll make sure to not cross the line and be disqualified.”
Jesse took his advice and, on the next jump, he qualified. Jesse went on to break the world record and win his fourth gold medal. Jesse wouldn’t have made it if Luz had not encouraged and advised him. We all need encouragement to be and to do our best. We need to develop a culture of encouragement of building into the success of others.
Dr John Maxwell nailed it when he said, “Encouragement is oxygen for the soul.” If you deprive a soul of oxygen, it shrivels up and will not develop as God intended. Deprive a soul of encouragement and it will withdraw into a shell and live out a fearful existence. Deprive a soul of encouragement and it will be unable or incapable of encouraging others and become apathetic, cynical, pessimistic, and lethargic. Perhaps one of the reasons so many of us find it so hard to succeed in our Christian walk is because we don’t have a source of encouragement.
What would happen in our Christian churches, Christian lives, families, and our professional lives if we all were encouragers of everyone else? There are enough people in the stands telling us that we can’t make it, we’re no good and we should give up now. One woman said that, in the church, we are specialists in telling others what is wrong. And there are persons whose souls are drying up for lack of encouragement.
What would happen if, as the body of Christ Jesus, we were to become encouragers, building others up, even if it means that they will one day outshine us? As people, we have a disposition that we don’t want anybody to be better than us, but this is not a Kingdom of God mentality. Jesus said: “…whoever believes in me … they will do even greater things than I have done, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12 (ERV). For the Kingdom to grow and expand, we should desire that those coming after us will be better than us. We need to become encouragers.
When we live unselfishly, we will always have God’s blessings. When we’re dream releasers, God will make sure our dreams come to pass.