The subject of encouragement covers a wide range of issues and behaviour. This applies in relation to God’s encouragement of his people and to his people’s encouragement of one another. A common form of encouragement is to give comfort and help, whether to those who are sorrowful (2 Sam 10:2; Isa 61:2; Matt 5:4; Rom 12:15; see SORROW), those who fear (Exod 14:13; Ps 23:4; Matt 14:27; Rev 2:10; see FEAR), those who are persecuted (Ps 86:17; Isa 49:13; John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12-14; see PERSECUTION), or those who are experiencing any other form of weakness, despair or suffering (Isa 40:1-2; Zeph 3:16; Matt 9:2,22; Acts 23:11; see SUFFERING). When God’s people go through unpleasant experiences, one beneficial result is that they are able to comfort others who may have similar experiences (2 Cor 1:3-5).
But encouragement involves more than giving cheer to the disheartened. Positively, it involves giving support to people in such a way that they will have greater confidence, enthusiasm and strength in their lives and service for God (Deut 3:28; Zech 4:6-9; Acts 4:36; 9:26-27; 1 Cor 14:3-4; Phil 1:6; 4:19; see HOPE). Encouragement may often include words of teaching, warning and perhaps rebuke, as mature leaders among God’s people urge their fellows to greater effort in their devotion to God. This will require patience in those who give the advice and in those who receive it (Josh 1:6-7,9; 1 Cor 4:14; Col 1:28; 3:16; 1 Thess 2:11-12; 3:2; 5:14; Heb 13:22; see PATIENCE). Through having right attitudes towards the giving and receiving of encouragement in all its forms, believers will develop Christian character. At the same time they will understand better the nature of God who, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the God of all comfort (2 Cor 1:3; Phil 2:1; Acts 9:31). (Concerning references to the Holy Spirit as ‘the Comforter’ see HOLY SPIRIT.)