Encouraging with Your Eyes (Part 1)
If you had to lose one of your five primary senses, which one would it be? Would you give up your sense of smell, touch, taste, hearing, or seeing? Personally, I would give up my sense of smell (although I know that would hinder taste somewhat too, and consequently my enjoyment of food). If you could only keep one of your senses, which one would you choose? I would certainly decide to keep my sense of sight. Admittedly, however, it would be difficult to part with any of these five God-given abilities.

I want us to spend our time in the next several lessons focusing on our senses and how they relate to the subject of encouragement. Today will focus on our eyes. I believe our eyes are valuable tools for encouraging others. It is through our eyes that we can communicate genuine interest and compassion. With our eyes we can collect vital information which is useful in encouraging others.

The human eye has an amazing ability to focus quickly on objects that are near, far, or even moving. Spiritually, we must train ourselves to focus on the positive or else we may find ourselves dwelling on the negative. Think about a school classroom setting. There are often many different stimuli that compete for the attention of the students, but they are free to choose what they will focus or concentrate upon (whether it be the lecture, talking to a classmate, doodling, passing notes, daydreaming, etc.). Sights and sounds will compete for the student's attention, but he will focus primarily upon one thing at a time. A student, in order to be successful, will have to purposefully concentrate on the lecture and ignore the negative stimuli. The same is true when it comes to encouragement. Those who tend to discourage others focus on the negative, often unconsciously. Encouragers, on the other hand, consciously focus on the positive. The difference is dramatic! What the student focuses on in class will make all the difference. What we focus on in life will make all the difference. What are you looking for in people--good or bad? Are you using your eyes to look for things to criticize or things to praise? You'll probably find whatever it is you are looking for!

Unfortunately, I believe that many people are unskilled at focusing on or noticing the good around them. This is probably because our modern culture is mistake-oriented. The media makes its living publicizing the worst it can find in people and society. Verbal attacks are in the forefront of the news almost constantly (e.g., politics). Rampant divorce is everywhere, which is, in itself, proof that many can't see redeeming qualities in their mate. Those who grow up in America will have no lack of exposure to nitpicking and faultfinding. Our culture emphasizes the negative and we can easily become accustomed to looking for it if we don't make a conscious effort to try to see the good in people and circumstances. God wants us to use our eyes to find the good in people and labor to cultivate it. Some people are rough, unpolished diamonds, and it takes a perceptive person to bring out their shine.

Are you one who accentuates the positive or are you more accurately described as a human fault inspector? How would your spouse describe you? What would your co-workers, children, and brethren say about you? Look for the good in people and circumstances and you will find it. Concentrate on the positive and you are well on your way to being a great encourager.

Please realize that I'm not advocating softness on sin. There is a time to rebuke and correctively discipline. However, even those tasks should be done in a spirit of gentleness and humbleness, not with a "holier than thou" attitude. Galatians 6:1 teaches - "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted."

We will continue this theme in our next lesson.