Encouraging with Your Hands (Part 1)
Positive words (whether spoken or written) are vitally important tools for encouraging others. However, can words of encouragement alone satisfy the needs of discouraged and hurting people? The answer is no, in much the same way as words alone cannot warm a cold body or fill an empty stomach. "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:15-17). Likewise, we might rightly suggest that an encouraging word by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Disciples of Christ must not be satisfied encouraging with their words only but must couple positive words with positive actions. In other words, we must also encourage with our hands. "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (I John 3:18).

One of the wonderful things about encouraging others through our actions is that we receive many corresponding blessings! Allow me to elaborate upon four benefits at this time:

1. Joy and contentment are experienced.
It just feels great to encourage others with actions of kindness! Our Lord was recorded as stating - "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Giving encouragement to others is a privilege, and, generally speaking, there is little room for discouragement in a mind filled with concern for improving the well-being of others! Perhaps the best general psychological advice for someone who is depressed is: "Get up, go out and find someone who needs help, and then help them to the best of your ability!" Joy and contentment are natural by-products of encouraging others.

2. Friendships are built and strengthened.
If you serve others through encouraging actions, how can you not help but make friends and strengthen currently existing bonds? In contrast, when we discourage others through our words and deeds, friendships are weakened and sometimes destroyed.

3. Adventures are created.
Those who are seeking each day for creative ways to bring smiles to family, friends, and even strangers will have many adventures to experience. Truly, there is no room for boredom when so many opportunities for encouragement abound!

4. Kindnesses are returned.
Good works are not meritorious, but they do pay dividends. Consider several passages on this truth: Luke 6:38 - "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." II Corinthians 9:6 - "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." Galatians 6:7-10 - "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." It is no secret that kindness is often contagious. When one throws a stone into a pond and disturbs still water, a ripple effect is created. In similar fashion, encouraging others through our actions will generate a positive ripple in our lives.

We will continue these thoughts in our next lesson.