My dad used to tell the story about the time when the devil announced he was going out of business and would sell all of the tools of his trade. On the day of the sale, he had all of his tools on display. They were dangerous and bad looking. On display were greed, envy, jealousy, hatred, sensuality, deceit, pride. There was a price tag on each one.
Away from these terrible looking tools of his trade, there was a very ominous, much-worn tool. The price tag on it was much higher than the rest of them.
When someone asked the devil about that tool, he said, “That’s discouragement.” When asked why it was priced so high, he said, “Because it’s more useful to me than the others. I can pry open and get inside a person’s consciousness with it when I could never get near that person with any of the other tools. Once I get inside a person’s mind with discouragement, I can wreak havoc and pain, and very few people know it comes from me.”
The amazing thing is that the devil’s price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold. He is still using that tool today!
Discouragement is one of the devil’s most effective tools. Every person faces it. The prescription for discouragement is encouragement. That means to put courage into a person. Everybody needs encouragement. It is the best medicine many people could receive.
I read about an interesting survey on the “attention span” for adults. The average adult attention span will last for about 6 compliments, 5 encouragements, or 1 criticism. We all have a healthy appetite to receive encouragement, but nobody likes criticism for dinner!
One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas. His name means “Son of Encouragement.” Paul may have been thinking of Barnabas when he wrote 1 Thessalonians 5:11, exhorting us to “encourage and build each other up.” Three verses later, Paul says to “encourage the timid.”
There is a beautiful parable about a group of frogs that were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. The other frogs looked at the situation, saw how deep the pit was, and told the unfortunate frogs that they would never get out. It was a discouraging situation.
The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump out of the pit. The other frogs kept telling them there was no hope for them. One of the trapped frogs listened to what the others were saying and finally gave up. He fell down and died.
The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. The other frogs continued to yell at him to stop the pain and suffering and just give up. It made him jump even higher. He finally made it out of the pit. When his fellow frogs congratulated him, they asked him, “Why did you continue jumping? Didn’t you hear us?” The frog made no response. They all soon realized that the frog was deaf. All the time they were trying to discourage him, he thought they were encouraging him, so he never gave up!!
Everybody is looking for some form of encouragement. Today, you can participate in shortening the attention span of others by criticism, or you can expand their attention span by encouragement. God said to Moses in Deuteronomy 3:28, “Encourage Joshua for he will lead the people across the Jordan.” When Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch, Jewish leaders sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it” (Acts 13:15).
Be a Barnabas today!