In a world where sin and darkness are pervasive, the Word of God is the ultimate source of encouragement, and in it, you will find the encouragement your congregation needs to hear.
Whether in disaster, or day to day challenges, an encouraging word, founded in the Word of God, is very important. Sometimes, however, it can feel so overwhelming, trying to discern how to encourage those around you. Here we have fifteen ideas to get you started. Each one will give you a brief description on the Scriptures that are relevant to this topic and why this may be a helpful topic for your next sermon.
1) Justification by Faith
Money, power, position, and influence, these are all things that the world has deemed important. This has resulted in a very achievement centered society where your success is measured by how good you are compared to someone else.
This line of thinking has promoted a generation of parents that are consumed by their jobs and children who are consumed by academics or athletics or the like. Or, they become convinced that they just aren’t good enough and give up trying.
All of these patterns for living can get transferred into other sects of peoples lives, including how they practice their faith. We live in an era that cares a lot about work and results and that can lead to distorted thinking about how works affect our salvation.
This is something I dealt with for a long time in my own life. I became convinced that in order to keep my salvation I needed to work hard and get mostly everything right. Every time I would fail it was devastating.
The overarching message of Galatians is this: your salvation does not come from keeping all the rules (the law), because no one is able to keep the whole law. It is there to make you aware of your sin and need for a savior. That savior is Jesus Christ who, if you will put your faith in him, wants to extend grace over your life so that you receive your salvation by faith, not by works of the law.
This was Paul’s main intention in writing this letter was to correct a belief that was circulating in the Galatian church that you needed faith in Jesus plus the Jewish law to be saved. This same message is needed today.
The commands laid out in the Bible are intended to be obeyed because they are pleasing to God, however, they are not the source of salvation, and falling into sin does not result in the loss of your salvation.
It is so important that people hear this message, and what an encouraging one it is! To know that my salvation is not dependent on my perfection (which I will never achieve anyway) is so freeing! And it can bring freedom to other people too.
2) God Is My Strength in All Circumstances
Philippians 4:13 may be the most misused verse of all time. People apply it to all the wrong things in all the wrong contexts because they fail to understand what it, in context, is trying to communicate.
The intention in this verse was not for you to say “I can do all things through him who strengthens me, so I can win the lottery!”
When looking at the passage as a whole, we realize that Paul is in the middle of praising God for the support of the Philippian church when he was struggling.
He then goes on to say that he has experienced what it is like to have plenty and what it is like to have little. And, through that process, he has learned that God would give him the strength to pursue God’s will for his life.
By itself, this verse can be applied to virtually anything you want to accomplish, however, in context we recognize that what he means is that we can accomplish God’s will, no matter the circumstance because God will give us the strength to do what he is calling us to do.
It is encouraging to know that God will not ask you to do something without giving you the strength to do it. He is with us and will strengthen us to accomplish his will.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Philippians 4:11-13 ESV
3) Never Grow Weary of Doing Good
As Christians, we try to live a life that brings glory to God but some days, that is really hard to do. Sometimes it feels like all that we are doing isn’t bringing the results we want, or people pick on you for being a “goody-two-shoes.” In these moments it can be all too easy sometimes to cave to the flesh.
When I am feeling this way I remember Galatians 6. In this chapter, Paul is concluding his letter to the Galatian church. The book of Galatians is largely about justification by faith instead of works of the law, however, towards the end, it veers towards the results of a justification by faith, a life in the Spirit.
As he moves through some of what life in the Spirit would look like, we arrive at verse seven. From here Paul reminds us that if we reap what we sow. If you sow your flesh, you will reap the results of the flesh, corruption. However, if you sow in the Spirit, you will reap the rewards of the Spirit, eternal life.
He then encourages us that we need to keep sowing in the Spirit, because, when the time is right, we will reap a good harvest if we persevere.
This passage is so uplifting because it is a great reminder not to give up, and so many people are teetering on the edge. Our life in the Spirit may bring hardship or persecution, however it also brings great blessing.
Nothing we do for the Lord is wasted, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.Galatians 6:7-10 ESV
4) The Helper Has Come
Because we follow Jesus, one of our biggest desires is to please him with how we think and act. We want to give him glory, praise, love, and adoration for all that he has done for us, and to do this we obey his commands out. However, to do this alone would be near impossible.
The world is always shouting at us with a million voices, and it is sometimes hard to recognize what to do. We want to love and obey him, but it’s hard to block out those voices and the voice of our flesh that is drawing us to sin.
When Jesus ascended to heaven and took his place of authority at the right hand of God he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us. Through Him, we are able to receive guidance and discern the will of God in our lives.
Be encouraged! We are not expected to battle our sinful nature alone! The Holy Spirit, which dwells within every believer will be there to guide us and convict us and show us the will of God. Through Him, we are able to praise him more fully and live our lives in a way that honors him.
We don’t have to pay any heed to the voices of the world and of our flesh. Listen carefully for the Holy Spirit who can guide you to the truth.
God communicates this idea in John 14, as part of his teaching at the last supper, which gives some indication of its importance.
Verses 15-31 give great insight into God’s desire for us to obey his commands out of love, and that he would send his Holy Spirit, the Helper, to teach his disciples and to remind them of what they had been taught.
These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.John 14:25-27 ESV
5) Have Faith in His Refuge
There are many encouraging works of poetry throughout the Psalms, Psalm 46 is one of them. This Psalm is somewhat unique in that it begins by praising the Lord, not a cry for help. It praises the Lord for his strength and protection despite the psalmist’s weakness and is seeped in the faith that God will continue to protect him.
This Psalm is full of confidence and faith. Through their words, you can see that though their world appears to be crashing and burning down around them they have chosen to rejoice and put their faith in God.
They are confident that He will be their refuge and protect them. The rest of the Psalm praises God for his power and blessing in everything.
It also reminds us that as we put our faith in God who will protect us that we need to be still and allow him to do that. Sometimes, when we are in a difficult season we get so caught up in trying to do everything to make it better that we don’t take the time to abide and pray and be in the Word, and allow God to move in our lives.
There is a ton of encouraging material to work off of in this Psalm and it would make a great sermon topic in a season of difficulty.
God is our refuge and strength,Psalm 46:1-3 ESV
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
6) Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart
We live in a culture that promotes independence in everything. As a result, people are making choices based on what they want to be right or wrong, and often have an inflated perspective on how much they “know.”
This passage of Scripture comes with an encouragement and a warning to address this. It first encourages us to trust in the Lord, and not our own understanding. Basically, to be humble and recognize that we don’t have the answers. Therefore we put our trust instead, in the one who does.
If we do this we can be encouraged that God will give us the understanding we need to follow His will. It will also bring healing to our bodies that are battered from trying to go our own way due to pride.
He also warns against this pride, that we should not be wise in our own eyes and turn away from evil.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
7) Grace and Endurance
Building endurance takes time. There is no way around it. As a former cross country runner, I know how long it takes to build up the endurance to last through a race and to build up speed. In the process, there is one key component, grace.
Romans 5 teaches us that because we have been justified by faith we can now rejoice in our sufferings because it produces endurance.
Paul goes on to say, while we were still weak, Christ died for us.
Before we even began our journey towards becoming like Christ, God extended grace over us. That before we came to him and before we could build our endurance, while we were still weak, Christ died for us. He made a way to extend grace over us when we believed.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.Romans 5:3-6
8) Trust and Relationship
There are two main themes throughout Psalm 27, David running to God for protection and refuge, and David expressing his desire to know the Lord more.
These two things cover a very important topic that would provide a lot of encouragement to people today. In our culture, reaching out for help is sometimes viewed very negatively and creates an attitude of independence and pride.
This attitude then translates into people’s relationship with God, and they are unable to fully surrender their situation to him and allow him to work in their lives.
It is also very hard to put your trust in God when you don’t know him very well. One of the things we see with David is that he has a lot of faith in God accompanied by a strong desire for relationship with him.
It is important to encourage people that they need to continue to develop their relationship with God as well, and that the better they know him, and understand his character, the easier it will be to surrender their situations and trust that God is there for them.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;Psalm 27:1 ESV
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
9) Temptation and Idolatry
As with many passages in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 10 begins with a warning and ends with an encouragement. In this case, Paul is warning the Corinthians about idolatry, the worship of other gods instead of worshiping the one true God.
It may appear at times that idolatry is a “dead” sin in our culture today however it is alive and well. It only looks different than what it did in the past. Today it looks like the worship of money, professions, other people, government, and even nature.
Paul is encouraging them to put God first and then encourages them in verse 13 that they are able to persevere. God will not place in their lives a temptation that is too great to stand.
Encourage people to stand firm in their commitment to the Lord and not to waver, for the temptation is not too great to bear. This is an important subject to cover, not only to encourage in moments of temptation but also to make people aware of potential idols in their lives.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.1 Corinthians 10:13
10) The Unchanging God
The first half of James 1 is full of encouraging words. It encourages us to take joy in the endurance produced by our trials, ask God for wisdom and he will provide, and a reminder of the fleetingness of material wealth. This entire passage culminates in verse 17.
Sometimes we are tempted to take credit for the good in our lives, and this leads to pride. However, it takes humility to recognize that all the good things that come of our circumstances are truly from God. We can take no credit for them.
Then comes the encouraging piece. That in all these things discussed throughout this section, God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change his mind but is steadfast.
He is not some fictional, mythological god whose people are at the mercy of his fickle attitude. The only true God is unchanging. He is always loving, and always just.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.James 1:17
11) Wait On the Lord
The second half of Isaiah 40 is largely focused on the greatness of our God and concludes with a very encouraging passage about his power in us.
In a world that encourages people to do everything themselves and is focused on individual achievement over the achievement of the whole, this is a very encouraging passage. You don’t have to rely solely on your own strength, God will give you what you need to do what he wants you to do.
It is also noteworthy, however, that in order to receive this strength must first recognize their weakness and wait on the Lord. Come to the Lord in humility and allow him to fill you with strength to do what you are called to do.
He gives power to the faint,Isaiah 40:29-31
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
12) Armor of God
Ephesians 6 reminds us that God is strong through us to accomplish His will. However, this passage goes one step further and talks about the tools that God has provided for us to wield.
Unfortunately, many people face the challenges ahead unequipped. They don’t know or don’t care about the tools that God has provided for them. God does not send us into battle without his armor to protect us and his strength for victory.
This passage is an encouraging reminder of the tools God has given us to move forward in his calling on our lives, and to face every challenge that presents itself. Don’t enter battle unprepared, put on the armor of God, and you will be able to stand against the devil’s schemes.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.Ephesians 6:10-11
13) Source of Truth
Everywhere we go there are people announcing what they feel to be the “truth.” Everyone thinks their way is the right way and it makes it very hard to discern what is really true. However, this brings a lot of encouragement when we recognize the source of the Bible.
2 Timothy 3 spends a lot of time talking about the godless behavior in the world, particularly that which was prophesied in the last days. However, it concludes with a powerful statement, that all Scripture is God breathed, for the purpose in guiding his people into righteousness and to be equipped for all God has for them to do.
Because Scripture comes from God we can be certain that it is the truth. We don’t need to sort out the lies for there are none. It is the Word of God, and God Himself is truth.
Praise God for such a wonderful gift! To have the book of truth, and to be guided and equipped for what God wants us to do. This is an amazing gift indeed.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17
14) Comfort of God
Our God is many things, one of them being the comforter. 2 Corinthians begins with a long passage on the God of comfort, and also how we, as Christians, can then take that comfort and pass it on to others.
Some people mistakenly view God as a large menacing figure in the heavens who punishes people for their wrongdoing. To them he is somewhat scary. However this passage is an encouraging reminder of God’s love for his people.
He is not unkind, only just, and he will punish those who have not excepted his grace and he will comfort those whom he has extended grace over.
This verse not only encourages us in God’s comforting character, but also that our suffering is not in vain but will be used for the glory of his kingdom. When God comforts us he is also intending for us to take that comfort to comfort others. Our pain opens doors for us to encourage those around us and perhaps comfort a non-believer in a way they have never experienced before.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4
15) My Redeemer Lives
When you enter a difficult season of life, one of the easiest habits to slip into is fixating on that challenge. It can become consuming, spreading throughout all areas of your life until everything is in shambles. Things that you used to enjoy hold no value, and are only a numb distraction from you circumstances
If anyone could relate to this, its Job. He was a prosperous and godly man. At first glance, his hardship seems unfair. However, God allowed that in his life because he knew that Job was strong enough to conquer it.
Throughout this process Job cries out to God in distress, however, her returns to this point: God is alive and well, his plan is at work, and at the end of days he will reign over the earth (also a foreshadowing and prophesy of Jesus). In the middle of his troubles he was still humble to the sovereignty of God. He remained loyal.
This is encouraging to recognize because it reminds us that even in the middle of deepest struggle and torment in our lives, that God is still king, he is in control, and his plan will prevail, whether we understand it or not.
For I know that my Redeemer lives,Job 19:25 ESV
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
These topics are a great place to start, so take the time to pray through them, study the word, ask God for understanding and wisdom, and proclaim His truth in your community and around the world.