In the lower left hand drawer of my desk there is a file labeled "Appreciation." It contains an interesting assortment of notes, cards, and drawings that I have kept over the years. The thing they have in common is that they are items others have given me that express thanks and appreciation.
I know that, to some, keeping such a file sounds like an attempt to stroke one's ego. But the truth is we all need to be appreciated and that we live in a culture that doesn't express it often enough. So much of our lives are built on competition with one another - grades, scholarships, sports, jobs, promotions, and even relationships. Many people feel that their contributions aren't noticed or appreciated. So it is refreshing when someone steps out of this tide of competition or self-absorption and lets someone know how they have encouraged them and added to their life.
I flipped through my appreciation file today. Some of you might be surprised to know that you are in there. I have items from almost thirty years ago. But each of the items, and the person who gave it, are special to me and have been used by God to encourage me and build me up. And there are times when I'm discouraged or tired when that file is one of the things that keeps me going.
In the passage above, Paul calls us to say only those things that encourage others and build them up. Does that describe your speech? When was the last time you made a point to encourage someone? When was the last time you expressed appreciation to someone who influenced your life?
Be like the Biblical character Barnabas, who was known as the "Son of Encouragement." Or like my friend T.Ray, who has the gift of encouragement. You are encouraged any time you are in his presence.
Make a point this week to say "thank you" to someone who has touched your life. Look for a chance to encourage someone.
And start an appreciation file of your own.