Tipping the Balance
Midland SDA Church
June 10, 2017
“Make it your goal to speak into others lives such an abundance of uplifting and encouraging words that they will eventually tip the balance and move a life from discouragement to hope.”
I read this quote by Jennifer Kennedy Dean in a book we have been using for our family worship this year. I liked it, and it inspired me to think of what kind of impact this behavior might have if we put it into practice. There are people all around us living with discouragement, whether we recognize it or not. Is it possible that our words could be the impetus that would bring them hope? Can something as simple as our encouragement make a difference in someone’s life?
Pulsifer recounts a story shared with him by a good friend who used to commute
to work daily on a train. Once disembarking the train, he always walked the
short distance to his office building along with all the other throngs of
people hurrying on their way to their work.
Each morning, he passed an older man who was always at the same spot with cup in hand hoping to get a bit of change by those who passed by. For most people, this person was someone to be ignored as if he didn't exist, a person who they didn't want to be bothered with. Invariably, though, his friend would say good morning to him and bid him to have a good day. The stranger would smile back, say good morning and remain on station until all the commuters had gone on their way.
Occasionally, he would drop a dollar or two in his cup on his way by as he said hello. This behavior went on for several years until one day, his last day on the job before retirement, he stopped for a few moments to speak with this man. He told the man that he would no longer be passing by because this was his last day on the job. The man took his hand and shook it warmly saying that he had always looked forward to seeing him pass his way, and not because he dropped a few dollars in his cup. He said he would miss him because he was one of the few people out of thousands who passed him daily who ever said hello, and was the only one who ever bid him to have a good day. The man also said that his warm words always brightened his day and helped him to continue on despite being ignored by thousands of others who saw him daily.
If a simple greeting to a stranger can brighten a life, how much more can we do for those around us with a little effort. The scriptures are rife with council on the subject, and there are many ways to lift others from discouragement. Let’s look at a few together.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;
Love is a universal need of mankind and can be expressed in a myriad of ways, one of which is physical touch. Did you ever stop to think that during Jesus earthly ministry, He often touched people, including those that had been deemed unclean. We each have roughly 18 square feet of skin with five million nerve endings, ready to be triggered by touch. Research by the University of Miami's Touch Research Institute has discovered that human touch has both physical and emotional benefits. Some of their findings have shown that touch lessened pain, improved pulmonary function, increased growth in infants, lowered blood glucose and improved immune function. Anything from a touch on the shoulder to a hug can communicate that you care.
Tender words are another way to express love. Tell people you love them. Not necessarily the stranger on the street, but tell your spouse, your children and your friends.
Philippians 1:3-4 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy. (ESV)
2 Timothy 1:3-7 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. 6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Gratitude is demonstrated by expressing thanks and praise, and recognizing someone’s accomplishments. I imagine we all have been on the receiving end of this at some point, and it feels good to be told that we have brought value to something. We like to do things that are worthwhile and when someone shows appreciation toward us, we know what we have done is valued.
I read about and interesting study that was done by researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania:
“Researchers randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group—assigned to work on a different day—received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.”
Amazing results of enhanced performance resulting from appreciation, but there are other benefits too. Showing gratitude can increase a person’s wellness, increase better sleep habits, increase metabolism and lower stress. Gratitude also makes people more willing to share their positive feelings with others. Perhaps the most significant psychological effect of appreciation is the happiness and other emotions immediately felt by both the giver and recipient of the gratitude. It results in good feelings, happy memories, increased self-esteem, optimism and relaxation.
Philippians 2:4 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Approval is something that we seek almost from birth. It is expressed by affirmation and building up someone, and acknowledging their importance to us. Approval will often bring positive results into the life of the recipient.
We had a professional development event at Delta College, where I work, back in May. One of the speakers was a man by the name of Brian Pruitt. Brian Played football for CMU and in 1994 was named First Team AP All American. He is a motivational speaker with a passion of helping people overcome obstacles to accomplish their dreams. Among other things, he shared with us two stories from his life. The first was about a particular student he became acquainted with while coaching football. This young man was a receiver but would often drop the ball. The other coaches would tease him a bit by calling him butter fingers. This bothered Brian, and he spoke to the coaches in private and confronted them with how they were treating the young man. They responded by saying “we’re just joking with him, he knows it, it doesn’t bother him.” Brian persisted and said “Someday you’re going to need him and you’re training him to drop the ball. Sure enough, it happened at the final game of the season. The would be winning pass of the game Butter Fingers dropped in the end zone. The young man had done what he was taught to believe he would do. Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there. Ten years later their paths crossed again and Brian had the opportunity to speak with this student, now a grown man, and he told Brian, I feel like I have been dropping the ball my entire life.
The second story he shared was that of a kicker who played with him at CMU. In contrast to the first story, this young man had the support and encouragement of his teammates and would receive high fives whether his kicks were good or not-so-good. It was the championship game, CMU was behind, fourth quarter, and fourth down. They sent in their kicker to punt the ball and he whispered to the Center, “I have noticed there is always one guy that is out of position, if they line up like that again, I’m going to run the ball.” The Center told him, “I don’t think that’s a good idea”, but the kicker insisted that was what he was going to do. This particular kicker was something like 300 pounds and not built for speed, but sure enough, they came to the line of scrimmage and the player was out of position. The kicker was hiked the ball and ran 70 yards to score the final touchdown and win the game. Sure, it was a risky move, but he knew that whatever happened, he would have the support of his teammates and that gave him the confidence he needed to take that risk ultimately win the game for his team.
Two stories, two young men, receiving completely different messages from those around them. Do our words make a difference? Is our approval of those around us important? I think so, and the results are of much greater consequence than winning or losing a football game.
Hebrews 10: 24, 25: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching
Connection is manifest by entering into the life of another. It can be inconvenient, uncomfortable, time consuming and even messy, but it is vital for all of us. Nothing can show our care for someone better than spending time with them, primarily by listening to them. If we earnestly listen to someone, whether they are sharing their happiness or their discouragement, our listening will lift their spirits. It has been said that being heard is so close to being loved that they are indistinguishable to most people.
It is easy to move through our lives from one week to another encountering people, but never entering into their world. We may tell ourselves, “It’s all I can do to keep my own life and problems in check.” And we underestimate the benefits of community and connection for ourselves and others.
Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.
Most of us have been through difficulties in one form or another. Some of us have dealt with depression, some have suffered broken relationships, some financial loss, and others with sickness or disease. We have all lost someone close to us through death. It is by going through these difficult experiences that we are equipped to be of comfort to someone else. We can empathize with someone who is in the midst of something we have gone through. We can remember the things that were helpful to us when we were discouraged. We can recall the things that others did or said to us at the time that brought us comfort and hope and in our own way share those things with others. Sometimes it is as simple as sharing our own personal story with someone that is going through a similar difficult time. This can help them to see there is light at the end of the tunnel. We made it through and so will they. Think about the painful experiences in your life and purpose to turn that pain into something valuable by using it to comfort others. Even if you are in the middle of something difficult yourself, if you focus on helping someone else you might find in addition to being a comfort to them, it will lessen the discomfort of your current struggle because you are no longer consumed with your own worries. I have heard it said that depression can come by focusing on self and by changing ones focus toward others the depression will leave as you find purpose in being a blessing to someone else.
Comfort can be manifest in many different ways, sometimes, especially when someone has lost a loved one, the most comforting thing we can do for them is to just spend time with them. Words are not always necessary. A simple “I’m so sorry,” or “I love you.” is all the talking the comforter may have to do.
Ephesians 4:29,31 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear….Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Isaiah 50:4 4 “The Lord God has given Me The tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak A word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned.
When I think about encouragement, the first person that comes to my mind is my mother. When I was a child, let’s just say I was not a natural born student, and my mother worked tirelessly with me on my schoolwork, encouraging me, giving me motivation and support. I think she had some significant concerns when I first went away to academy at 10th grade, that I would not make it without all of her help, but even then, she was a constant source of encouragement to me when I spoke with her on the phone.
Encouragement is all about cheering people on, telling them they can make it and inspiring them toward their goals. This is something that we may get a lot of when were children but starve for as adults. People love to hear positive uplifting comments about something they are putting effort into doing. Don’t miss an opportunity to build someone up in this way. We may never know the difference a reassuring word will make in someone’s life, but to someone about to give up, it will mean the world.
John 1:12 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
The most compelling reason that I can think of for showing respect to another human being is because they are a child of God. If they are of value to God, which all His children are, they deserve our respect.
One way we can show someone respect is to be attentive to them while they are speaking to us. We don’t always show respect to those we are closest to. I am guilty of being preoccupied with something on my phone or computer while Brenda is trying to talk with me, and she will tell you, I need work in this area.
Another way we can be respectful of others is to show that we value their opinion, this demonstrates them that we place importance on what they have to say. Our children need this from us too. It is easy to tune out children, because we know and have experienced so much more than they have that we think there is nothing we can learn from them, but children need us to listen to them. Anything else gives them the message that they are not important.
We are all children; some are just a bit bigger than others and all of us like to be heard or listened to. I have preached a number of sermons over the years of being an elder of this congregation. In my early years, I was a lot more nervous and unsure than I am now. I would look out at you; some would be looking down, others might be preoccupied with children, some would be looking at me with varying degrees of interest on their faces, but there were always a few that I could count on that would be paying full attention to me with a smile on their face. Perhaps they were smiling because they were laughing at me on the inside, but my point is I felt respected because they were obviously listening.
Romans 15: 1-7 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”[a] 4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What do you think of when I use the word support? Often the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about supporting someone is financial support, and there are those that we have responsibility for financially, our children, our spouse, even our parents and other relatives can be rightful recipients of our financial support. Others we may choose to lend financial support to are those working in missions. They are willing to give their time, effort, and in some cases their lives for the spreading of the gospel in areas of darkness around the globe, are they not also worthy of our financial support?
Other ways of being supportive might involve our time or attention. We must be alert so we can notice when someone around us needs support. Recently my family became aware of someone that had been a blessing to us in many ways in the past who now needed our support. This individual didn’t ask for it, but my perceptive wife was alert and recognized a need that we had the ability and privilege to meet and we acted on it. Are you willing to use your personal resources to help someone that may need your support?
Ephesians 4:32 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Matthew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (ESV)
Some might say I have saved the hardest for last, but if we are going to be effective in bringing hope into the lives of those that feel hopeless it may first require some forgiveness. I’m not just talking about forgiving someone who may have directly wronged us personally, although that may certainly be necessary, but we must be willing to offer forgiveness in the form of compassion, understanding, and mercy to someone that may have, by their own choices, created their own hopeless situation. What this means is not passing judgement on them and deeming them unworthy of our Love, Gratitude, Approval, Connection, Comfort, Encouragement, Respect, and Support, but treating them the same manner that Jesus treated the prostitute, leper, drunkard, and tax collector.
A number of years ago, I was down in Tampa at a winter conference. The conference center was on a river and the weather was so nice that I would go outside and walk along the river at every break we had. As often happens in cities, I was approached by a panhandler, but this guy had a story like none other I had heard before; so elaborate and detailed it seemed more likely to be true than fabricated. It’s not my custom to give money to people on the street, but I made an exception. This guy needed twenty dollars more for bus fare to get back home to whatever state he was from. He had the rest of the money he needed for the fare, which he showed to me, and he knew the exact price of the bus fare. He promised to repay the money once he got home and insisted that I write down my mailing address so he could do so. Guess what? I never saw that twenty dollars again. Was I foolish in that situation? Probably, but perhaps more foolish to allow this one experience to taint me. Withhold forgiveness from others in need, because I had been burned once.
You see it is easy in our humanness to write someone off by saying “he has been that way his entire life, my actions are not going to change him.” but when we respond in this manner, not only are we judging an individual of being unworthy of our time and effort, we are also underestimating the power of our God to work through us to bring hope and change into the life of someone; no less a child-of-God than we ourselves. Christ saw every life, no matter how broken and battered, as worthy of his attention and by so doing gave them new life like they had never experienced before.
Each one of us sitting here this morning has the capacity to “tip the balance and move a life from discouragement to hope.” Not only do we have the capacity, but we have the power through the indwelling Christ and the obligation by His Call. What will you do with it?
Do you feel persuaded, impressed to act but don’t know how or where to start? You are in luck. We are an active church. We have a multitude of programs where you can find an opportunity to participate with Christ in relieving the suffering for someone.
Have you volunteered at our community services center lately? Is it possible there could be a few people there that could use Christ’s love?
What about joining our biblestudyoffer.com team and meeting someone through a drop-off Bible study, developing a friendship where you can be used by God to encourage them.
Do you connect well with kids, volunteer at our school or with our Pathfinder club.
Do you know how many thousands of people walk by our fair booth each year? Neither do I, but I can assure you it’s a lot, because in the 4-hour time slot that I’m there, there are too many for me to count. You can’t talk to them all, but you can make eye contact smile and offer a greeting. That might be just what they need to help tip that balance in their life.
Come September there is a little thing we call Unlock Revelation. Don’t miss that opportunity to be there and meet someone new, perhaps someone that is searching for truth. You can be the one sitting next to them offering support and connection.
It’s likely that I am the least medically trained or medically knowledgeable person in this congregation but Hope Mwemba allowed me to help-out at last year’s Adventist Health Expo. I worked in the dental area, of all places, I assisted Dr. Randy Griffin in the triage and ex-ray area where I had the privilege of meeting greeting and at some level entering the lives of people with needs that extended far beyond a filling or tooth extraction. Did you miss that opportunity last year? More good news! Mark your calendar. Sunday, November 5 of this year we’re doing it again. Don’t miss out.
Do you get my point? There are opportunities all around us where we can partner with our Savior to reach His people and step by step lead them back home; and perhaps even find our own way in the process. You can do it. He will help. You have nothing to lose. The gain is immeasurable.