The writer of Hebrews speaks to us of the importance of encouragement:
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. -- Hebrews 3:12-13
In this passage the writer tells us that the antidote for a hard heart is encouragement. The Greek word, translated encourage, is 'parakaleo' - it is one of my favorite Greek words. In John's gospel Jesus calls the Holy Spirit "Comforter" which is a translation for 'paracletos' - a similar Greek word . Both of these words communicate a deep sense of coming along side someone to comfort them, strengthen them, rebuke them and teach them. These words encapsulate encouragement.
I find it interesting that these verses seems to define leadership differently than the way I once thought of leading ... leading from the side and not the front or back. I guess that is really what encouragement is all about ... walking with someone ... holding their hand as they go through some difficult stuff. My wife has been such a person for me ... believing in me ... hanging in there with me ... helping me see that the glass is more full than empty. I believe that the Holy Spirit not only encourages us directly but at times He becomes an encourager through other people.
The verse warns us that our hearts can be hardened, sinful and unbelieving if we are left to ourselves. Being in close relationships with caring brothers and sisters sets our hearts free to be soft. When we share our pain, our disappointments and our fears with them we make ourselves available to be encouraged. Another verse in Hebrews speaks also of encouragement. It reads:
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -- Hebrews 10:25
Again we see the writer using "parakaleo" ... urging us to not just see each other on Sundays but walk with each other ... open our hearts to each other ... and to give and receive God's gift of encouragement.