You never know


I was visiting a church recently and the pastor rose just before the divine service to introduce me as the speaker for the day. Now I prefer brief introductions as I do not believe the focus should be on the one opening the Word but on the Word itself. However, on this occasion the pastor broke all the rules and spent at least seven or eight minutes recalling a story of an interaction that he and I had at least 20 years ago. He was a student and I was a lecturer at Avondale College at the time.

He told of a time in his experience at Avondale where he was questioning his call to ministry and on the cusp of pulling out of the course of study. He had apparently just had an unfortunate interaction with another person and was literally going home to pack up. He happened to walk past my office and for some reason I called out to him and invited him in.  

A brief word of encouragement, sincerely spoken, is NEVER amiss.

Now I only have very vague recollections of the event but he recounted that even though I knew nothing of the turmoil he was experiencing, I spoke some encouraging words and we prayed together. He did not leave college. He graduated and today is the very much appreciated pastor of a large city congregation.

Experiences like this are very humbling for the one whom the Lord chooses to use to speak a word of encouragement. I have been reminded again of the importance of our words. A brief word of encouragement, sincerely spoken, is NEVER amiss. It’s no coincidence that the New Testament calls us to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV).

Dr Barry Oliver is president of the South Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.