The power of encouragement

I confess that most of The Matrix film series left me cold. Either it was too clever for its own good or I’m too dim for my own good – but either way it failed to engage me. However, I do remember the scene early on where the lead character, Neo, was offered a choice of two pills to swallow:


Which pill is it, I wonder, when you are offered positive feedback after preaching?  Does it just give you a warm glow, or is it something more? Sometimes a simple “thank u” text can be all it takes to make you feel that the effort on your knees and the energy in the pulpit was worthwhile. You don’t need to know that it was the best sermon ever, just that it met somebody’s need on this occasion.

I was once at a crowded lunch party in someone’s flat, and inadvertently knocked the coffee table.  This would not have mattered, had there not been a small brass box balanced on its corner. The box contained tiny sweetener tablets, and they cascaded down onto the carpet. Of course I did the decent thing and offered to clear them up. Strangely, though, their sweet smell lingered in the air long after the last pill was cleared away.  They were so potent that their effect outlived their presence.

As preachers we expect our words to last after the service is over, and rightly so.  What about the words spoken to us, though?  Often it is the sweet pill of encouragement which we forget, whereas the bitter pill of critical words churns round and round in our minds.

Preacher – have you taken your medicine today?