What does it mean to be encouraged? I have experienced the type of encouragement to say or do something that later I would regret, such as when someone "encouraged" me to eat dirt clods because it would show that I was "cool" and "fearless". I was encouraged to stay away from any drugs when I was coming through school, both by role models and those who loved me very much. We can be "encouraged" in many ways, but not all types of encouragement is really intended for our good, so we need to become wise in discerning when it is truly encouragement and when it is just unwise taunting or prodding.
Persuasion is rarely the type of encouragement God intends for each of us to engage in as brothers and sisters in Christ. Persuasion has a bit of manipulation behind it - either because we want something to go our way, or we want the other person to do something they really aren't all that keen on doing. The type of encouragement that benefits us is that which builds hope, bolsters our spirit, and gently inspires an element of courage to do what we know to be right, pure, and true. This is the type of encouragement we are to be working overtime to provide to each other in the Body of Christ. As believers, we are to bind together in this walk and to help each other not be overcome by things that will become our undoing in the end.
Encouragement stimulates one to grow. I overturn the soil in the garden around the roots of the plants, not because I want them to wilt and die, but because I want to aerate the soil, providing fresh pathways for nutrients to get to those roots. Encouragement that is centered in love and based on truth will stimulate us to take in what we need, give out what reveals we are alive, and reproduce what it is we have been given in immeasurable quantities. This is how we grow in Christ - by being "spurred on" to finish the race. There are times when encouragement takes on the actions that move us into the right course of actions, while there are others that help us to rest for a while and just get at that place of peace once again in our lives.
As we grow together in this "faith walk", we need to right kinds of encouragement in our lives. It isn't the manipulative type, nor the type that does it with a big stick or cattle prod kind of action. It is the type that energizes us from within, helping us to tap into the limitless resources of grace we have been given. It helps us move beyond issues of comparing one's self to another by helping us to be grateful for the value we have in Christ. It doesn't label us as "good" or "not good enough", but instead calls us out as the beloved of the Most High God, set apart for his special favor and unending love. This is the type of encouragement which fosters growth and stimulates us to continue in the good course set out before us. Just sayin!