I was at a homeless shelter last night, preaching during their evening chapel. I know a bunch of the guys from my previous evenings there, but there are always new faces as well. Honestly, it’s an interesting group ranging from the paranoid schizophrenic talking to nobody in particular throughout the message to the transgender folks to the guys clearly struggling with addiction issues, to the guys that are just down on their luck and need a place to stay.

But there is one thing I’m finding they all have in common – they all have a plan.

Each person I talk with at the shelter whether it be before the service or praying with them after the service tells me about their plan to get back on their feet.

To be honest my first reaction to these so-called plans was just to humor them by listening while thinking to myself, “There is no way they can do that.” But then I realized something really important that has become the center of my ministry to these men: They need hope. They need to believe in something that keeps them moving forward and in the program. They need to believe they have a shot at their plan. In short, they are just like you and me because we need the same thing on a daily basis, too!

Last month a man told me that God had told him to go to Costa Rica to minister to people. I told the guy that if that’s what God wants God will make a way for that to happen! Last night I saw one guy who told me last month he was going to Seattle, another guy who told me he was going to Tennessee, and a third guy who told me he was going to Alaska to hook onto a fishing crew. All three were there last night. Each had a story about why their plans fell through but none was daunted and each had a new plan! I encouraged them all.

I brought a young man with me last night who will be going to college next year to begin his studies for the ministry. He asked me a great question: How do you decide when to encourage them versus telling them their plan won’t work? My answer was this: I always encourage them and if I see something that is completely undoable I gently share possible options that may work better.

I’m convinced by my own life that we all need a mission or goals or dreams or plans or whatever you want to call them. Without a focus in life we flounder, which for these men can be a death sentence of addiction, crime, homelessness, and despair.

So what does this all have to do with you? There are people out there that need encouragement and you need to be the encourager!

I get that not everyone’s call from God is to go homeless shelters, but it’s not just the homeless that need encouragement! People in your workplace need encouragement; some of your family members need encouragement; people who serve you in stores need encouragement; complete strangers need encouragement; and the good Lord knows your leaders, including your pastor, needs encouragement. You have the ability through a kind word, a supportive gesture, and an encouraging remark to change a life.

I mean that, you can change a life! The men I see monthly don’t have many people telling them that God loves them, that they are valuable, they have gifts, and that God has a plan for them. To hear that when everyone else shuns them must be a true blessing that the rest of us take for granted.

So here is my challenge to you today: Encourage someone. Not just today but commit to encouraging five people a week. You can pick them beforehand and do it premeditatedly or you can just encourage people as God puts them in your life – divine appointments if you will.

I’m learning that you just never know how your words can lift up another person and perhaps help them get over the barrier that’s been keeping them from success, especially success in connecting with God. So take a chance and be an encourager to those who so badly need you in their lives.