The Martial Art of Encouragement

Spiritual disciplines.

There was a time in my life I would have wrinkled my nose at that phrase.


We’re under grace, not under law.

I’m free, right?


Disciplines, routines, Godly habits – aren’t they just ritual,

a trap,

archaic practices that went out of style with monks and scribes?


But then, back in my forties,

I agreed with a group of black belt ladies,

if they would study the Bible,

then I would study karate.

For over four years, we met on Monday nights,

first to attend karate class,

then to study the gospels.

I was student,

then teacher,

then student, again.

Student of karate,

teacher of the Bible

student of the Holy Spirit as the Lord used the discipline of these women to school me in the practice of my faith.


I believed I was devoted to Jesus

but I learned from them what devotion looks like.

They took the practice of martial arts seriously




They were rigorous about their practice,




and disciplined.


Could I be any less devoted to Jesus and hope to model the life of a true disciple?


They weren’t slaves to karate.

They developed physical discipline to improve the execution of their art.

I am not a slave to spiritual disciplines.

I practice them to improve the execution of my faith.


For four years now, I meet a group of Christian writers, on line once a week.

We “meet up” on a shared Google doc where we answer four questions about our week.

The first relates our study of the scriptures,

the second to our writing work,

the third to our need for prayer.

In the fourth box, we answer the question “What encouragement do you have for the others?”


In four years of answering that question,

There have been MANY weeks when I felt beaten down.

As I lay, gasping on the pavement of my own life,

that fourth box sometimes seemed to mock me,

a cruel irony,

a bully’s taunt,

a whisper from the evil one – “Ha, go ahead, I dare you. Encourage someone now.”

And I would be tempted to leave the box empty.


But then I’d picture the faces of the others in the group,

Knowing they, too, faced challenges,

Knowing life sometimes threw them to the pavement,

Knowing that life with Jesus transcends even those times when you’re face down in the gravel

And I would practice the discipline of encouragement.


Then, in that moment, every time, I participated in a miracle.

Every time

Every time

Every time

I prayerfully considered an encouragement to the others,

I received it for myself.


And I could go on another week.

(martial art: any of several arts of combat and self-defense)


“See to it, brothers and sisters, 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.

We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” Hebrews 3:12-14 NIV


To practice the discipline of daily encouragement

is not a legalistic act of slavery,

To encourage one another daily is to incite a spiritual revolution to rise up despite the oppression of the reigning spiritual regime of this world.

It is a secret code passed from prisoner to prisoner that though we appear to be held hostage by the visible powers, we are free.

It is a reminder that our Deliverer is on His way and we need only hold on until His return, His victory is sure.

Be encouraged, loved ones, and practice encouragement like a martial art.


It’s not flowery verses for greeting cards,

encouragement is a powerful weapon in the hands of a devoted follower of Christ,

a tool for a skilled craftsman in the work of building the kingdom,

a flag identifying your heart as an outpost for Jesus’ kingdom in this world.

Cathy Baker

(for more strategies for building your encouragement muscle, visit my friend, Cathy Baker’s blog, Fragrant Ink at

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