The Fine Art of Encouragement: It’s All About Identity!
Ever had one of those days, weeks, or perhaps even months when God orchestrates things so purposefully, personally, and intensely that it’s like a machine gun, rapid fire encounter about ONE MAIN ISSUE in your life—ways in which WE can grow and change and/or ways in which we can assist OTHERS along the journey of life?
Some examples in my life?
God placing a dozen folks in my path in one week who had a connection to the Roman Catholic Church (a ministry for me given my RC background).
Numerous “Godcidental” encounters about leadership—and the stewardship of vision, mission, and core values.
Back-to-back horror stories about suffering, loss, while maintaining a trust in God… or not (a ministry for me given my experiences and my book about the subject matter).
Rapid fire, short range shots concerning the Bible’s inerrancy, infallibility, literal interpretation.
A seemingly out-of-nowhere queue of men and/or women who have experienced abortions (a ministry for me given my “reckless yet redeemed” sexual indiscretions).
A load of folks and struggles concerning divorce, “our right to be happy”, and “the kids’ resiliency”.
Peat and repeat hits concerning aging and dying parents (a ministry for me given the premature death of both my parents).
How about you? Have you had the experience of God working in this way in our life? Has the Holy Spirit or another person sent by Him gotten your attention and used you in ways that make you stop and think, “Only the God of the Bible could have orchestrated that!”
This Month’s God-Topic? Encouraging Others and Identity! Identity! Identity!
This is vitally important.
Please carefully consider this as I boil down a truism that is worth all of your attention and all of the time needed to decide if my offering (E.g., God’s offering via a highly fallible sinner saved by grace like me) is True Truth or Flatly False for you—and anyone who God has placed in your path to influence (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
Allow me to preempt one reaction MANY folks will likely have to this offering: Parsing both ends of the truth to reach a more “moderate, middle ground, compromising, and user-friendly” approach to this subject.
This reaction is predictable because we are so accustomed to, a) compromising or “smoothing out the hard edges” of the truth, b) so that modulating our emotions is easier and more under our control, c) so that we provide ourselves as much leeway as possible concerning our choices to live as we please… myself included.
But the following two statements concerning IDENTITY are purposely offered to polarize our thinking. In the same way Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…” (Matthew 10:34-42), I’m hoping—for the benefit of our heart, and for running the good race—to speak the truth in love as well.
Life Consists of Encouragement… Interaction: Based Upon Our Identity: As God Desires OR As the World Defines
In opening and in closing, I want to offer two worldviews that will act as the foundation upon which we will provide those in our lives any form of ENCOURAGEMENT or interaction of any kind:
Our interaction with all human beings will come in one form or the other. ALL our daily interactions will be based upon one or the other. Our raising of self or family will be based upon one or the other. Our workplace interactions will be based upon one or the other. Our rights to participate in a democracy—and vote for those who uphold ONE view or the OTHER. Our leisure time, our worship time, our sleeping time, our waking time…
ALL of our life will be based upon one or the other.
Encouragement Based Upon IDENTITY in the Good News of Jesus Christ
“God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:3-9-ESV).
Encouragement Based Upon IDENTITY in the Bad News of Secular-Humanism
“Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave.
All the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.
All these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.” (Bertrand Russell, Atheist, “A Free Man’s Worship”,1902)
“Choose this day…” (Joshua 24:15)
Please closely, meditatively, and in a community… consider these two polar opposite and irrefutably opposing worldviews and IDENTITY CLAIMS that will be the basis upon which all of us will interact with all of life—especially the culmination of God’s creative act, Image Bearers of God in humankind!
Or treating human beings as nothing more than food for worms. The difference is clear. The choice to encourage others from one view… or the other… is ours to make.
Choose wisely. It makes a difference for time and eternity!
Until we ‘sup again, run the good race, Beloved of God!