Encouragement is always easier to receive than rebuke. Yet, we all need both. Truly we do. Unfortunately, most people put all their energy into defending and protecting themselves instead of opening to whatever truth is being presented. That’s a sign of insecurity, and possibly pride. A secure person who is humble doesn’t worry too much about their defense. Maybe a little. But they rally with courage, receive an honest message, pray through it, filter out whatever is irrelevant, and apply whatever is helpful. It’s as if they are saying, “It is what it is. And that’s OK, because I’m aiming for more of Christ.” They are willing to accept the bottom line: we affect each other.
A Little Bit Weird
You may not have ever thought this, but I did. I used to think the Apostle Paul is a bit weird. I didn’t understand what he was getting at. He seemed to talk in circles. What I didn’t realize is how logical and authentic he is. His epistles are compelling – almost addictive in some unique way. I stayed in them, studying them for decades. Soon, I found the letters to be riveting. They captured my full attention and made me a believer of God’s incredible grace messages through Paul. I began to see him as a very regular man. Yet, he was also exceedingly honest, overflowing with compassion, and zealously committed to Christ. I started to want to be a bit more like this unusual man, patterning my life after Christ to the extreme.
Got A Hard Life?
Paul had a hard life. He started out in the “in crowd.” But he made some life-changing decisions that put him on a completely different journey. His journey veered off from the normal, comfortable, path of ease and cut through uncharted territory that was anything but normal, comfortable, or easy. Paul was harassed, had conflict with others, and he battled fears in his heart. He even got to the point of despairing of life. (2 Cor. 1:8) He authentically reveals his exhaustion in today’s passage. But Paul never stays in these places – the places we all find ourselves in. He has an uncanny ability to say/do what must be said/done and then move forward. This is Paul’s incredible strength. His messages are directly from Jesus and he never hesitates to faithfully communicate them.
God Cares About Your Discouragement
Paul insists that God comforts the downcast. That He is close to those with broken hearts. He steps in to save those crushed by life. God also enlists others on your behalf to encourage, speak truth, and sometimes rebuke. God’s goal is to lift you out of whatever pit you are in and spur you on to maturity and stability. THIS is what Paul discovered, and he had total buy in. This shaped his entire life and ministry. Paul figured out that we affect each other.
You Have a Cheer Leader!
People who are committed enough to lovingly invest in your life through both encouragement and accountability are treasures. Blessed is the person who has even just one of those people in their life. The good news is this. Every person has at least one of those people – because that’s how God is. You can partner with God and not be afraid of His message to you – EVER!
Just like Paul’s life affected the lives of everyone he met on his unusual life journey, so our lives affect one another. Life paths continually bump into other life paths. That interaction breed processes. Are you open to processes the Lord might be trying to bring into your life?
Think of it this way. If you are the center circle – like a bull’s eye, but more like a spiral – you have concentric circles all around you going outward. Your influence rolls outward into many other lives. And other’s lives influence yours. Yes, we affect each other.
What a joy it is to have a faithful, positive, caring, disciplined follower of Jesus rippling into your life circle. If you don’t have such a person, ask God to give you someone like that. Yet, remember. Such a person will be very honest. They won’t accept excuses or let you get away with defensive systems of self-preservation. They will go for the root of the problem and help you identify it. What a blessing. They are kind in their truthfulness, even though the honesty is painful. It’s the right kind of pain. Still, this kind of person is refreshing. You even find that person becomes endeared in your heart – a gift from a loving God.
Being Authentic Matters
What you may not realize right away is this. Just as you are being encouraged, sharpened, corrected, and strengthened – so is that person. Such a person is in tune with God’s Spirit. Every teaching has been soaked up before sharing it with you and others. Every kindness has been rooted in the knowledge that God has been kind to them. Awareness has been stirred by personal, humble honesty. Every rebuke they offer has penetrated their own soul first. And sometimes they are still working hard on these things. And that’s OK.
Do you have such a person in your life? Are you willing to become that kind of person yourself? Why not risk affecting another life . . . and letting another life affect yours?
What do you need to change in your perspective to receive this kind of blessing in your life? What do you need to change in your conduct to be this kind of blessing to someone else?