“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.” (2 Corinthians 7:6, 7 ESV)
You just never know. That word of encouragement that you bring today may seem so insignificant, so ineffective, even unnoticed. But you never know how God is using it.
Probably no one thought that someone as great as Paul would be so encouraged by a young understudy like Titus, or the now nameless people of the Corinthian church. But here we see evidence to the contrary.
From someone who has bought into labels and lies myself, I know all too well the feeling that whatever I have to say isn’t going to contribute anything worthwhile.
- “Why would anyone care what my opinion is?”
- “Do I really think someone as together as ___ would even have the time to listen to a lightweight like me?”
- “How could I think that any person would hear advice from someone as spiritually ugly as I?”
Sound familiar? Maybe the questions in your head have sounded a little different, but I bet something similar has crossed your mind on occasion.
Sometimes when you speak into someone’s life, in your mind it appears like the conversational equivalent of tumbleweeds blowing across the plain. The right words aren’t there, the words that do come seem inadequate, or it seems the words are just not heard.
Most of the time this is your own self-image talking. Like me, you have convinced yourself that nothing you say can possibly be of value. The person you are speaking to is smarter, more spiritual, better educated, more experienced, too pretty, too popular, too cool, or [insert your own reason here], to listen to you.
But God is using it. He told the people of Israel “My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do” (Isaiah 55:11, HCSB). Likewise, He also promises us that the things he prods us to speak into the lives of others will not be wasted.
The best rule to live by is amazingly the same as it is for about every aspect of life: Always let God’s promises (“My word will not return void”) trump the Satan-inspired and self-imposed lies (“Nothing I say is worth hearing”).
Just remember that our impression of the situation is not perfect or complete.
The truth is we don’t really know who is paying attention or how deeply our words are penetrating. But God does.
We all need more encouragers in our lives. We all need to be encouragers in the lives of those around us.
So let Him speak through you, even when it doesn’t ‘feel’ effective. If your focus is on obeying and pleasing Him (Whose opinion is the only one that counts anyway), you don’t have to worry about whether you’re being effective. He will use it, in His way and in His time. Just stay faithful.
Do you have a story of a time when you felt a word of encouragement flatlined the minute it left your lips, only to find out later it really did lift someone up? If so, leave a comment below and tell me about it – those are exactly the kind of ‘war stories’ we need to share.