Encouraging messages are sometimes all I really need. Maybe all anyone really needs. Encouragement, support, and a little kindness. I need encouraging messages to come from people I know and respect as well as from strangers because I am just not that sure of myself. I may seem like I am confident and strong but sometimes I question who I am and I just need someone to notice and boost me up for a bit.
Oftentimes are we quick to judge, quick to condemn, quick to point out someone else’s flaws. And let’s admit it, sometimes Christians can be the worst at this.
Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t help others to make better decisions and live better lives but I do think that we should first consider if more encouraging messages could be sent, rather than condeming ones. In 2 Kings 5 I found a story of how a man of God spoke to three different men. I was surprised at how he treated each of these individuals different based on his relationship to them. That his most encouraging messages were for those who did not know the Lord. Take a moment to read through the story of 2 Kings 5.
In 2 Kings 5, Elisha has interactions with three different people: King Joram, Naaman, and his servant Gehazi. In each interaction Elisha sent a message or delivered it personally. In the first two interactions he sent more encouraging messages than he did in the last one, in which he was upset by the actions of his servant. Take a look:
- With King Joram, Elisha sends a messenger to talk to him, probably because they had a lot of existing tension. The message was simple and to the point. “Why are you so worried. Just send the man to me and everything will work out.” Elisha knew this was not the time to start a battle because this just wasn’t about the king. He also, however, did not pass up an opportunity to remind the king of how God was working through him and will take care of things.
- Elisha uses a messenger at first to tell Naaman what he needed to do to be cured. Elisha does not take this opportunity to point out that Naaman has not been living as the Lord wants, that he is not a part of the chosen people of Israel. Instead, his message was simple: if you wash, you will be clean. Although he did not even know this man he was wise enough to know that God would heal Namaan if Namaan had faith that God would do it. After Naaman follows directions and is healed of his leprosy Elisha speaks with him and I am sure was pleased to hear Naaman worshiping and declaring the one true God. Elisha does not accuse him of what he has done wrong or will do wrong in God’s eyes but again, takes it as a victory that he has brought someone to know God.
- With his servant Gehazi, Elisha has a much more intense interaction. He goes directly to him, asks him a question and, after being lied to, accused Gehazi of what he had done. He corrects him and tells him how his actions will punish him.
You see, it is all about the relationship and how your words are going to spur on that person towards the Lord. But before I go into that more I want to tell you a story:
Previously, I wrote about the interaction between Elisha and Naaman in 2 Kings 5. In Are you a pushover? I pick apart Elisha’s actions and how he was very calm, yet very sure and confident in the things he said and did and did not let anyone else’s emotions, bribery, or power influence him.
I received a comment back on this post asking me if I consider humility as a weakness. I was very surprised by this as I never mentioned the word humility. Plus, Elisha is the description of humble. For example, he does not take a reward, and therefore the credit, for healing Naaman. He does not make a public display of the healing but instead sends others to talk to Naaman and the king. At the same time, Elisha is the description for assertiveness. He does not respond to the emotional outbursts of others or silly demands that would waste his time. These are reasons I was so moved by this story.
I am moved in a different way by the comment that asked if I consider humility a weakness. This is what I struggle with as a Christian. I do not think being humble means that you have to be a pushover. (Can we all agree that Jesus was the most humble being that has ever lived and he did not let anyone walk all over him? Just check out How to stand up for yourself for one example of that.)
To be a Christian, especially in today’s world you have to stand up for yourself and be strong in order to live the kind of life God asks us to. We are to humble before God and we should be assertive when it comes to being who God intends for us to be.
I bring up this story because the comment really challenged and made me question what I am doing with this blog, the work I have been doing internally the last few months, and what I believe God is teaching me right now. After a few days to process and pray about the comment I decided the best thing to do was to delete the comment from my post.
The truth is, I thought about responding but why would I have any influence over him? And then, aren’t I just doing the opposite of what Elisha did. He did not respond to the emotional outbursts and bad temper of someone he did not even know. Instead, he left his encouraging message out there, to be picked up or not, and helped the stranger and let God do the rest. I deleted the comment because I only want encouraging messages to go out from this space. And this brings me back to what I learned from the three interactions Elisha has in this story.
The last interaction is much different than the first two because Gehazi and Elisha had a personal relationship and it is safe to say that Gehazi was under the spiritual care of Elisha. It was Elisha’s duty to correct him whereas, the first two men were not under Elisha’s direct spiritual care.
Here is my takeaway: the relationship you have with the person determines how much you assert yourself and your beliefs. The person who commented on my post did not know me. They have no more influence on me than I do on them. As Christians we should strive for everything out of our mouths to be encouraging messages that lead people towards God and not away. We need not say so much to others that it may counteract what God is doing in their life. On the other hand, when we have people under our direct care we do have a duty to give them encouraging messages that correct and teach them.
Elisha teaches us that you can be calm, assertive, and bold but you still have to keep in mind who you are interacting with and whether what you are doing will move them further from or closer to God.
Ever had an interaction like this where someone made you question what you were doing in your life? Where they questioned your faith? Tell me about it, I want to know!
And don’t forget to check out Are you a pushover? and learn from Elisha how to assert yourself amidst chaos.