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July 1, 2017, 5:00 AM

Who in your life needs to be encouraged today?

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:7-13


Don’t confuse a lack of correction as a sign that the church in Philadelphia was perfect. They made their fair share of mistakes. Sometimes their actions didn’t line up with their words. They fell short in certain areas. There were arguments and disagreements that broke out. There were moments when they got discouraged and lost sight of the mission before them.  You might be wondering how I could possibly know this if Jesus never mentions any of their shortcomings. It’s simple. There’s no such thing as a perfect church.


If you are looking for that type of community, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Every church is made up of imperfect people who are reaching out to other imperfect individuals and inviting them to follow after Christ who brings order to their chaos. So, why didn’t Jesus shine a spotlight on all the places in Philadelphia where believers were messing up? After all, they needed to be addressed and fixed.


When I worked in the business world, every year I’d sit down with my boss and have my annual review. He would go through my performance highlighting my strengths and also “areas for improvements.”  Maybe it’s just the way I’m wired, but it didn’t matter if my boss spoke of 10 solid traits I possessed and only brought up one “area for improvement,” I’d leave the meeting only remembering my weaknesses, shortcomings, and failures. The attention to my weakness would overshadow any words of encouragement.


In the church world, sometimes we pay so much attention to our sins and struggles that we lose sight of the growth that has occurred in our character. Rather than being encouraged by God’s faithfulness in our transformation process, we harp on all the places where we fail. This mindset can very easily lead us to define ourselves by our sin instead of our identity in Christ. We wonder if we truly are a new creation when the “old us” makes an appearance more often than we like. We quickly become our own worst critic, as well as the judge who punishes ourselves for our failings.


Now, please hear what I am saying. Should we take eradicating our sin seriously? Yes. Is it important for God and our close friends to bring up some negative tendencies they see in our lives? Without a doubt. But, don’t underestimate the power of an encouraging word. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that our tongues have the power to speak life and death. As believers, we should speak life with our words. We need to build up others by encouraging, strengthening and inspiring them to believe all that God says about them.  Who in your life needs to be encouraged today?


This is my Prayer: Father God, thank you for the grace and mercy You show me. You love me in the midst of my imperfections. Lord help me not to become trapped by focusing on my sin.  Help me to trust that Your sacrifice has covered them all. Jesus teach me to encourage those You put in my path and see them as You see them, valuable. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

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