I was reading a blog written mid-April by musician/writer John Belt on the general topic of encouragement, and two particular paragraphs caught my attention. In them were examples of those moments when the forces from the unseen world can break in with unpredictable results. Sometimes they shake faith, rattle confidence, and plant future harvests of doubt and unbelief.
Belt quotes Revelation 12:10, in which the loud voice in heaven announces, “For the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” (NASB) Belt’s observation is “It is almost hard to grasp that the enemy works as hard against us as he does. The reality is, according to the Word of God, the enemy is constantly accusing ‘believers’ who are intentionally taking ground from him…he tries to weary the saints. “
Defining “weary” as to “wear out, wear away, harass constantly,” Belt then concludes, “We don’t have to tolerate harassing. Jesus gave us authority over all the power of the enemy, to shut down his continual nagging. These are not ‘big blow’ hits from the enemy but just the little constant, consistent irritations that he tries to bring. He does not want to be obvious, but just wants to bring enough to cause you to doubt, lose faith and quit doing what God has called you to. It is all in the spirit of mockery, doubt, unbelief and discouragement.” (italics added)
That sounds like a harsh description to apply to the words we often hear from our friends, our co-workers, our family, our spouses…much as Jesus often heard sincerely-meant but worldly-empowered words and predictions from His own disciples.
As He stood before Peter, Jesus was quite direct in stating “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matt. 16:23, NASB) Peter , influenced in his thinking not by divine revelation, but by demonic influence, had taken Jesus aside “and began to rebuke Him” regarding His warning them of His future fate. Of relevance is the fact that Jesus knew exactly what spirit was behind Peter’s statement, while it is equally obvious that Peter did not. That’s important to remember – because it is often the same with us.
When Peter proclaimed “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus immediately addressed Peter by name and stated, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona…I also say that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church…” (Matt. 16:15-18,NASB) With equal directness, when Peter spoke not the revelation of God, but the infiltration of Satan, Jesus addressed Satan – not Peter – with equal directness. Get behind Me, Satan! Peter, unwittingly, had become the mouthpiece for mockery, doubt, unbelief and discouragement…but Jesus gave it no ground upon which to grow.
I’m guessing that most of us would be taken aback and very likely offended if anyone spoke in front of us with such directness, even if we understood that we were not the intended recipient of the rebuke. Part of the reason for this is that our earthly walk balances the reality of two different scriptures: I Corinthians 13:12, which reflects, “For now we see in a mirror dimly…now I know in part…” This scripture points out that we don’t always “see” with the clarity and fullness Jesus experienced while living on earth; however, this scripture is balanced by Paul’s teaching and encouragement to the Corinthians, “We have the mind of Christ.” (I Cor. 2:16)
How, then, might we walk this out? Think food. Solid food. Let’s add to the menu of responses we offer each other during conversation.
Hebrews 5:14 states, “Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (NASB) Proverbs 27:17 makes this correlation: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (NASB) The Message translates this same scripture, “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.”
I like that a lot. A friend. Not an adversary. Not an opponent. Not a critic. A friend offers an encouragement or exhortation rooted in love for the purpose of more of Him being able to shine through. This is very much in alignment with I Cor. 14:26, which instructs, “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
I propose that part of Godly friendship and relationship is to edify by awakening a deep and guiding spiritual discernment. We are all bombarded with a repetition of someone else’s thoughts, not-enough-sleep statements not intended to have negative impact, half-thought-through processes that may or may not bear the image of Christ, when complete.
We do navigate a challenging current and undertow that swings us from seeing in the mirror dimly, and yet possessing and seeking to express the mind of Christ. Proverbs 23:7 states, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, ‘Eat and drink!’ But his heart is not with you.” (Prov. 23:7, NASB)
We seek to be a people whose hearts are with one another. Whose hearts seek to be united with His, as well, for the purpose of partnering in all that the Father is doing in us and through us, in this hour. I John 4 states, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1) Although John hones in on “the spirit of the antichrist” a verse later, vocabulary.com defines “prophet” as originating “from the Greek word for ‘spokesman.’” (www.vocabulary.com)
We are, indeed, each a spokesman. Will we encourage ourselves and one another to be “rocks” upon which a Kingdom can be built…or will we find ourselves left standing aside because we do not discern that our words are giving preference to the interests of man, not God?