I confess, it bugs me when I hear Christians offer religious platitudes to one another. You know platitudes, overused statements or remarks that have been leeched of meaningful value through insincerity and overuse. And, it really gets to me when they come from the pulpit. Maybe it is because I came up in the 80’s-90’s, in the home of a single-parent who struggled with very severe depression, but I grew up overhearing a lot of power-messages and inspirational pep-talk cassette tapes from self-actualization and self-help gurus. Overexposure in that arena probably explains my shallow patience with platitudes and why I find myself struggling to respect pastors who regularly whitewash or water down their messages.
Don’t get me wrong, encouragement is an essential to our human spirit–and I know the need intimately. And yes, sometimes I can manage to look at that cute little kitten from those old posters, and respond with something other than scoffing and sarcasm. But I must admit that we need more than what passes for encouragement by today’s standards. You and I need more than platitudes and pep-talks. We certainly need more from our Sunday sermons than linked arms and high-fives. We need speakers and teachers of the Word who understand the sovereignty and grace of the Lord with such gravity and depth that we are simultaneously convicted and raised up in the hearing. If God is an over-glorified cheerleader, our fickle hearts will get bored. But, if He is the wild, immeasurable One that eclipses the world and our understanding of it, we can be inspired. Excite us with the Gospel, and we will be encouraged.
If He is the wild, immeasurable One that eclipses the world and our understanding of it, we can be inspired. Excite us with the Gospel, and we will be encouraged.Tweet
And here’s where I must stop to acknowledge the big plank in my own eye. God has put a passion in my heart to become equipped in His Victory and to share what I learn. But I’m by no means a good example to follow; and in all of my sincere, deeply-felt efforts to pass along what God is teaching me, there have been (and will be) times where I fall tremendously short. There will be times when I feel something so profoundly but fail to communicate it, and all that comes across is fluff. Please know that this is not my heart, and I ask God to shied you from my human failings. I am not smart enough, spiritual enough, educated enough or (____) enough to be qualified to tell you anything, or to be held as any kind of example. Always test whatever I have to offer against the Holy Spirit (hint: He’s always right).
Having said all that, this remains: we are frail creatures who swing wildly between unfounded overconfidence and anguished defeat; God’s encouragement is a necessary stabilizer that we can’t do without. He reminds us that He is the overcoming power in creation…and we are not. In our obedience we may participate in concert with God, but no burden rests on us that hinges any outcome.
We are frail creatures who swing wildly between unfounded overconfidence and anguished defeat; God’s encouragement is a necessary stabilizer that we can’t do without. He reminds us that He is the overcoming power in creation…and we are not.Tweet
We seek encouragement –or offer it– because there’s a lot in life that can beat us down. I have walked though my own seasons of defeat, and have walked along with a few others in theirs, and I feel that what is truly needed in those moments is less surface-level bolstering, and more deep planting. The act of tilling soil is rather violent–at least from the perspective of the ground. It is being ripped open, overturned and exposed. But it is also being refreshed and activated so that it can fulfill its purpose: to bear fruit. When we go through times where we feel like we are being ripped apart, let us be reminded that there are two agendas at work: the Accuser who would sow lies in your field, intended to defeat, distract, and destroy; but also the Redeemer who is working renewal, planning and planting a beautiful harvest. The attack of the enemy is forceful in times like this, because as an opportunist, he recognizes how potent his attacks can be when we are exposed. More potently, however, the Resurrected Creator reveals life when all we are able to see is death.
The act of tilling soil is rather violent–at least from the perspective of the ground. It is being ripped open, overturned and exposed. But it is also being refreshed and activated so that it can fulfill its purpose: to bear fruit.Tweet
As we (continue to) learn how to minister to one another, let’s abandon platitudes and shallow sentiments; even if it leaves us with noting to say. Sometimes our silent sincerity is all we need to bring, as we minister through our simple presence. Abandoning the impulse to ‘say the right thing’ makes room for us to live in a moment of genuine faith. A faith that stands on the confident expectation that God is sovereign and at work.