Encouraging when discouraged

This is something I’ve always struggled with. How do you encourage others in their walk with God when you’re hitting discouraging times?

You know what the right thing to do is. But this sort of knowing is merely intellectual assent. Your mind thinks one thing but your heart seems to disagree. And when others need encouraging, you’ll say what’s on your mind, but the condition of your heart makes you feel like a hypocrite.

I’ve come to realise that something wonderful happens when you proclaim truth. When we don’t just mentally agree with truth, but we proclaim it, something mysterious happens in the heart. Hearing truth from our mouths raises our affections. We know, we speak, and then we know. 

It’s hard to describe.

I think this is why prayers should be said aloud. Truth doesn’t seem to affect the heart until you audibly hear it. This is also why the Bible should be read aloud. And this is why preaching (and sitting under preaching attentively) is important. In his wisdom, God transforms our hearts through the hearing of His word. We all too often read Romans 10:14 and 10:17, where Paul talks about faith coming through the hearing of the word of God, and then proceed to interpret it in a cultural context. That is, in those days, the Bible was not a written word, and so people had to hear it. 

I’m advocating a more literal interpretation. The spoken word has a unique transformational power that the written word does not. God spoke the world into being. He did not write it. You might accuse me of being dogmatic. But I ask you to give it a shot. Don’t just silently read your Bible, or silently pray in the depths of your heart. Use your voice. 

Similarly, the Bible also commands us to sing. The church has a voice. Use it. This is why some of our most powerful experiences of God seem to come from singing. I think we sing truth more than we speak it.

It is important to stress that all this is to be done in light of truth. Not any truth, but Truth, with a capital T. Only Truth transforms the heart. And this Truth is Jesus Christ. He is the star of the Bible, the focus of our prayers, and the anthem of our songs. When we preach, we are to preach Christ crucified. When we encourage, we are to encourage in view of Christ. Our testimonies are to point to Christ, not to ourselves.

A Christless Truth is no truth at all, and has no power to renew the mind and transform the heart. So we must be zealous in keeping him at the center of all things.

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