February 18, 2013

How to strengthen others

Yesterday, I thanked a woman for being a big encouragement to me. She gave me a hug then laughed, “It isn’t that I’ve tried. I’m just being who I am, the way God made me.” 

This morning, I read the conversation between Jesus and Peter just before the crucifixion and before Peter’s denial that he knows Jesus.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31–34)

When you have strengthened your brothers. What does that look like? The devotional comments are about sharing the grace God gives us. God did not save me for my own sake but for His own name’s sake, that through me He might show his mercy and grace to others. 

I agree. What good is light from the Lord if it is hidden or hoarded? Jesus even said,

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16)

In particular, if I fail as Peter did, the lessons learned in that crash are not just for me, nor are the lessons learned from God’s grace as He restores me. At the very least, others need to know that no matter the thud when I hit the ground, the Lord’s mercy and grace overcome any foolishness on my part. He picks me up and sets me on my feet, not once, but every time that I fail.

Although it can be, strengthening others is not necessarily done with specific intent. It can happen simply by being who we are. Like my friend, God creates us with certain personalities and gifts. Being true to that results in ministry to others. She is open, honest, and shares herself without trying to be anything to anyone. In doing that, she builds me up. My personality and gifts are not the same as hers. Imitating her words and actions will not work. Instead, God wants me to let ‘my’ light shine, letting others see what He has given me. 

In Peter’s case, he was gifted to lead the flock of God and teach them. After Christ had died and rose again, He gave Peter his job description…

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” (John 21:15–16)

Based on how God made me, what is His challenge for my life? I’ve been told that my spiritual gifts are teaching and discernment. Several have challenged to write a personal purpose statement. It finally has distilled to this: Learn all I can from the Lord and pass it on to others. 

Whatever form that takes, from a casual conversation to leading in a classroom situation, God has given many opportunities to fulfill that purpose, just as He gave Peter many opportunities to strengthen his brothers and feed his sheep and my friend many opportunities to encourage others.

From these verses and yesterday’s experience, it seems clear that being and doing whatever God puts into our hearts produces a sense of living out God’s purpose, but also makes us a blessing to those around us.

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