We, who know God, often wrestle with how we can help a person to know and experience His care. We must be able to answer the question, “Where is God?”
First and foremost, He is the person on who we rely and talk to directly. But what does this mean as we share our faith and counsel another? It means we must have a living and vital faith. Without a vital faith, God may still use what we say and do, but He will use our words despite us, not because of us. The faith, love, and hope we have is just as catching as anxiety, grumbling, and contempt. The people we encounter to encourage and care are often faced with severe trials and sufferings. How do we not become discouraged, impatient, anxious, or self-confident? We must bring our own gladness and fierce love into each situation, always confident in the Lord.
God wraps our lives into His. He is present with us as we rely on Him. As unsafe as the person we minister to feels, God’s goal for them is to find themselves safe in Him. We all know that the greatest challenge of counsel to others is to help them come alive to the message and the message of the gospel come alive to them. We do pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, animate us, and awaken our hearts to lean hard on God. God’s Word speaks of wonderful things that are true, but we stumble to speak. We pray for God to give us a glimpse of what is true and right, holy and perfect, and worthy of adoration. May we get a glimpse of Christ Himself to overcome our fear and blindness so we blaze a trail for the person that is filled with His light.
He teaches us to speak directly into people’s lives. We are to speak the truth in love. The truth is for the speaker as much as it is for those who hear. I remember a time when I heard God’s call to speak directly into a person’s life and not just in theological generalities. I was talking with a woman who was indulging in sexual fantasies. She was oppressed by a general sense of continual guilt. She was not very motivated to deal with the perversity of her thought life. She said, “What can I expect, I am in the flesh.” My response to her was that she was not in the flesh she was in the Spirit. She looked at me with a deep frown starting to think hard. From that moment on she got very serious; the terrain on which her battle was being fought just got redefined. I could have sympathized and said everyone struggles or quoted Romans 8:9, that “you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” I did get to those verses in time, but they needed to be set up by personal directness with challenge and encouragement.
The Scriptures speak with confidence about the truth, because its writers model a buoyant trust and faith in the Lord of truth. Philippians 1:6 is a strong encouragement to the assurance of our faith, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” We can rest in the steadfast love of the Lord and so can the person we are ministering to.
Wherever a person needs to change put the Redeemer at the center of the picture. Wherever the person needs to change we must remember that the Lord enlightens and sanctifies. God’s primary interest is in making us know Him. Be careful not to just give advice without connecting it to the good news of Jesus crucified, alive, present, and at work. We must plead with God for Him to open the person’s heart to know Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
May it keep us from teaching texts like Ephesians 4 as only four rules for communication. Tell the truth, rather than lying. Keep short accounts and deal with your anger every day. Attack problems not people. Forgive others, rather than being bitter and argumentative. These are excellent principles, but they are gutted of the knowledge of Jesus Christ who is the power and reason to obey the truth. Paul says we are to tell the truth rather than lying because we are members of one another in Christ. We are to keep short accounts “so the devil does not get an opportunity” among us to cause conflict to fester and destroy relationships. We are to speak constructively so we don’t “grieve the Holy Spirit in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Forgive others “as God in Christ forgave you.”
The rules are not for personal success in relationships and self-reformation. The motive is to know the Lord. Good principles divorced from the Lord can only function as some form of self-serving. The Spirit of the Lord is at work in the people of the Lord. We must never forget we have someone to bring to the people we serve. He is up to something in all of our lives. Our words and counsel to people become attractive and compelling when we express a living and active faith in Jesus Christ. May we speak directly to people; catch people up in who God is, and what His goal is for their lives.
But what do we do? We pray intelligent prayers that weave together our real God and the reality of the life situation the person is in. Be alert to the Redeemer and the real needs of the person. We won’t just pray about truth and their situation in general. We won’t pray for health, success, a spouse or children. We will pray for the person that God will be sanctifying or calling them to conversion in the midst of their situation. When we are carrying the person’s welfare on our hearts our prayers will be warm, personal, inclusive, and caring. This will help the person know that we are interceding for them before God who is with us and them. They will know that the God on which we lean is dependable. Specific, relevant prayers communicate that God is here, He cares about what is going on with them, and He is up to something in their life. We pray that God would open their eyes wide to know Him and for us to have the right words to say and speak boldly of Christ.