Last week I began a look at so-called horizontal worship, the idea that our worship directed solely to God, vertical worship, must be accompanied at some point by an outpouring of ministry at some level on behalf of God’s people, what Rev. Dr. Constance Cherry, introduced in the first post in this blog (below), refers to as “worship for the sake of others.” I ended the piece by saying that encouragement of fellow believers is one of the great underutilized arrows in the quiver of Christians in our corporate efforts against the enemy.
Simply put, encouragement is horizontal worship of the highest order. In my own life, I have seen it used time and again to strengthen me for the enemy-baiting tasks to which God has called me, and I have tried to make encouragement of my fellow leaders and the students to whom God has entrusted me a hallmark of my various ministries. I see five ways Christians can BUILD each other up, and I will, Lord willing, cover one encouragement exhortation each week for the next five weeks.
B in the acronym stands for Believe universally the best about one another. The enemy loves to whisper destructive thoughts about our brothers and sisters into our ears at every opportunity. Resisting the devil so he will flee in this instance helps us follow the Scriptural mandate to treat others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), and when we choose to believe the best about them, we are much more likely to offer an encouraging word to help them on their journey.
One of my favorite anecdotes on this subject comes from Mike Yaconelli, co-founder of Youth Specialties and its magazine, The Wittenburg Door (later shortened to The Door), who died in an unfortunate truck accident in 2003. In an article in the May/June 1992 issue of The Door titled “My Day of Judgment,” Yaconelli, in his inimitable style, rails against judgmental Christians who “want you to know that God’s grace is not free, it is very expensive, and you caused the cost to be even higher than it should have been.”
To illustrate his point, he tells the story of a contractor hired to do work on his house. The man had had a serious drinking problem in the past, which had greatly affected his family, and “even though the man had left town for two years and had supposedly been to rehab, we were not happy to have an alcoholic, wife-abuser over to work on our home.” Nevertheless, the work was somewhat urgent, and his quote was less than several other estimates, and so Yaconelli reluctantly agreed to allow him to do the work. When the job was finished, Yaconelli told the contractor to stop by his office for his check, to which the man replied, “Oh, I was just going to talk to you about that. We need to talk about my bill.” I will let Yaconelli, edited only for clarity, tell the rest of the story.
I immediately felt my face turn red, and I thought, “That S.O.B.! He hasn’t changed one bit. I knew I should never have given in, and now he is going to try to screw me out of more money.” I was furious. “People never really change,” I thought to myself.
He showed up at my office about 5:00. I was ready for him. He sat down and we exchanged small talk for a few minutes. He took out his book and began to write down the details of his bill. Before he finished, he looked at me and stopped writing. Awkwardly, he began to speak.
“Mike, a couple of years ago I was really a mess. My son and my wife experienced a lot of pain because of me and my drinking. I know that during that time both of them came to you for counseling. You helped them through a really rough time in our lives. I have my son and my wife back again, thanks to you. I couldn’t thank you then, but I’m thanking you now.”
He placed the invoice with the words “Paid in Full” on my desk, slowly stood, and shook my hand. Our eyes met. His were filled with tears of gratitude; mine were filled with tears of embarrassment, humiliation, and remorse. I sat at my desk for a long time. The silence was pointing its finger in my direction. I had just come face to face with the most judgmental person I have ever known . . . myself.
No wonder I have such a difficult time with judgmental people. I am one of them. No wonder I criticize judgmental people so loudly. If I scream loudly enough maybe no one will hear the judgment dripping from my voice. I had judged this man. I had written him off. I had not forgiven him. . . . For how many years have I raged about the arrogance and judgmentalism of others? Maybe I need to get out of the judging business and into the loving business.
Friends, in our efforts to be the Body of Christ to each other, let’s believe the best about one another and, in doing so, bless the Father as we bless His children with encouragement for the daily journey. Next week, Lord willing, we’ll look at the U in BUILD.
The Lord be with you!