Just before I slid out of the driver’s seat, with my no-fat vanilla cappuccino in one hand and my bible in the other, I glanced at my watch – 7:10 am. Being late for men’s Saturday prayer is better than not being there at all, I rationalized. As I came through the church doors I was disappointed to see only eight men already seated in the corner. But like the additional six who would wander in over the next half hour, we were all anxious to see what God was going to teach us and do that morning. It’s always a great way to start a football Saturday.
I slid into the only remaining comfortable chair (the padded armchair that was always reserved for Brother John, until he went home to the Lord a couple weeks ago.) A friend was sharing how his fifteen-year-old son had wakened him at 3:00 am that morning. terrified by a realistic dream he’d had. My friend had used the opportunity to talk with his son about the Lord, something the boy wasn’t previously interested in doing. He also shared how he didn’t want him to have to hit bottom in his life, like he did, before he turned it around as a grown man.
The moderator of the meeting shared a two or three minute teaching on the importance of using God’s own words when dealing with problems and a couple other men concurred with examples of issues they’d dealt with over that past week.
A man who hadn’t been to men’s prayer in several months sat next to me nervously fidgeting throughout all this discussion. I knew that he’d been battling several addictions, his driver’s license had been suspended and he’d lost his tradesman job as a plumber, because he wasn’t able to drive to work assignments. When I’d originally come in, I’d put my hand on his shoulder and told him that we’d missed him and hoped he was OK. He hadn’t responded then – but now he spoke up. He said he was deeply depressed. After a long dry spell he’d finally gotten a job that week in a grocery store, working behind the meat counter. He thought things were going well, though he was just learning the varieties of meats and cheeses, but his cutting skills were improving. But at the end of the week they fired him – because he didn’t work fast enough.
As he went on and on about all the things that were going wrong in his life, I searched for something encouraging to say, or some advice I could provide – but my mind seemed to go blank. I looked around the room at the faces of the most mature Christian men who would normally have some spiritual guidance to offer, but their faces looked as perplexed as my own. Then I heard a voice to my left – a man who normally didn’t say a lot at our meetings – and his words were simple and direct: “Look, you were fortunate to get a job for a week that you weren’t qualified for. What a blessing! So you got fired! I’ve been fired a number of times. But something else has always opened up. You said they weren’t paying you much anyway. The next job you get, you need to believe it’s going to be a lot better. I know things have always turned out that way for me.”
The word wasn’t super spiritual – but it’s what the man needed to hear. I could see that it had calmed his spirit – and he even said he felt a lot better afterward. It renewed his hope. It was a word in season specifically for him. And it seemed to open up rivers of living water in many of the other men in the group. Several added on to what our friend had said – quoting God’s written Word and giving personal examples of overcoming difficult times.
I was reading Psalm 118 this morning. It’s one that even Jesus quoted. It has many lessons, but an important one is that we don’t have to be moody. People die in their bad moods – but God wants us to live with a good attitude. I called on the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man (our bosses at work, or anyone we depend on). It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes (the government). Jesus rules in the affairs of men and our spiritual enemy (the devil) knows it.
The Bible tells us how important it is to lend our encouragement to people who are struggling in their lives. A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Proverbs 25:11 A man has joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it! Proverbs 15:23 An encouraging word has the ability to help you extract yourself from a bad situation that you’re in. In order to get out of that situation, you have got to get in a mind set that there is relief on the way. The written Word of God has that unique ability – it gives you relief and lets you see the end. It gives you the feeling that after some period of time this thing is going to be over. After a brief trial, whatever I’m going through right now is going to be over.
God is looking for faithful people to give an encouraging word to others who are so clouded by the problem that they can’t see the end – who have no hope. That’s what our Lord did. Jesus always had the right word to speak to a man or woman that came to Him for help. He always spoke an in-season word. He spoke exactly what they needed when they needed it.
Christ’s Church is supposed to be a hospital for sick people to come to. The diagnosis for each one is going to be different – but none-the-less, it’s going to be the right one and we’re going to have the cure for each. And when we discern what it is, we’re not going to just tell them, “Oh, it’s going to be alright.” No! We’re going to pray for them. And we’re going to do what we can to help them – physically, financially, whatever.
Just think about the scriptures that encourage you out of disappointments, depression and sorrows. If it’s helped you, wouldn’t it also be a help to someone else? God’s Word paves the way through life‘s ups and downs. It’s what I hold onto whether things are going well or not. It encourages and inspires my faith, fueling the process toward health and recovery. Here are a few:
The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakes me morning by morning, he wakens my ear to hear as the learned. Isaiah 50:4
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Romans 12:15
Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:6
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:23-24
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2