Speaking words of encouragement

The graceful power of our conversations

In the process of studying about God’s heart, and the meaning of “heart” in the Bible, this morning I came across the passage in First Samuel 1:9-18 about Hannah going into the temple to pray for a child. She was so intense in her prayers, crying bitterly and moving her lips without sound, that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk. He was rather forceful in his criticism of her, telling her how inappropriate it was for her to be drunk in the temple. She of course let him know that she was not drunk. She said, “I was pouring out my heart to the Lord….I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow” (NLT). And immediately the priest’s attitude turned 180 degrees and in essence he gave her a blessing, “Go in peace!” He then entered her world of concern and spoke these comforting words to her: “May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” And apparently just as quickly as Eli had changed his approach, Hannah’s attitude and feelings changed from despair and discouragement to at least some level of peace and hope. She regained her appetite and “was no longer sad.” She left the temple apparently trusting God for the answer to her prayer (which, of course, happened when she birthed Samuel soon after). 

Usually when we think about this passage we focus on Hannah and how she felt, how she poured out her heart, how she prayed intensely for what she wanted, and the fact that God answered her. But this morning I was drawn to the priest and his interaction with Hannah. Once he understood her heart and the intensity of her request to God and her apparent trust in God’s ability to answer her prayers, Eli’s attitude and behavior changed. He saw her differently and in response he spoke encouraging words to her. His change of heart led him to speak words that changed how Hannah felt and acted. It was God’s love and power that answered Hannah’s prayers, but Eli had a part in Hannah’s story as he encouraged her faith and eased her distress.

My take-away – As followers of Christ we are priests to each other. Through the Holy Spirit we can enter the world of others and speak words of encouragement to them. As Ephesians 4:29 says, we may become channels of God’s grace to each other by what we say to our sisters and brothers. I want to be that way. I want to have the sensitivity and the love and the wisdom to say what will bring God’s grace and love to other people. May it be so, Lord, for all of us!

For more on the potential power of our conversations, see https://churchhealthministries.com/2021/06/03/a-very-personal-walk-through-ephesians-24/

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 39

Embracing God’s love for me

39. Peace, Love, Faith, and Grace.

Ephesians 6:23-24. “Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness. May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT)

Paul opens and closes his letter to the Ephesians with prayers for grace and peace for his readers. And in between those two prayers he showers all those who have faith in Christ with the realities of how much grace God’s love has given us and how we can find peace in our relationships with God and each other. 

Looking back over the spiritual truths that the Holy Spirit especially impressed on my mind when studying Ephesians this time, the following are highlights for me:

> I have every spiritual blessing that I need. This passage reminds me of Second Peter 1:3 – “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life…” I am very wealthy spiritually and God intends for me to invest and enjoy the blessings He has given.

> God’s love for me is unconditional and greater than I could ever imagine or hope for. This is a crucial concept for me to understand and thoroughly believe. Realization of God’s love for me is the starting point for everything else I understand about myself, my relationship with God and with others, my purpose in life, and my future into eternity.

> My identity is determined by my relationship with God. I am chosen, adopted, called to a special purpose in life, gifted for that calling, and pleasing to God.

> My greatest need and my greatest strength is to trust God. That includes believing what He says through His word — that He has the power to do what He says He will do and that He will empower me to do what I’m called to do and be. My greatest happiness will come from choosing to trust him and responding quickly to his leading (because I trust him to lead me in the best way). He has planned significant things for me to do; I need to trust Him and depend on Him to do them. My greatest idol is my own trust in myself and my abilities to control my life. When I trust in them instead of God, I am putting myself in God’s place.

> The importance of loving others and being united with others. The power of using words to build up others; God may dispense grace to other people through my conversations with them.

> Living intentionally and mindfully to please God and thank Him for His goodness to me. I want pleasing God to be my primary motive in all my relationships. 

> The necessity of having an intentional strategy to resist the evil one.

Father, thank You for these six chapters in which You have revealed the depth of Your love for me. I need Your help to respond with more than just temporary appreciation. Make me more like You, Father, and spread Your grace through me. Amen

Dear Reader, this series on walking through Ephesians will conclude tomorrow, June 25th. I hope these posts have been a blessing to you. Could you tell me in one sentence what your most helpful take-away was? Also, would you be interested in walking with me through a series of posts on another passage or book of the Bible? You can comment on this post or write me at ohnpcoach@gmail.com. I appreciate your input. Peggy