Jonathan's Perspective  

May 31

Four Words to Build People Up

We can learn a lot from the Bible.  Sometimes we catch key insights in the personal words rather than the instruction.  Paul's intimate address to Timothy, a colleague and young minister in Ephesus, gives us insight into how we can build people up.  It simply flows out of his relationship with Timothy that had been built over years of mentoring him in ministry.  Paul had taken Timothy on several missionary journeys, and left him to continue to build the thriving church in Ephesus.  Now, writing from Rome, Paul encourages Timothy to fight the good fight for the gospel.  Look at how he begins the letter:

'I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.  Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.  I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.  For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.'  II Timothy 1:3-7

Four things strike me.  First, Paul freely expresses his love and affection for Timothy.  'I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.'  Letting a person know that they are secure in your acceptance and affirmation gives them a bedrock to work from.  That kind of emotional stability is important.  In fact, Abraham Maslow says that the need for love and belonging is just one step beyond physical security, food, water, and shelter.  I grew up in a family of all boys who didn't express our emotions very well.  However, I have learned the importance of letting people around me know I love them and care about them.  This is a powerful gift you can give to both colleagues and family.

Second, Paul expresses pride in Timothy.  'I have been reminded of your faith.'  Paul brings up the good things that he sees in Timothy, the gifts and talents he uses to build up the church.  Too many times we take for granted the good things people do, and jump on them when they mess up.  When we express pride in someone, it encourages them to do more of the same.  It also helps them see that what they are doing matters - it makes a difference.  Try to catch colleagues and family members doing something good every day so that you can express your pride and appreciation.

Third, Paul expresses his confidence in Timothy.  'Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.'  Paul lets Timothy know that his previous experience, gifting, and cultivated talents have prepared him for the task at hand.  People need a vote of confidence when they embark on a new adventure in life.  Whether they have just graduated and are looking for a job, received a promotion, or going back to school to work on an advanced degree; people need to be encouraged by your expression of confidence in them. 

Fourth, Paul reminds Timothy that God is at work on his behalf.  'God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.'  Timothy was not on his own relying on his own knowledge and capacity.  Paul reminded Timothy that God was giving him wisdom, discernment, and power to accomplish what God had called him to do.  God is our greatest champion.  When we were far from God, God sent his Son to save us.  God continues to go to bat for us again and again throughout our lives so that we can meet the challenges before us.  Remind people that they are not alone.  God is with them, and so are you!

I encourage you to write a letter to someone in your life who needs to be built up.  It doesn't need to be long, but let them know you care about them, you are proud of them, you have confidence in them, and that God is at work in their lives.  It will take you 15 minutes, but it will bless them for the rest of their lives. 

Blessed to be a blessing,

Jonathan

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