Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Affirming God in Others
Pastor Steve Schell
Romans 1:8; 16:1-15
There’s a huge difference between flattery and a sincere compliment. Flattery is a form of manipulation where someone showers praise or attention on a person in order to ingratiate themselves or gratify the person’s vanity (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). It’s the motive that’s wrong. I say something positive to gain a person’s trust so I can influence them or protect myself. I assume all of us find ourselves doing this on occasion. For the most part we’re not even conscious we are doing it until we hear it coming out of our mouths. And flattery doesn’t necessarily require lying. Everything I have said about a person may be true. What makes it flattery is why I said it. The very same words could be said with a different motive and be a sincere compliment.

As we read Paul’s letter to believers in Rome we might ask if he is flattering them so they’ll welcome him when he arrives, or is he complimenting them in order to encourage them in their service of the Lord? One doesn’t have to read far in Paul’s letters to discover he is quite willing to confront and correct when it’s needed (1Co 11:17-22; Gal 3:1, 3). There’s simply nothing in him that’s falsely manipulative. Strongly authoritative at times, yes, but manipulative, no. Yet the same man who will bluntly speak truth is also willing to compliment, and he does it well. Even though his words aren’t directed to us personally, we find it encouraging and healing just to listen to such heartfelt approval. He has a grace each of us would do well to learn because we are surrounded by people who desperately need to be complimented.

Listen to Paul’s compliments
• Romans 1:8 - He passes on a good report to encourage them: “Everywhere I go people are talking about the great things God is doing through you.”
• Romans 16:1-15 - Not only does he single out individuals to tell them how well they have done, he tenderly expresses his personal thanks and love.

Why do we find this so hard to do?
• We question our motives for giving a compliment.
• We worry how our words will be taken: will that person think I am flattering them from a wrong motive?
• We have very little healthy modeling to draw upon. We’ve received few sincere compliments or have not known anyone who compliments well.
• We’re afraid our words may cause someone to become proud.
• We assume God Himself isn’t thankful (Lk 17:10; Mt 25:21).

In fact, we might find complimenting someone nearly as challenging as confronting them. It can be stressful and leave us embarrassed afterward.

Yet people need to be affirmed like they need a drink of water. Doubt and condemnation constantly wear away at our confidence. We review in our minds what we’ve said or done, and our shortcomings, whether real or imagined, stand out in our minds much more than our successes. So a well-timed compliment usually doesn’t result in pride but rather gives someone the courage to step out and try again tomorrow.

The power of words
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Prov 18:21)

What we say greatly affects the attitudes of others (and ourselves). Our words can produce encouragement and hope or discouragement and fear. We need to recognize the opportunities God gives us to speak life-giving words. If we do, we will find such words coming back to us as well.

How to give a compliment
• Ask God to open my eyes to see those who are faithful. (“Thank you for what you do…”)
• Take note when the “anointing” comes. (“I’d like to tell you how God used you when…”)
• Watch carefully for those who go unnoticed (1Co 12:14-26) (“Your faithfulness makes such a difference…”)
• Speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15)

Each of us longs to make some contribution to the work Jesus is doing in our generation. Sadly we try to assess this by comparing ourselves with others, and inevitably decide they are far more effective than we are, so we assume it would make no difference if we quit. Your words are an antidote to that deception.
• 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13 “encourage one another…”
• The greatest value of the Summer Mission isn’t what we build, it’s the encouragement we leave behind. People say, “I thought nobody knew we were here…”

How to receive a compliment
There’s a way to receive a compliment so it won’t control us (a compliment can do this even if the one giving it is not trying to do so) or lead to pride (assuming I am the source of this goodness).
• Listen: Don’t deny the truth. Accept what’s true and say “thank you.”
• Don’t swallow: Recognize God is the true source of everything good, not you (Lk 18:19; Jas 1:17)
• Give thanks: Quickly turn in thanks to God. Give verbal expression to this when the compliment comes, if possible.

Of course good things are happening. God dwells in you. It’s wrong to deny this, but it’s also wrong to forget who is the true Source. Listen to how Paul expresses both these truths:
• “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1Co 3:6)
• “…His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (1Co 15:10)
• “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate servants of a new covenant…” (2Co 3:5, 6)
• “On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.” (2Co 15:5)

• Who was the last person to whom you gave a compliment? If it’s appropriate, would you tell us what you said?
• Are there compliments that have been given to you that you’ve never forgotten? Would you mind sharing it and tell us how it effected your heart? 

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