Encouraging or Discouraging? By Lisa Burkhardt Worley

Sometimes when we go through something difficult we ask for a word from God, and He often uses a prophetic friend to speak to us. It’s happened time and time again in my life so I believe in prophetic gifting, but prophets have to be very careful when they speak on God’s behalf.

I am wrapping up a study of the book of Job, and knowing the whole story makes it frustrating to read the condemning remarks of Job’s friends. I am in the final discourse between Job and his “friend” Elihu. Elihu gets it right sometimes. He has a magnificent understanding of God. He says God is “mighty in strength of understanding.” True. He says in Job 35: “God is exalted in His power. Who is a teacher like Him?” Accurate. “Behold, God is exalted—beyond our knowledge!” No argument here. But where Elihu crosses the line is when he infers that Job is wicked (Job 35:8), that Job spoke nonsense (Job 35:16) and that when people are held captive by cords of affliction (Job) then “they have transgressed arrogantly” (Job 36:8–9). Elihu was confident he was right because as he said in Job 36, he spoke on “God’s behalf,” and his knowledge is from “afar.”

Here’s where Elihu failed and where we can fail people today. We judge what is going on with someone even though we don’t know the whole story. If we see someone blatantly sinning, then yes, if we’re a good friend, we should say something. We could attempt to save them from going further down a path of destruction. But if a friend or loved one keeps getting sick or nothing seems to go right in their life, we shouldn’t immediately assume that they’ve done something wrong. God may be using the circumstance to grow them spiritually, or to test them, as he did Job. Who can know the mind of God? However, we know that God is Love and He uses circumstances to draw His children closer.

Our Heavenly Father is an encourager, not a discourager. This week I experienced a small disappointment at school and prayed for the Lord to encourage me if I was supposed to continue. School has added a lot of work to an already busy schedule. Right after I prayed I decided to check a grade on one of my school papers. The professor gave me a high compliment and I was immediately encouraged. It was an answer to prayer and clear direction that I needed to hang in there.

1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins” (NIV). That’s what we are called to do. When we receive a word from God through someone else, it should be laced with love. When we are consoling a friend, what we say should be encouraging not discouraging. Let’s carefully pray over our words before they hit the atmosphere. It’s what Job’s friends failed to do.

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