Have you ever been given encouragement which seemed beneficial, only to have time prove it wasn’t rooted in reality?

In the Old Testament book of Lamentations, God spoke this scathing condemnation to those who were telling people what they wanted to hear as opposed to what they needed to hear.

“The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading.” (Lamentations 2:14)

You may be thinking, “Wow. That’s harsh!”

But these prophets were suppressing the truth and failing in their responsibilities by telling the people what they wanted to hear instead of what they needed to hear.

We at ETL know first-hand how uncomfortable it can be to look at ourselves or certain situations in the glaring light of truth. But we’ve come to learn it’s far better to immerse ourselves in truth than having a false sense of security in the collapsible bubble-wrap of hollow encouragement.

God’s truths, when properly accepted and acted upon, always lead to joyful intimacy with Him. It is true that God loves you. But it is misleading to say, “God loves you, therefore everything will be okay”. Truth requires full disclosure about God including, for example, His holiness.

Let’s take a look at how the above passage shows God’s love and holiness working in perfect unity.

* * *

God is love, through and through; it’s not something He has to apply, practice, or work Himself up to. His magnificent plan of salvation is the supreme example:

“But God, being rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  (Ephesians 2:4-6)

Simply put: We would all be toast were it not for God’s intentional, active love and His incomprehensible mercy. John 3:16 never grows old: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

God is love whether or not people choose to believe in Him or respond to His love.

* * *

God Is Holy. The Hebrew word for holy means “apartness, set-apartness.” God is separate and apart from all else—above all else. This is the only attribute of the Triune God the Bible uses in triplicate:

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:1-4)

At this exposure, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me!”  He knew no one could see God and live, so he assumed he was toast!

God’s holiness is to be both appreciated by His dear children and feared by all.

* * *

Where we are going with this?

God’s love for humanity is just as much the cause for His righteous anger as His holiness.

And God was angry when He declared: “The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading.”

God was grieved and angered at the harm which came to the nation because its prophets determined a diet of fluff and sweetness for the masses would digest more easily than truth. They became skillful in providing authoritative-sounding declarations in the form of speech and visions and failed to confront them about their addictions to sin.

They basically told the people they were wonderful, God was pleased with them, and that everything was fine. Why? They wanted the people to be happy with what they heard!

* * *

Years ago, I caught myself thinking well-intended “encouragement”, even if not completely rooted in reality, may not always be a bad thing.

Like saying, “You can do this!” when that was actually a hope based on wishful thinking, rather than a trustworthy hope founded on biblical truth.

I failed to recognize that any “encouragement” apart from truth isn’t fair to give or receive. It’s fake. And we live in a culture so saturated with fake encouragement that we may not realize how often we embrace it.

* * *

If we want to discontinue buying into or offering up fake or hollow encouragement, there’s a couple of things we will do well to consider.

FIRST: We need to be so knowing of truth and so saturated with it, that falsehoods (or fake encouragement) immediately flag our attention.

This reminds me of the story of an apprentice who wanted to learn from the world’s master how to recognize genuine jade from counterfeit jade.

The master blindfolded the apprentice day after day and gave him pieces of choice jade to touch and rub in his hands and around his fingers. After many, many days the frustrated apprentice asked the master when he’d be able to take the blindfold off and start learning how to differentiate quality jade from counterfeit. The master then placed a new piece in the apprentice’s hand and, upon touching it, he immediately recognized it was different than what he had been handling for weeks. It was an imitation and not the real thing.

The apprentice had become so familiar with the real thing (truth), that he could tell when a piece wasn’t right (a counterfeit). It’s the same for us. We must become so deeply, intimately familiar with the truth of God’s Word (the Bible) that we will be able to quickly recognize falsehoods masquerading as encouragement when they run through our mind, reach our ears, or are flashed before our eyes.

Remember: A master counterfeit work looks right. Many inspirational quotes and functions which look or sound good to us may run contrary to God’s Word.

A portion of the world’s economy is driven by counterfeit encouragement. Countless millions are invested in coffee cups, wall hangings, educational and self-help books, “inspirational” speakers, videos, preaching, music, counseling, product lines—you name it—where people are being fed “fluff and sweetness”. All while the sins within our world and lives continue to be mislabeled or simply denied.

SECOND: We need to have hearts so entwined with God’s that we learn how to be encouraged, and lovingly encourage others, through truth—regardless of the culture in which we find ourselves.

The consequences of Israel’s national sin (and its gatekeepers of truth failing to present truth) were catastrophic. God had warned them repeatedly that failure to honor and walk with Him would result in the loss of His blessings. Those warnings were not heeded, and devastating hardships and captivity subsequently became their reality.

Israel’s prophets likely didn’t wake up one day with a sudden desire to become experts in hollow encouragement. I’m guessing this error came to fruition in their lives through a slow, gradual decline—similar to how it can play out in ours.

We stop immersing ourselves in truth.

We’re swayed by the opinions of others.

We make small, seemingly insignificant compromises.

We don’t want to offend anyone.

We place comfort and acceptance over speaking the truth in love.

 I don’t know about you, but I’m finding this list to be more than a little uncomfortable.

 * * *

During an online workshop for Christian writers last year, the presenter (a self-described believer), shamelessly stated that if your goal is to sell books, you’d better tone down the message. Use less Scripture; make it easier for a broader readership to digest.

Christian songwriters and musicians undoubtedly receive similar rhetoric. We all know pastors do.

Of course, the same holds true for lovers of Jesus everywhere, no matter where they live or what they do.

But here’s what we need to hold in remembrance:

If you have given your heart and life to Jesus Christ, God has entrusted you as His emissary. You are one of His spokespersons; a chosen representative. One of the gate-keepers of truth.

He knows you aren’t perfect and He understands human fears and weaknesses. Nonetheless, God Himself has spoken: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

* * *

If you’ve grown comfortable with worldly encouragement, please consider asking God to deliver you from it. Become that apprentice so familiar with what is right (truth) that you immediately know when you’re faced with (or about to promulgate) something that’s not true. And, of course, ditch the fake stuff!

Only God can give us the love necessary, and the courage we need, to humbly and gratefully speak truth into the lives of others. And both are available for the asking from a loving, holy God.

 “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

(Psalms 145:18)

June

June

People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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