REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional Thought, first posted on November 2, 2015, is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who in the past has served as a staff at several AMI churches. He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).
Devotional Thought for Today
“The Thin Line Between Being Genuinely Critical and Downright Discouraging”
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
When it comes to navigating the thin line between being genuinely critical in a constructive sense and being downright discouraging, we struggle (or know someone who struggles); and we probably have, on more than one occasion, erred on the side of insensitivity. Recently, as we were evaluating a certain event in one of our staff meetings, one of the guys started sharing his honest criticisms as to how to make the event better. As he was sharing, you could see the planner of the said event starting to well up with emotion. Soon, tears came out, emotions got a little out of control, and everyone felt a little uncomfortable. This happened because one party was genuinely trying to provide constructive criticism, while the other party only felt discouragement (remember how thin that line is).
Now, make no mistake about it: In today’s passage, Sanballat and Tobiah were the antagonists in Nehemiah’s life, so they were intentionally trying to discourage Nehemiah and the rest of the Jews from rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. In fact, as you will see later in the chapter, they did more than discourage with words—they threatened with physical harm. So it is a little unfair to compare them to a well-meaning critic, but here is the point: Often, those of you who have a critical mind (which is truly a gift) have to make sure that in your zeal for truth, maximum efficiency, or polished events, that you do not come off discouraging to others.
As we begin this day, let me ask you: How are you with your words? We are told to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but are you sometimes guilty of neglecting the “in love” use of words? Better yet, can you make it a goal not only to be not discouraging, but to genuinely encourage another person? Expressing a little faith in another person may go a long way.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be mindful not only of my words, but also the tone I speak in. Give me wisdom to be honest without being discouraging. Please allow me to encourage others this day.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 23
Lunch Break Study
Read James 3:1-12: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[c] these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Questions to Consider
1. What damage can be done with the tongue?
2. How are our words supposed to glorify God?
3. Would you say that your mouth is more of a “fresh or salt water” spring? How have you experienced the truth that the tongue is a “fire” or untamed animal?
1. The purpose of the bridle and rudder illustrations is that our mouths can impact the direction of our lives. In this case, the results are poor; often our tongues shipwreck our lives. We can also curse others who have been made in the image of God. Additionally, our words can discourage, belittle, curse, break promises, boast, slander, lie, etc.
2. First, we are to bless the Lord with our words (v. 9). On the positive side of the bridle and rudder illustrations, our can also powerfully guide our lives (if we have the integrity to follow through on our words).
Did you have an opportunity to be critical and truthful? Were you discouraging in your words or tone, or did you do your best to encourage? Did you honor God with praise and blessing today? It’s still not too late.