Encouragement verses Compliments

I want to address a couple issues: How do we humbly handle compliments?  Is there a difference between compliments and encouragement?  I’ll start with the second question and as I answer the second, I’ll have already answered the first.  

Encouragement: Affirms who you are in Christ!  Compliments: Affirms what you do or what you have.  Who you are in Christ is changeless.  What you do and what you have changes.  Sometimes you do well, other times you don’t.  Sometimes you have a lot of money, that money can go down the tube with the falling economy.  

Here are some examples of compliments:

  1. You “have” a nice car 
  2. You “have” a good brain
  3. You “did” a good job leading worship
  4. You “have” the best sermon illustrations
  5. You are funny (which really means- you “have” humor)
  6. You “have” a real prophetic gift
  7. You “know” the Bible really well (which really means- you “have” much knowledge)
  8. You’re getting good at the guitar
  9. I like your hair
  10. You “have” beautiful eyes
  11. Wow, you did a great job!

Now, let’s stop there for now.  Compliments have to do with affirming what a person does or has!  Should we give each other compliments?  Sure!  Why not?  It’s better than telling them what’s wrong with them and what they don’t have and what they can’t do.  

But, the Bible doesn’t say, “Compliment each other day after day, as long as it is called today, so you may not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin?”  Nope.  It says, “Encourage one other day after day…”  I could give compliments, but I must give encouragement.  What’s the difference?  Compliments tell people that they “did” a good job!  Encouragement tells people that they “are” a good job!  Compliments tell people that they “have” something special.  Encouragement tells people that they “are” something special.  I’m supposed to remind you of who you “are” in Christ!  One of the greatest things you can do for a person is to help them to see themselves as God sees them.  

When I’m really encouraged: I am affirmed in who I am.  When I am complimented: I am affirmed in what I do.  Here is a huge deception: WHAT I DO MAKES ME WHO I AM!  No.  That’s religiosity- which is all about doing so you can be.  Grace- is about being so you can do.  The way to think as a Christian is: WHAT I AM MAKES ME DO WHAT I DO!

God raised up a young pastor in the late 80s who was used greatly to pastor a rapidly growing mega church, write bestselling books, fill stadiums for prayer meetings, and preach through the airwaves.  He was on the top of the “American Christian” world.  His influence was amazing!  God did use him powerfully.  Then, the media started lying about him.  Diane Sawyer from ABC was out to destroy him.  Sure enough, his following started believing the lies of the media.  He quickly saw his ministry dissinigrate in influence and support.  He fell into deep depression.  Could it be that he was more focused on what he had, then who He had?  Could it be that he was more secure in what He did and was doing, then who He was in Jesus? 

I like compliments!  But, I don’t take them too seriously.  Dr. David Yonggi Cho- who pastors the world’s largest church once likened compliments as bubble gum.  You chew it and graciously receive it- take what might be good- but don’t swallow it!  If someone told me I am really smart and creative, I’ll be appreciative for their honest and accuracy.  But, I won’t chew on it all day!  I will not swallow it and define who I am by “what” I have (creativity and intelligence).  I define myself by “who” I have, and who has me- Jesus Christ!  

Again, the way we are to think and live is: I am and therefore I do.  Not: I do, therefore I am.  I am dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ- therefore I do practice holiness.  I am a new creation in Christ, the old has passed away and new things have come- therefore I don’t return to my past sins.  I am a friend of God through Christ, and therefore I live a life of prayer.  It’s not that because I live a life of prayer, I earned my rights to being a friend of God.  

I remember when someone gave me a compliment after I preached a sermon on grace.  The exact words I got were “good job.”   I remember how that really didn’t sit well with me.  In fact, although I received it with gratitude I was bothered.  Why? Well, my sermon wasn’t a production, it was me.  My sermon wasn’t something I did to impress people, my sermon was the overflow of who I was.  Speaking on grace wasn’t a project for me, it was the extension of my heart.  It was out of who I was, that I had just done what I did (preach a sermon on grace).  Another time, I preached on God’s love, and someone came up to me after and said, “God has really won your heart!”  He was telling me: “You are one crazy lover of God!”  I appreciated the second so much more than the first because he told me who I was, not just about what I did.  We should go past just telling people that they did a good job to encouraging them that they are a good job in Christ.  

I could live on encouragement, I can’t live on compliments.  Why?  Compliments affirm someone for what they did and what they have.  Therefore, if I live off of compliments, I will affirm myself for how I did and what I have.  That’s what the Pharisees did.  They loved compliments.  They defined themselves by what they did.  Their mindset was: I do (religious stuff), therefore I am (holy).  Paul’s mindset was: I am who I am by the grace of God, but that grace to me was not in vain, I worked harder (I do)…”  (1 Corinthians 15:10) I’m a recipient of the grace of God.  I therefore live from grace, not for it.  

When I sin, I don’t hate on myself.  I just say, “Whoa, that was so not me!  God forgive me! I remind myself of who I am, and allow God’s grace to grant me victory over that sin, and strength to be who the grace in Christ has called me.”  

Do you know who you are?  If we don’t, we will always try to become someone.  If we don’t, Satan and stupid people will tell us who we are.   We need to be affirmed!  A person without affirmation is insecure.  Insecure people are the most proud and arrogant people you will ever met.  Where does affirmation come from?  Compliments or encouragement.  I will make it my mission to encourage my brothers and sisters, and not just compliment them.  If no one is around to encourage me, I’ll be like David and encourage myself in the Lord.  

So then, what encouragement looks like: Remember it affirms a person in who they are in Christ!  

I remember after I got saved, my youth pastor greatly encouraged me.  He helped me to know who I was in Christ.  He continually told me and others that I was a “man of God.”  That’s true, I don’t belong to Satan anymore I belong to God and He’s called me for His service.  I believed I was a man of God and become what I believed.  The Word says that in Christ I’m a man of God.  I need to remind myself and my brothers and sisters who they are- so they can live out who they are.

Here are ways I encourage myself in the Lord:

1) You are Holy!  I don’t believe we should have a holier than thou attitude, but an awareness of who we are as temples of the Holy Spirit.  I used to hate when people called me “the holy man.”  It made me feel like I was trying to act super holy.  But, I wasn’t trying to act anything.  I was just being who I am- a Christian.  As a Christian, I am a sacred vessel!  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  Christians who take crummy care of their bodies, or even throw their bodies into immorality have no idea of who they are and what they carry- We are temples of the Holy Spirit that carry the presence of God.  I don’t believe that church sanctuaries are any more holier than my body.  When I am tempted by immorality, I encourage myself of who I am: “You are holy!”  I will follow the teaching of Jesus and not give what is holy to the dogs.  (Matthew 7:6)  I will honor the presence of God within in, and remind myself of who I really am.  I don’t care if people make fun of me as the holy man anymore.  That is who I am. 

2) I am a servant of God.  

“…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14)  Because of the blood of Jesus and the work of the Spirit in my life, I am free to serve the living God!

“For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols toserve a living and true God,” (1 Thess. 1:9) That’s me!  I no longer serve idols, I’m no longer a slave to sin, but a servant of God!  Not just a servant, but a bond-servant!  I wasn’t forced to serve Jesus, I chose to.  A bond-servant was very close with his/her master, that’s me.  Forever, I will be close to him and serve Him (Revelation 22:3).  I’m not just a servant, I’m a friend.

3) I am a friend of God.  Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant doesn’t know what His master is doing. I call you friends…” (John 15:15) Amazing!  I see myself as a friend of God.  I don’t relate to him in a dictating monologue, but an intimate dialogue.  Christians are supposed to live out their identity as a friend of God.  Hearing God or being prophetic should be no reason for boasting- because it’s supposed to be normal!  A police officer doesn’t say: “Oh, you won’t believe it, I’m so amazing, I pulled someone over and gave the speeder a ticket!  Praise me!”  I’d look at him and say, “Well, good for you, but that’s your job!” I think what’s more encouraging that telling someone that they have a great prophetic gift, is rather encouraging them that they are a friend of God!  I don’t want to see myself as a super prophetic person who “has” so many spiritual gifts!  I want to see myself as a friend of God.  

4) I’m a world changer!  As a Christian, I’m not going to live my life being changed by the world, but being changed by God to change the world.  I am powerful in Christ.  The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living in me (Romans 8:11).  I am to be the salt and light of the world!  When I’m promoted, or if success comes, I have nothing to boast of.  Christians are supposed to be lights raised up.  I’m just being who I already am.  Billy Graham was just being a Christian.  Mother Teresa was just being a Christian.  C.S. Lewis was just being a Christian.

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