As I mentioned in my last post, there are some practical ways that us normal people (the non-preachers and non-evangelists) can bring the good news of Christ into our everyday worlds. Here is a second way.
Practical Way #2: The Power of Affirmation
Remember the centurion in Matthew 8? He was the Roman leader that told Jesus he was unworthy to have Jesus come to his house and believed Jesus could heal from a distance. We have no indication that this man was a follower of Christ, but he certainly had notable faith.
Even so, Jesus’ words of affirmation for this Roman soldier must have been shocking for the onlooking religious leaders and life-altering for the soldier, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (Matthew 8:10). Even in this brief interaction, Jesus had seen the heart of this man, identified something that reflected the heart of God, and affirmed it. I imagine that it must have felt as if Jesus was identifying one of the most precious areas of the soldier’s heart and declaring it to be of value!
A sincere affirmation can be a powerful means for engaging people at a heart level, identifying something in them that God values. Though sin has tarnished and twisted God’s creation, every person still reflects in various ways the image of God. Romans 1:20 gives testimony to this fact: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”
Admittedly, it’s easier to see God’s image in some people than it is in others. However, if we prayerfully ask God to help us we can begin to see the fingerprints of God in the life of each person we meet.
Several years ago, I was driving with a friend. We came around a corner and saw an older, disheveled man hitchhiking between two mountain towns. I don’t advocate picking up hitchhikers, but this had the signature of the Spirit on it from the start. Over the next fifteen miles, we learned a lot about Wyatt and noticed how he lit up when he talked about his trade of making signs.
He was going to the next town to purchase some groceries for a local shindig. He wanted to cook and serve one of his favorite foods for the party — tamales! He planned to spend his all but depleted cash to cook and serve at the community celebration.
As we dropped Wyatt off, I felt the Spirit’s prompting, and was moved to apply the lessons God was teaching me about affirming people. I said, “Wyatt, before you go, may I bless you? The God I serve tells me to bless people I meet.”
He may have expected a financial blessing, but what he received was an obvious encouragement to him. I prayed:
Father, thank You so much for Your creation, Wyatt. Thank You for reflecting Your image through him. Thank You for giving him the gift of creativity and his passion for sign making. Thank You for giving him a gift of hospitality and the desire to serve people through that gift, with his tamales. Father I can see You in him. Please reveal Yourself to him. Amen.
Wyatt left the car with a smile on his face, walking a foot off the pavement. Someone had seen his worth, a majestic worth put there by the King. There it was again — the image of God leaking out from the cracks of one of His not-yet-redeemed creations.
Sometimes I feel that I shouldn’t affirm non-believing people. Somehow in a warped kind of way, I think that if I affirm who they are, it will entrench them in their unredeemed state. I’ve come to believe that isn’t true. Affirmations that identify God’s fingerprints in their lives speak truth about God and allow us to bring a spiritual dimension to conversations.
Have you experienced the power of affirmation in bringing God’s truth to a conversation?
* This post is an excerpt adapted from my book Making Waves.