“A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Proverbs 15:23 KJV)
Have you ever seen a prayer request come by the prayer chain and it catches your attention because something special about this need rings true with your experiences? If only you could flag this person down and spend a few minutes with them. The experiences that you have had could be a real encouragement that God really can handle situations just like these. You want to pick up the phone or hit the reply button right away and say, “let’s talk”. Yet you do a double take and wonder, if they are in the midst of a hard situation, would they want to talk? After all, sometimes the best comfort is a close friend with a big ear and a closed mouth. The delima does not necessarily seem to get any better if you ask another mutual friend. Now they have trouble deciding if they should give you honest counsel or rubber stamp a “yes” on top of their own delima of whether the friend could use the story of what God has done in one area as encouragement for the present struggle or would prefer a close silent friend. What do you do? You do not want to just sit there, but you do not want to make a mess either.
The practice of love and of community and of counsel will grow the Christian far more than the academic exercise of the study of the principles that is likely to be in the pastors lesson. Not that the principles are not hammered home with great frequency. Not that I doubt that they are offered in full and honorable faith. Sharing the wonder of what God has done has a number of really important layers to it that the one who’s heart is pricked by the need of another is likely to learn the most from.
The first layer is not always so obvious. When we share we share what we have seen God do. This may include the ups and the downs. This may include details that are difficult to reiterate because of the fuzziness of our memory. This may include admissions and confessions of our own. Yet it is told not with the perspective of the pride of mastery that is a temptation now that the situation is history for us, but with the humility of not knowing if there is a specific application or a best fit here; yet confident that God can perform equally if not greater now.
Another layer is introspective or self reflecting in nature. Have you done what was asked of you first? If the request was noticed in a prayer chain request, have you spent time praying about it? Have you searched the scriptures about it? If so, what did you come up with? Are there specific protocols that need to be followed? One of the oldest rules in helping someone who is being picked on (albeit a spiritual enemy) is that you can probably guess who is next in line to learn a little warfare. Sure, we should not be deterred by the threat of the battle spreading, but we should also engage with all of His armor on and securely fastened first.
Getting from Proverbs 15:22 to Proverbs 15:23 is a huge step with more layers than I can cover here. It is a step not merely of counsel. It is a step that in experience will make you significantly stronger thus making your counsel even more joyful when it is received. It is also more joyful because it is less of you and more of Him.
“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10 KJV)