But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13
During the days when the Old Testament was being written, God often spoke through other people. Unbeknownst to them, as they shared the message God gave them to speak, they were writing those messages to us. We call those men (and women) prophets (and prophetesses). Many might believe that God no longer speaks through prophets, and perhaps He doesn’t use this method of communication as much as He used to because we have the written Word of God. Still, He speaks through other people today.
Here’s how He does this.
God puts a Bible verse or a thought into the mind of one of His followers during his or her quiet time. Immediately that person knows the message is for another. So, in obedience to the sense of urgency that person gets from God, they share what was received. It might be through a phone call, e-mail, or in person.
Someone did this to me today. I received an e-mail with a two-sentence message and a Scripture reference. When I receive messages like this I either know that they are in direct response to one of my prayers or questions, and I immediately know how to apply what they are telling me. If I’m not sure how their message relates to what I’m going through, I “put it on the back burner” (this is what one of my messengers tells me to do with his messages) and wait for what might be coming into my life in the near future. Most often I eventually understand what God has said to me through that other person.
Face to Face
Another way God speaks through other people is during conversation. I have several very good friends who I like to call my “kindred spirits.” They “get” me. They’re the ones who I let my guard down with, the ones I can truly be myself with. They don’t judge me harshly because I’m a pastor’s wife, and they don’t necessarily hold me to a higher standard because I write books and speak at retreats (although they’d be justified to do so because God holds teachers to a higher standard). When I am going through a period of confusion, these are the friends who I share with.
In turn, they share with me what they’ve learned from their own walks with God. We talk about Scripture and share how God’s kept His promises in our lives. One of these friends in particular is my faith-builder-upper. My husband Tom can always tell when I’ve spent time with Karen. She has a way of refreshing and reviving my spirit. I believe again when I talk with Karen.
I want to be a faith-builder-upper for others. Don’t you? I want to be a woman who other women can trust – one who is safe and one who has such a dynamic walk with God that just the time I’ve spent with Him encourages others.
Not only do we hear God’s message to us through others, but God also delivers messages through us. When you communicate God’s messages to others, be sure to qualify what you have to say with this, “While God might use me to communicate to you, know that I am an imperfect vessel. Be sure to verify what I’m saying with Scripture and talk to God about it yourself.” You need to do the same when others speak to you.
Sometimes we are in such a difficult place that our pain penetrates the hearts of good people, and they, in their attempt to encourage us, might share with us “a message from God” that didn’t come from God. I had one friend who was terribly shaken by this experience. She was infertile for years, and she suffered through her infertility much like I did – with lots of wailing, gnashing of teeth, and arguing with God. Finally, after giving quite a public testimony at our church, she discovered she was pregnant. But several months into her pregnancy, she was told that her baby had a serious issue. The prognosis was not good. Without a miracle he would most likely be born prematurely and die soon after. She and her husband (along with her family, friends, and church) prayed that God would perform that miracle. I argued with God that she was in the perfect posture to really shout out His glory! We believed, trusted, claimed Scripture, and basically did everything we could to walk with her through her trial.
But one well-meaning, generous-hearted saint did more than that. He took her aside one night after church and gave her “a word.” He assured her that her baby would indeed live and that God had great plans for that child’s life. She clung to his words like a lifeline. It kept her hoping and trusting and walking in faith through every doctor’s visit and all the test results. But when her baby died forty-five minutes after his premature birth, she was devastated. And the highest hurdle to jump was the “word” this well-meaning prayer warrior had given her.
When she came to me asking what she was to do with that man’s “word”, I told her that she had to understand that he was merely dust and that his heart was certainly right while his interpretation of what he’d heard from God was unfortunately (obviously) wrong. I explained that most likely his heart got in the way of God’s real word. After all, what would she have thought had he told her that her baby would die? I assured her that God did have a plan for her baby’s short life and that He certainly had a plan for hers, but that she’d have to find her answers in God. I encouraged her to take hold of God for herself and not let go – and to always put other people’s “words” secondary to her own understanding of what God was saying to her.
God does speak through other people, but that method of communication needs to be secondary to God’s message that comes directly to you through the reading of His Word.
Father, thank You for giving us the “one anothers” in our lives who encourage us and build us up. Help me to recognize Your voice when You choose to deliver a message to me through another believer. Use me as a voice of encouragement and as a speaker of truth to others as well. Oh God, speak to me, for I am eager to hear Your voice. Amen.
Leighann McCoy, our guest blogger, is a Prayer and Women’s Minister at Thompson Station Church and author for Lifeway Christian resources. Additionally, she is also the author of Spiritual Warfare for Women: Winning the Battle for Your Home, Family, and Friends and Oh God, Please! The Heart Cry of a Burdened Soul, Pray Right! and How to Develop Your Prayer Life with a companion book, three personal Bible studies for women, and one devotional book.
To find out more about Leighann’s books go to amazon.com