On September 6 I read something in the devotional writing of Oswald Chambers that grabbed my attention and has stayed with me for over a month. In that day’s reading he observed “God rarely allows a person to see how great a blessing he is to others.” I’m not sure I totally agree with Chambers, but if he is correct, I am one of the rare ones who has had the privilege of seeing how God has used me to bless others.

After I stepped down from local church ministry in October of 2014 I put together a book entitled “A Pastor and the People: An inside Look through Letters.” The book included a variety of letters I received and wrote over the course of 44 years of ministry in four churches. Simply reading the letters gave me numerous snapshots of how God had used me to bless others. But even more than that, response to the book from people who were involved in those churches has given me even a greater sense.

Once the book came out I was contacted on Facebook by several who were in the church I served as Youth Minister from 1970 to 1975. The same thing happened with people who were a part of the church I served as Minister from 1975 to 1984. Many of the exchanges with people in those churches take me back 30 to 40 years!

A few weeks ago I was invited to write a letter of congratulations to a couple in the first church I served as a summer intern for their 65th wedding anniversary. What a privilege to be able to connect with that family after 44 years!

This past Sunday, on the anniversary of my last Sunday where I served as Senior Pastor for 30 years, I was invited back to preach. I was overwhelmed by the response of so many who welcomed Jan and me back, thanked us, told us they missed us, and assured us things were going well. Seeing how God has used someone to bless others is not as rare as Oswald Chambers suggests.

God has used me to bless others, but equally true and significant, He has also used others to bless me. The reality is that many of the ones He blessed through me are the same ones He used to bless me. And that mutual blessing continues.

Delighting in seeing how God has used me to bless others is not about self-promotion. I echo the declaration of Psalm 115:1, “Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory because of your love and faithfulness.” For me to think I deserved the opportunities I have had, or to fail to thank those who gave them to me, would be an expression of both presumption and delusion.

I hope you have had and will have opportunities to be a blessing to others. And I pray God allows you to see how great a blessing you are.

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Did the title of this post get your attention? And if it did, were you thinking about receiving affirmation or giving affirmation? My experience with others, as well as personally, is that affirmation is extremely important. And it is important to both give it and receive it.

Who doesn’t appreciate being affirmed? In a book I wrote using letters I received during my 44 years of pastoral ministry I included a lot of positive letters I had received. And in connection with that I mentioned an article I had read in which the author got my attention when he used the phrase affirmation addiction. Now addiction is a strong word. And I can see how someone who is motivated by, starving for, and seeking approval could create all kinds of problems for himself or herself. And perhaps some do need to guard against it; but appreciating being affirmed is no indication of being addicted to it.

I have often quoted Mark Twain who revealed, “I can live for two months on one compliment.” Most of us can identify with that. Being complimented feels good, energizes us, and encourages us. (I think people are affirmed when they post something on Facebook and get “likes” from their friends.) No one should undervalue the importance of compliments and affirmation. And I do not hesitate, nor am I embarrassed, to say through the years I have been greatly encouraged and my work has been enriched by those who complimented and affirmed me.

What about giving affirmation? And I do not have in mind insincere flattery or saying something just to be nice. But if we grasp how important being affirmed is, doesn’t it follow that affirming others is also important? I have in mind those with whom we are closest in our families (spouse, children, parents, etc.) all the way to the person who waits on us at the store or restaurant and everyone in between. Can we cultivate a greater awareness of the good things that people do and grow in the practice of letting them know we appreciate them and what they have done?  I think Jesus’ words in Luke 6:31 are relevant, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (NLT). One of the greatest statements of affirmation I know of came to Jesus following His baptism in a voice from heaven, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Mt. 3:17, NLT).

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