I did not realize how exhausted I had become after working with my children in the Lake of the Ozarks. I was teaching them how to water ski and had spent a considerable amount of time in the water helping them get their skis on, watching as they tried to get up when the boat pulled them, and then swimming to where they had fallen. Each time I gave them some pointers and encouraged them to try again, only to see the same scenario repeated. Finally our training sessions were finished and one of my younger brothers-in-law guided the boat around to pick us up. He suggested that I ski back to the dock and I said, “Sure”.
It seemed harder than usual to put on the skis. The boat pulled the rope tight and I gave the signal to go. I fought the resistance of the water longer than what normally happened and then recognized my legs felt like weak rubber bands. Standing up was impossible and being unable to get the skis on top of the water, I released the rope handles and fell back into the water. As the boat returned alongside me I said, “I can’t do it. I have no strength left.” Then my brother-in-law responded, “You can do it. In fact you have to do it. I have never seen you not be able to get up out of the water.”
With that strong affirmation and realizing my children were watching, I reluctantly agreed to try one more time. The motivation to succeed was stronger than ever. Using every ounce of energy that remained in my tired body, I surprised myself by rising out of the water and skiing back to the dock. This story happened several years ago, but it left me with a lesson I have not forgotten.
There is a powerful motivation that occurs as a result of one person giving affirmation to another. According to one dictionary, the word affirm means “to make firm; to assert positively; to tell with confidence.” The act of affirming means asserting something as true. An opposite concept is deny.
Affirming truth leaves a positive impact on a person’s life. Denying truth leaves a negative impact.
Speaking with affirmation to someone strengthens him. Speaking critically to someone tears him down.
We all need some help in the area of proper affirmation. It is too easy to criticize and see the negative in our own lives and the lives of our family members. When that happens, a spirit of defeat is not far behind and will push us toward despondency and depression.
The Old Testament book of Ezra records the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity. The nation had been defeated physically, mentally, and spiritually. Everything was in ruins. When Ezra saw the condition of the people and how they had turned from God, he experienced great stress and despair in chapter nine. However, in chapter ten, Shechaniah gives a powerful affirmation to Ezra in verses 2-4 to trust God and obey Him. He said, “…yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.”, and, “…let us make a covenant with our God….”, and, “Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.” Those words of affirmation gave Ezra courage because they were based on truth.
It is recorded a few years later in the book of Nehemiah that after hearing the despondent news of Jerusalem’s condition, Nehemiah humbled himself before God, confessed the sin of the nation and recognized God’s authority to pour out judgment upon them. He pled for undeserved mercy on the repentant, and asked for a very difficult thing – that the king would reverse his former decree of Ezra 4:21. God confirmed his desire by directing the king to not only give him permission to rebuild the city walls, but also the provision to do it. Because God affirmed Nehemiah, he could use his testimony to affirm the discouraged Israelites in the following chapter, which led them to say, “Let us rise up and build.” Even in the next verse when their enemies ridiculed and scorned them, Nehemiah could affirm, “…The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build….”
Proper affirmation of biblical truth builds confidence and faith. Repetitive affirmation helps a person to look beyond the seemingly impossible circumstances and trust God to do the miraculous. When the conspiracies came and the surprise attacks were planned, Nehemiah demonstrated the power that comes from being affirmed. The Bible mentions that the work was great and large and they were separated from one another, so a trumpeter was ready to sound an alarm to bring them together for protection. Even while experiencing opposition from within his own ranks, Nehemiah was encouraged to keep up the good work because he had been affirmed.