The Lord has given me the privilege of having dear friends in ministry—friends who love me and my family, challenge me in my spiritual growth, rejoice with me in God’s blessings, and hold me accountable in my personal life.

Often in my life, and perhaps in yours as well, there will be those who express a desire to counsel me or share a concern with me. In these days of many voices and opinions, it is important to know who to hear and who to filter out.

I’ve discovered these seven ways to be an accurate discerner of those who have had genuine concern in my life:

They call you personally.

I know that Matthew 18:15 is speaking to a local church context. But there is definitely a principle to be gleaned. People who want to be heard by others take their “concern” to public forums. People who hope to gain clarification from you or express their concerns to you contact you. Personally, not publically.

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.—Matthew 18:15

They pray for you fervently.

Prayer is one of the great discerners of how deep our concern runs. Are we only concerned enough to talk about it? Or are we concerned enough to talk to God about it? Without fail, spiritual Christians who have had genuine concerns for me have been as committed to pray for me as they were to speak to me.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.—James 5:16

They wait for you patiently.

Unless you’re in a life-threatening situation, someone with true concern doesn’t generally try to force immediate change. They love you enough to give you time and space to consider and pray over their concerns and don’t insist on an immediate response.

Charity suffereth long …—1 Corinthians 13:4

They hope for you confidently.

We live in a day when people can easily build platforms out of the failures or perceived failures of others. Those with true concern want to see change and growth in your life. They hope that speaking to you personally, praying fervently, and waiting patiently will bring good for you.

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.—1 Corinthians 13:6–7

They sharpen you intentionally.

This person’s greatest concern is not exposing the problem. It is helping you address whatever need may be there—whether that need be repentance, clarification, or growth.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.—Proverbs 27:17

They speak to you scripturally.

A spiritual Christian has spiritual speech. And that will be reflected in how they bring up and address an issue in your life. They will speak with grace and with a goal of edification.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.—Ephesians 4:29

They love you unconditionally.

The greatest level of true concern is a person who has determined to love you regardless of your response to their expression of concern. They are rooting for you and have your best interest at heart. If you don’t make changes based on their concerns, they will still love you.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.—Proverbs 17:17

Charity never faileth…—1 Corinthians 13:8

Not only are these attributes true of those who have concern for you, but they will be present in your life if you have true concern for someone else.

Is there someone you feel concerned for? Talk to them personally. Pray for them fervently. Wait for them patiently. Hope for them confidently. Sharpen them intentionally. Speak to them scripturally. And love them unconditionally.

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