One of the crying needs of our time is for encouragement.
The economy and the world situation seem pretty ominous right now. These days, finances, family, health, job, unemployment, disappointments, problems, and a myriad of other worries weigh us down with the cares of the world. In a world of pandemics and quarantines, all of us need encouragement.
In the book of Acts, there is a man named Joseph, who had been a Jewish priest. But he had become a Christ-follower. The apostles gave Joseph the nickname "Barnabas" which means "son of encouragement." Barnabas is an example of what is so desperately needed in our world today. He is an example of how you and I can, and should, encourage others.
How can we be sons and daughters of encouragement? From Barnabas's life, there are five actions we can take to encourage those around us:
First, encourage others with words
. Acts 11:23 records that when Barnabas "arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." Barnabas told them to stay fully-committed to Jesus and endure despite the adversity. We can do the same things with our words:
- Tell your Christian friends not to lose heart, to trust in our great God, and to remain faithful to the Lord.
- Tell your unbelieving friends about God's salvation, God's hope, and God's help. Show them how you are coping with the cares of the world with faith. Then, tell them that God loves them, that God is available, and that there is eternal hope for them if they will let Christ into their life.
- Tell the people you love how much they mean to you at every opportunity. Tell them specific the things they do and what you like about them. The more people feel appreciated the lower their discouragement will be.
- Thank a take-out waitress, a cop, the grocery clerk, and the people who minister in your life. Tell them: "I am grateful for you! Thank you for your service."
- Give heart-felt authentic and habitual compliments to your spouse, your family, your friends, your colleagues at work, your teachers, to your fellow-students and those who are important in your life. They need your loving encouragement!
- Help somebody who is going through a dark time in their life. These days, people without jobs, people cooped up without family, people with cancer, people with depression and other hard things really need your words. With email, it is so easy to simply drop somebody a note and say: "I know you are going through a rough time and I am praying for you."
- Look for someone who has messed up. Johann Goethe, the German playwright said: "Correction does much, but encouragement does more." A word of encouragement after a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after a success. Criticism and blaming are barbs, not blessings. Tell them that God is the God of second chances.
Second, encourage others with gifts.
The first time we read about Barnabas is in Acts 4:36-37. He is the one who sold some land and generously donated all the proceeds to the apostles in Jerusalem. Barnabas was one of the first to sell his possessions to help the Christians in Jerusalem. Acts 11:29-30 tells how the church in Antioch gave according to their ability to help for church back in Judea. Barnabas and Paul brought these gifts back to the elders in Jerusalem.
Do you see someone needs encouragement? Send them a gift card, a bookmark with an appropriate Bible verse on it, or a good book or CD. Send a takeout meal to someone who is discouraged. Send them a note with some encouraging words inside. Slip some cash in the note to somebody who needs it and say: "I am praying for you." Then, really pray for them. Supporting your church, your missionaries, and Christian ministries that exalt the Lord are such great ways to encourage the Body of Christ and support the outreach of the Gospel.
Third, encourage others with acceptance.
Eventually, if you are going to really follow Christ, it will involve risk. Barnabas gave took a huge risk to reach out to Saul, the former persecutor of Christians. He took a chance when no one else would. When Saul arrived in Jerusalem after his conversion, the Christians were justifiably afraid of him. Maybe they thought Saul's conversion was a scheme to kill more Christians. Barnabas was the only one who risked his life to help Saul. Barnabas was the one who convinced the Jerusalem church that their former persecutor was now a committed follower of Christ. Barnabas was the first to go on a missions trip with Saul, who became Paul. One can only imagine if Christianity would even lasted without Barnabas's encouragement of the Apostle Paul.
Barnabas gave also gave John Mark a chance. Barnabas encouraged Mark to go with him and Paul on mission trip to Antioch. But Mark deserted them on the trip. Acts 15:36-39 tells about the disagreement Barnabas had with Paul about what to do about Mark. They parted ways because Barnabas was committed to encouragement. Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas, doubling their missionary efforts. Barnabas' encouragement was a crucial ministry in the Early Church.
Rudyard Kipling said: "I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble." So, if you want to be an encouragement, give people the benefit of the doubt. Try to see things from their perspective so that you understand their hearts and motives. It will help you encourage and strengthen others!
Fourth, encourage others with service.
Acts 13:2-3 tells how Barnabas was willing to serve: "While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" After this church had fasted and prayed, they sent Barnabas and Paul off on the first missionary journey outside Israel. They traveled to Antioch, Cyprus, through Pamphylia and Galatia. They visited key cities and cultural centers to reach people with the Good News. They went to synagogues, speaking first to the Jews in hopes that they would see Jesus as the Messiah. Encouragement was Barnabas's act of service and ministry. And it should be ours!
Fifth, encourage others with exemplary living.
Acts 11:24 describes Barnabas as: "... a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith." Acts 11:26 tells about Barnabas's ministry in Antioch: "So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." I think is that this same encouragement of Barnabas was what caused the city of Antioch to see the church as "little Christs." In fact, throughout the book of Acts, it seems that wherever Barnabas went, he encouraged people. His encouragement brought great numbers of people to believe in the Lord Jesus!
The "prince of preachers," Charles Spurgeon, said: "A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble." How can you carve Christ in the hearts of people? Encourage everyone you meet and wherever you go!
Barnabas, the son of encouragement became one of the most influential people in the Early Church. His ministry of encouragement earned him a prominent place in Christ's church. Although not one of the original 12 apostles, Acts 14:14 refers to Barnabas as an apostle. Many scholars, as well as the early church father, Eusebius, believe that Barnabas wrote the book of Hebrews. I think so too. Barnabas knew doctrine because he was a Levitical priest. The words "encourage" and "encouragement" appear several times in the book of Hebrews. Whenever I read the book of Hebrews, it reminds me of Barnabas who shows us how encouragement can change the world!
Folks, encouragement makes the Gospel live in the hearts of people. Encouragement is how we minister. Encouragement is how we serve. Let's be a church of encouragers! Let's lift people up in these difficult days! Let's honor God with encouragement!!
In one of the Chicken Soup books, Tami Fox tells about being in a coffee shop across from the Mayo Clinic. As she sat there, Tami was afraid. The next day she was having a very dangerous spinal surgery. Just a few weeks earlier, her dad had died. Her dad had been her encourager over the years but now he was gone. At the table, Tami prayed:
"O Heavenly Father, in my time of trial, send me an angel."
As she was preparing to leave, Tami noticed an elderly lady walking very slowly to the cash register. While Tami stood in line behind her, she admired the lady's flair for fashion. The lady had a bright paisley dress of red and purple, a scarf, a brooch and a brilliant scarlet hat. Tami told her,
"What a beautiful woman you are. You've made my day."
The woman clasped Tami's hand and said:
"My sweet child, bless you! I have an artificial arm and a plate in the other, and one leg is prosthesis. It takes me quite some time to get dressed. I try to do my best, but as years go by, people don't seem to think it matters. You've made me feel so special today. May the Lord watch over and bless you, for you must be one of his little angels." As Tami and the lady walked away from each other that day, both of them had been encouraged by each other. They were angels to each other with their encouragement.
Folks, encouragement is desperately needed as we travel through interesting times right now. There are people all around us who need encouragement just like those two women. Be on the lookout for people who are afraid. Watch for lonely people who have no one to encourage them. Young people struggle with their identity, worth, and where they will fit in. Adults can be such an encouragement to kids if you tell them that they have gifts, opportunities, and people who love them and believe in them. As people age, they need friendships and help. Look for people who have hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Find ways to encourage them to walk with Christ and rely on Him. Tell people they can make it with God's help! You can encourage by email, phone call, snail mail, or in person.
One of the guys that Barnabas mentored, the Apostle Paul, told the Thessalonian church this: "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). I believe that this is God's advice to us today and in our church. Let's be like Barnabas! Let's be sons and daughters of encouragement today and every day! Encourage people wherever you are -- at church, at home, in the neighborhood, at work, in the store, and everywhere you go. A smile, a kind word, a note, an email, a post on Facebook, or pat on the back can go a long way to encourage somebody. Start your encouragement ministry today!
Well, that is my "encouragement" to you for this week.
As long as this "Shelter-in-Place" order is in place, our church will be together online. Each Sunday, after 9 AM, you can go to
. On the first page of our webpage will be links to YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and our own Truthcasting. On both the website and Truthcasting, you can download the sermon outlines.
Please email me or Pastor Jonathan and let us know how we can pray for you or help you. And I encourage you to keep lookin' up!