Acts 14:21-22, "They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said."
As I tackled some Spring cleaning in our storage room, better known as the "catch-all-junk-closet", I came across some shoe boxes. Not just any boxes. Special boxes. The contents are highly valuable to us: words. Simple words making sentences. Simple sentences making my heart smile when I read them. Some of these words make me teary, others make me laugh. Still others fill my heart with appreciation and gratitude. What kind of words do I speak of? Barnabas words. Words of encouragement, exhortation and love.
When I was in college, one of my professors encouraged me to keep a shoe box and fill it whenever I received a note of love or encouragement through my years in ministry. He warned my class there would be days of discouragement coming. He said to bring out the box and read a few notes when experiencing such a time. He was in no way trying to make a substitute for the Word of Truth and its encouragement to our lives. He was merely affirming the value of encouragement from other Believers.
Why is encouragement from others important? Experiencing encouragement from others spurs us on to persevere. Encouragement blesses our hearts because it is an expression of love on the givers part. Encouragement communicates others care. Encouragement motivates us to hang in there. Encouragement is the glue to a crumbling day.
The name "Barnabas" means, son of exhortation, encouragement, or consolation. In our passage found in Acts 14, we read of Paul and Barnabas strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. Just prior to this, Paul was stoned, yet got up and went back into the city. Paul and Barnabas left the next day for Derbe. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. Lystra and Iconium were the very cities where Jews won the crowd over and had Paul stoned. These two had been persecuted. A quick look at a map reveals that they could have taken a shorter route back to Antioch, but no, they were determined to return to these cities in order to encourage the new followers of Christ. They had it in them despite their prior circumstances. They pressed on. They persevered. It was their priority to exhort and edify the new believers in these cities.
None of us are exempt from discouragement. The enemy is crafty in his attempt to bring us down. Maybe you are struggling through a difficult time right now. Perhaps you are in a disagreement with your spouse. Maybe your relationship with your children needs mending. Perhaps your job is draining you or there is tension in your family. Sometimes life's responsibilities can weigh us down.
Encouragement can come in many forms. A quick email, writing a card, making a phone call, and visiting one-on-one can really boost others hearts. Simply listening can minister to a person. Praying with another certainly exhorts. I believe one of the best ways to encourage is using words of Truth. We can share Scripture. We can share how the Lord ministered to us during a time of discouragement. Our greatest source of encouragement comes from God and His Word. As His followers we can share His encouragement with others.
For differing reasons, I struggled this past week with discouragement. The Psalms have spoken to my heart each day. Later this week I read some notes from my shoebox. One girlfriend called and prayed over me, not knowing when she called I was feeling discouraged. Two other ladies sent me an uplifting email. These expressions of love helped me to persevere through the week. Their encouragement was like water in a parched desert. It is helpful for me to know I have "Barnabas" friends who are in the trenches with me, walking alongside me, lifting me up to our Lord. I thank God for their timely encouragement to my life.
Perhaps it is time for us to be more purposeful in our encouragement to others. While I know we are all strapped for time, it is important to be intentional to exhort and edify others. As the early church shows us, we too, can strengthen and encourage others in the faith. May we all strive to be a "Barnabas" to those around us.
Ask the Lord to show you someone who especially needs encouraging this week. Contact this person and express your love to them through a way of encouragement. Try to be more aware of how you can intentionally encourage fellow believers.
What is your response when you hear of someone hurting and in need of encouragement? Do you want to reach out and encourage them? Do you want to hide in the shadows and pretend you don't know of their need? What can you do to be more of a "Barnabas" to those around you?
Heart Changing Word:
Acts 20:1-2 - "When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people."
Hebrews 3:13 - "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 10:25 - "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
2 Thessalonians 2:17 - "May our Lord Jesus Christ encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word."
1 Thessalonians 3:2 - "We sent Timothy, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith."
1 Peter 5:12 - "I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it."
Colossians 2:2 - "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding."
Copyright 2010 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.