"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me." - Galatians 2:20

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Friday, October 12, 2012


Acts 14:21-22, "They (Paul and Barnabas) 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."

This past week has been one of discouragement.  Hear me out, this is not a pity party.   This is just how life is sometimes despite my consistent feed of Scripture and oneness with the Lord.  

I've been discouraged by my lack in so many areas of writing and ministry.  People who once supported me have withdrawn.  Questions in my mind loom over my spiritual gifts.  

I'm frustrated with my flesh that struggles to love difficult people in my life.  I'm overwhelmed with a to-do list that stands higher than my laundry.  I'm discouraged by my physical limitations and sheer exhaustion that settles in close to dinner time each night.  My mental list of inadequacies goes on . . .

This discouragement comes when I compare myself to others, when I forget to extend myself some grace and when I am overwhelmed by too many trains on the track. Recognizing the enemy's attempt to keep me in the pit requires a personal choice for me to rise above with the strength God provides.

When I feel like I hit bottom the Lord tenderly reminds me to press into Him more while placing my confidence in Him alone and not my circumstances.  His Word comforts me and His Spirit embraces my wearisome heart.  

God also uses others believers to lift us up when our hearts are heavy.  In the New Testament we read the example of Barnabas.  Barnabas who?  Interesting name, until we learn what it means.

The name 'Barnabas' means, son of exhortation, encouragement, or consolation.  In the passage found in Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith. 

Just prior to this, Paul was stoned, yet got up and went back into the city.  The next day he and Barnabas left 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 missionaries were persecuted.  Why would they want to go back?  

A quick look at a map also reveals they could have even taken a shorter route back to Antioch, but no, they were determined and devoted to return to these cities to exhort the new followers of Christ.  Encouraging their brothers gained priority despite their prior stoning.  They pressed on in the midst of the reality of their own difficulty.  

Paul and Barnabas' encouragement reveals its necessity for many reasons:
  • Encouragement inspires us to persevere in our faith. 
  • Encouragement strengthens our hearts and is an expression of love. 
  • Encouragement communicates we care about the body of Christ. 
When I felt the corners of my eyes moisten I tried to fight back, not wanting to give in to the realness of my hurt and frailties.  Right about this time God used fellow sisters to spur me on.  Last week God brought five random people to me via email, Facebook, a phone call and one-on-one.  Each of them spoke such blessing over me.  

God used these ladies to minister to me in a tangible way.  Their words helped me stay focused, remember Who I serve and remain steadfast in God's call over my life.  Their encouragement was like water in a parched desert.

None of us are exempt from discouragement.  It comes in various forms and has the potential to stifle the most joyful person.
  • Is your marriage floundering?
  • Does your relationship with your children need mending?
  • Is your job draining you?
  • Are you doubting God's love for you?
  • Is there tension in your family?
  • Are you facing tragedy?
  • Are financial pressures squeezing like a vice?
Those who take a firm stand in their faith are a sure target for enemy archery.  Even those who serve in ministry experience hard hits.  The closer believers are to impacting the Kingdom and reflecting the glory of God, the enemy comes in to evict us from our confidence, courage and conviction.  The Deceiver gains pleasure from our doubts, fear and timidity.

Perhaps it is time for us to be more purposeful in our encouragement to others. We are all strapped for time but it is critical to be intentional to exhort and edify those in need.  As the early church shows us, we too, can strengthen and encourage others in the faith.  May we strive to be like Barnabas to those around us.

Heart Work:
Do you know someone with the above difficulties mentioned?  Contact this person and express your love to them. 

Try to be consistently aware of those needing encouragement.  

Encouragement comes in many forms. What are some practical ways you can edify others?  (Email, card, phone call, chat over coffee, prayer . . . what else?)

Heart Exam:
What is your response when you hear of someone hurting and in need of encouragement?  Do you want to reach out or do you want to hide in the shadows and pretend you don't know of their need? 

What can you do to be more like Barnabas to those around you?  Specifically your husband, children, parents, close friends, neighbors, unbelievers . . . be specific.

How are you feeling discouraged?  Your greatest source of encouragement comes from God and His Word.  

Heart Transforming 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."

Galatians 6:1 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

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.  Edited 2012.  All rights reserved.