I have learned a great deal about encouragement over the past five days, and to be honest, I am struggling to see the end of this series. Yes, series. It was never intended to be such, but it has grown and blossomed into a multiple part series.
Part one included the elements of encouragement. There are three. First, is the idea to inspire with hope, courage, or confidence; to hearten. Second is to give support to; to foster. And third is to stimulate; to spur.[i]
Parts two, three, and four included nine ways the apostle Paul was encouraged.
The remainder of this series will include all the ways that we, as Christians, are encouraged.
Romans 12:6-8 talks about the gift of encouragement. I pray that we have all known someone who has this spiritual gift. These are the people who you look forward to being near. Who always have a good thing to say about someone or a situation.
In Scripture, there is mention of such an encourager. Our first glimpse of him is in Acts 4:36-37 (NIV). “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” There was a reason the apostles called this man Barnabas. He was an encourager!
Let’s look at two specific passages that speak to Barnabas’ gift. First, Acts 9:26-28 give us the account of Barnabas presenting Saul to the apostles. Saul had been transformed by his encounter with Jesus, but no one believed it. Barnabas did, however, and by taking him to see the apostles, he placed his stamp of approval on this man. Later we see Paul and Barnabas as the great team spreading God’s Word throughout the known world.
The second passage is Acts 11:22-24 (NIV). Here we see how Barnabas was utilized by the Jerusalem Church. “News of this [what was happening in Acts 11:19-21] reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he 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. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”
Barnabas was thrilled to see how God had been working in Antioch. So much so that he wanted to share their success and growth. In the few verses following we see that Barnabas went to Tarsus to find Saul and brought him back to Antioch. The Church grew by great numbers and that is where we first see the term Christian.
As an encourager, Barnabas rejoiced with Antioch Church. He was glad for them. He saw God’s grace in this group of people and encouraged steadfastness. He wanted their hearts to remain true to God. And he couldn’t keep their growing faith to himself. He had to tell others what they had done with the Lord’s hand.
I think we can all agree that Barnabas was the Son of Encouragement. I am thankful that we have such an example to follow. That we have a model to look to when we need guidance in this area.
Encouragement does come easily to some. While for others, it might be easier to wrestle a two-ton elephant. Encouraging words seem to be a foreign language.
But what does Scripture tell us about encouragement?
While I believe there are those who are truly gifted in the encouragement area, I believe each of us must be an encourager. There are so many verses that say, “encourage one another.” And we’ll be discussing those over the next few days.
Is there someone you can be an encouragement to today? If not, why not pray for God to present an opportunity for you to encourage someone. A family member. A fellow Christian. A complete stranger. Anyone that God places in your path that you can encourage. I pray that you’ll be encouraged by being an encouragement to another.
I have been blessed to know such encouragers throughout my life. People who have encouraged me to remain faithful to my beliefs, to guard my heart against the evils of this world, and to love the Lord with all my heart. People who have prayed me through difficult times, shameful periods, and the happiest moments. People who have hugged and smiled their way right into my heart.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,