A few weeks ago, a friend of mine called me in the morning. He is a pastor I know who moved out of state and I hadn’t heard from him in a while actually. He didn’t call because he needed anything or to ask for advice or support. He simply called to let me know he was praying for me and thinking of me. To say I was encouraged by the phone call would be an understatement. It got me thinking about the power of encouragement and about what God’s Word has to say about encouragement.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” I shared this verse with our congregation at the beginning of the year as our theme for the year, challenging ourselves to live it out. Another verse which speaks to the power of encouragement is Proverbs 12:25 which says, “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” When I look around in the world we are living in it seems to me that many people are weighed down with anxiety, especially given the events of the past year. We have the power to encourage people with our words and we should use it. The most encouraging thing for anyone to hear is that there is hope because God was willing to send His son to this earth to be our savior, dying on a cross to bear our sins so we can be forgiven if we believe in Him, and rising three days later defeating death itself. A God who is willing to do that for us is a God of unimaginable love for us.
Barnabas was a man we read about in the New Testament Early Church who was known for his encouragement. He encouraged Paul after he became a follower of Jesus when the other disciples of Jesus were afraid of Paul because he had been very active in persecuting the church, Barnabas encouraged Paul by vouching for him (See Acts 9:26-27). In Acts 11:20-26 we see that Barnabas was also an encouragement to the new church which sprang up in Antioch. In Acts 11:23-24 it says, “When he (Barnabas) arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.” Notice that the reason that Barnabas was so encouraging was because he was full of the Holy Spirit. To quote David Jeremiah, “The fact that Barnabas was good, generous, gracious, and godly was not because of his upbringing or his education or his heritage. It was because he was filled with the Holy Spirit.” We need the Holy Spirit’s help to be the encouragement that God wants us to be to others. Barnabas was also an encouragement to Mark (the one who wrote the gospel of Mark) when he insisted on giving Mark a second chance at ministry even though Paul at that point didn’t want to. See Acts 15:36-40. As I thought about the ministry of encouragement that Barnabas had, I noticed this theme: Sometimes encouragement can be redemptive in nature. Sometimes giving someone another chance is the greatest way to encourage someone. Barnabas is certainly a great example of what it means to be encouraging... an example that we would all do well to follow.
I want to close this article with a challenge. I want to challenge us this week to be an encouragement in at least 3 different ways:
1) Encourage someone in your family. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook our own families. They need encouragement too! My wife will often leave me a short note of encouragement on my desk or on my Bible… nothing fancy… in fact, it’s usually written on a sticky note, but it encourages me greatly. How can you encourage someone in your family this week?
2) Encourage someone in your church family. This may mean picking up the phone to call someone or sending them a card in the mail, or sending a text. The Scripture that I asked our church to focus on this year was 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Jesus wants the people in His church to be an encouragement to one another. How can you encourage someone in your church family this week?
3) Encourage someone in your community. This could be someone who waits on you at a restaurant or someone who you see regularly as you run your normal errands or a neighbor etc. Ask God to show you how you can be an encouragement to someone in your community, and I can assure you, He will show you the opportunity! How can you encourage someone in your community this week?