“And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
Acts 4:36-37 NKJV
“When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
Acts 11:23-26 NKJV
I have learned that God has a tremendous sense of humor. He has taken a man who craves the solitude of isolation and given him the spiritual gift of encouragement. In my natural state, I am not a people person. On my less than good days, it can even be said rightly that I have utter disdain for humanity, as I have had the misfortune of seeing and experiencing the darkest darkness that can lurk in the souls of men.
But God, (sigh)
He has seen fit to give the gift that gives, that makes people feel good, that captivates the simple, that draws the down trodden like moths to a flame. He refines me daily, as I battle that inner person who has the constant urge to say what should not be said, and do what should not be done.
Encouragers are crucial to the building and sustaining of the church. This morning in Acts chapter 11, I read more about this man named Barnabas, introduced in chapter four. His very name meant “Son of Encouragement.” He lived up to his name as he went about exercising his gift wherever he went.
It seemed fitting that he would send Barnabas to work with Saul, former persecutor of the church, to go and visit the gentile congregations. The gentiles were embracing a faith that was foreign to them, and needed the love and encouragement of a Barnabas, and the foundational understanding of a former Pharisee named Saul.
I have found that I am more able to bring my gift into play unknowingly, these days. In the past, I had to be deliberate, but now it happens naturally.
There have been moments when I, myself, have felt down, very much in need of encouragement, and I find myself, in turn, encouraging others. I think back to my time in the Mayo Clinic, bed-bound with tumor on my spine, pondering the future. Every morning God sent me a divine appointment to share Jesus or to encourage.
In the totality of that season, I should have been the one needing to be lifted up, but God caused me to be the one to encourage all who visited me, all the various technicians and medical staff who attended to me, and all who called.
My faithful Father encouraged me, as He met with me each morning, to take me through His word, and listen to my anquished prayers. He still visits with me, building me up, that I lift others up in prayer.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.”
Psalms 23:1-6 NKJV
Like David, late in life, I too have known the intense fellowship with God, as He has taught me to give and show mercy, and has taught me to encourage others.
In these wicked times, there are called people who go before us: our pastors, our pastor’s wives and families, our teachers and dedicated servants, from all levels of service. They need to be encouraged. We must also encourage one another.
One aspect of my gift is active attention. I pay attention to my pastor when he preaches. Men called to that station of ministry put in long hours to prepare sermons that they are to deliver to the congregation and before God. The worst experience is to look out and see people not really listening.
While we are not given the same emphasis in our giftedness, we all can give a hearty “amen”, or a meaningful word to those who serve. Or simply a heartfelt thanks. In these days we are not likely to get words of encouragement from the world.
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Philippians 2:1-4 NKJV
The priority in these times is to seek to build up the unity of the body, that we be effective is taking the Good News to the world.
Even though I crave isolation, I find the strength to go to church, to fellowship, to refine and be refined in the body of Christ.
I know that there may be coming a day when I relish the memories of the freedom to assemble.
Let us encourage each other while it is today.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV
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