Monday, July 21, 2008

Encouragement

Encouragement is the virtue all Christians must practice. Why? Because fear (de-couragement) is so common and because discouragement is so devastating. Everyone needs encouragement. All of us can provide encouragement, with little effort but with a lot of consciousness-raising.

Acts gives us a portrait of a world-class encourager, Barnabas, son of consolation. I love this character. He pops up in the book of Acts (and in the epistles) at various times. He doesn't preach; he doesn't perform signs and wonders (at least we are not given specific examples of his doing so); he doesn't have a formal role of pastor, apostle, prophet, or elder. He is an encourager. From studying Acts 11, 13 and 14, I see Barnabas showing his traits as an encourager in the following ways.
1. An encourager can be anybody, but he/she accepts his/her role and abilities. Paul did the heavy lifting, it would seem. And Barnabas was okay with that. One did not work more than the other; if Paul received more of the punishment, it was probably because he was the more vocal of the two, the more confrontational. Barnabas wasn't a confronter; he was a consoler.
2. An encourager looks for ways to meet needs or for connecting people who have needs with those who meet them (doesn’t meet them him/herself). 11:25, 11:28. In fact, this seems to be Barnabas main talent. He brought Saul to the church in Antioch; he brought the offering from the Antioch church to the starving Jerusalem church; he brought Mark in to assist Saul.
3. An encourager practices spiritual disciplines, gets his/her encouragement from the Lord and others when necessary, and takes time to refresh. (14:28) They fasted and prayed before leaving on the first missionary journey.
4. An encourager has patience (11:26). How long did they stay and work with the different churches they started? As long as it took. Luke is close-mouthed about the length of these periods, but we can assume they weren't just a couple of months.
5. An encourager places appropriate trust in another and expresses the trust in real ways (loyalty). 12:25, 13:13, 15:39. Follow these verses to learn the story of Mark. I do not believe we can conclude that Paul was right and Barnabas was wrong; I think that goes along with the heresy that everything Paul did was right. (In my thinking, Paul gave in to the Judaizers at two points instead of taking a stand.) If Paul has to be right in all his actions because he wrote Scripture, then Peter would, too, and we know that's not true. None of this deification of Paul for me. Barnbas was vindicated in I Timothy 4--Paul asked for Timothy to bring John Mark at the end of his life.
6. An encourager is flexible and ready for things the Lord brings into his/her path.
7. An encourager is BOLD (en-couraged) when he/she needs to be. You can’t give away what you don’t have.
8. An encourager must have an inward stability in times of crisis and opposition.

No comments:

The Path of Totality

Man, I love that phrase.  Do we live the "path of totality"? I live 30 miles or less (as the crow flies) beneath the path of tot...