A small flame

A small flame

The Encourager


In the book of Acts, we find the story of a man who inspires me to become more of an encourager. His name was Joseph and he was 'a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith'. We aren't told a whole lot about him, but when we first encounter him, he is selling some land that he owns in Cyprus, where he is from, and giving the money from the sale to the apostles to help meet needs of believers in the early church. The way this man lived and loved others in the body of Christ must have made an impact on the apostles, because they renamed him Barnabas which means 'the son of encouragement'. Isn't that an amazing thought? To be so characterized by the way we encourage others that we become known as 'The Encourager'. There is an achievement worth aspiring to!

Dr. Jeremiah writes:
'Paul, when he was known as Saul, was a persecutor of the Church. He put Christians in jail. In Acts 9...he is visited by Almighty God, confronted, and converted. His conversion is probably the most dramatic conversion recorded in the New Testament. Saul, who had been a zealous non-Christian, became a zealous pro-Christian. When he went to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples. "But they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple." {Acts 9:26}

In the process, Paul had somehow gotten acquainted with Barnabas. Barnabas had heard of his story, and he took him to the apostles. "And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the read, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out." {Acts 9:27-28}

Nobody wanted anything to do with Saul but Barnabas. Barnabas put his arm around him, marched him right before the disciples, and said 'I vouch for this guy. He's okay.' {pp59,60}

Ironically, a few chapters later, another young man needs encouragement. Paul & Barnabas have a serious disagreement over John Mark, who had deserted Paul and Barnabas on an earlier missionary trip. Acts 15 records how Barnabas wants to give John Mark a second chance - wants Paul to do for John Mark what, essentially, Barnabas had done for Paul a few years earlier. But Paul, for some reason, can't bring himself to give John Mark another chance. Dr. Jeremiah notes that
'Barnabas wasn't doing anything different than what he had always done - he was being the encourager. When nobody wanted anything to do with Paul, Barnabas had believed in him. Now Barnabas wanted Paul to do for another young man what he had done for him. But Paul wasn't able to cross over the line to encouragement. It is interesting that when an opportunity comes for us to be encouragers, we can so easily forget how important it was when somebody believed in us.' {pp60}

You're probably familiar with the story. Paul and Barnabas disagree so completely that they part ways over the issue - Barnabas taking John Mark and going to Cyprus while Paul takes Silas with him to visit the churches. Paul must have eventually changed his mind, though, because he later writes to Timothy and asks him to bring John Mark to him because he is 'helpful to me in my ministry'{2 Timothy 4:11}.

Encouragers have the ability to see potential
where others see only problems.

It's a fact proved over and over again: God uses flawed people. {Are you as glad as I am that He does?!}. Consider a few examples from the pages of Scriptures:

Moses - the prince who, in a temper, killed a man and then ran away; the shepherd; the guy with slow speech; the fearful man; the one who kept telling God why he was wrong for the job he'd been given {Exodus 3:1-14; 4:10-17}

Rahab - the prostitute whose clients ended up saving her life; the gentile who came to life in Israel; the outcast who became the great, great grandmother to a king and an ancestor of the Messiah {Joshua 2:1-21; Matthew 1:1,5}

Gideon - the fearful man who liberated a nation; the least from the weakest who show-cased God's strength {Judges 6:12-16}

Who has God placed in my life - and your life - to be encouraged? God help us to see the potentials beyond the problems!

thoughts from Acts of Love - the Power of Encouragement by David Jeremiah

{read the rest of this series here}

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