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Encouragement

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ENCOURAGERS

Acts 4:36-37

 

FOR YOU, MOTHER

·        This is for all the mothers who have sat up all night with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up barf full of Oscar Mayer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid saying, "It’s OK honey, Mommy’s here."

·        This is for all the mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purse.

·        This is for all the mothers who froze their buns off on metal bleachers at football or soccer games, so that when their kids asked, "Did you see me?" they could say, "Of course, I wouldn’t have missed it for the World!”

·        This is for all the mothers who sat down with their children and explained all about making babies; and for all the mothers who wanted to but just couldn’t.

·        This is for all the mothers who read "Goodnight, Moon" twice a night for a year. And then read it again, "Just one more time."

·        This is for all the mothers who taught their children to tie their shoelaces before they started school. And for all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead.

·        This is for all mothers whose heads turn automatically when a little voice calls "Mom?" in a crowd, even though they know their own are at home.

·        This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, who can’t find the words to reach them.

·        For all the mothers who bite their lips sometimes until they bleed--when their 14-year-olds dye their hair green.

·        This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they’ll never see.

·        And for the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes.

·        This is for mothers who put pinwheels and teddy bears on their children’s graves.

·        This is for mothers of children with severe limitations. Your freedom has been exchanged for a cherished service of love.

·        This is for those who have lost their mothers and would give anything to take them out to lunch today.

·        This is for young mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation. And mature mothers learning to let go.

·        For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers, single mothers and married mothers. Mothers with money, mothers without.

·        This is for you all. So hang in there. You’re doing a great job!! "Home is what catches you when you fall - and we all fall."

One of the characteristics of most mothers is that they are encouragers. 

Encourage (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)

  1. to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence: His coach encouraged him throughout the marathon race to keep on running.
  2. to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.: One of the chief duties of a teacher is to encourage students.
  3. to promote, advance, or foster: Poverty often encourages crime.

We are exhorted to be encouragers in the Bible: 

Hebrews 3:13: But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Heb 10:24: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

The Message: Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.

One of the quintessential examples of encouragement in the Bible is the character of Barnabas.

In fact, Acts 4 tells us that the early church even nicknamed him, “Son of Encouragement.”

Acts 4:36-37: 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.

(Maybe note: there are several Josephs in the Bible)

This morning I want to look at the person of Joseph and see what he teaches us about being an encourager. 

Encouragers have… (outline order a little different)

·        Hands that gives aid (sold field & put at disciples feet)

Some people have raised questions about this practice of people selling property and giving it to the church.  Think with me.  Thousands of Jews come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost.  They have budgeted their money to pay for them to be there a specific amount of time and then travel home.

But while there, they hear Peter preach and they are converted—3,000 on the day of Pentecost. Then, Peter preached after healing the crippled man at the Gate called beautiful and the number was up to 5,000.

Those from out of town who were converted knew that they needed to stay and learn more about this new faith.  But they had only a specific amount of money.  They needed places to stay and food to eat.  Money was needed, large amounts of money and quickly.

And so in Acts 2—they shared all they had and in Acts 4 & 5, people sold property to help with the cost of caring for these new believers until they were ready to return home. 

There are encouragers who use the ability to give aid to encourage and strengthen others.

·        Eyes that see as God sees

Barnabas saw potential in Saul & John Mark.  On at least two occasions when others wanted to distance themselves from someone or reject someone because of failure, Barnabas saw as God saw—he saw the potential in someone else. 

In Acts 9, this persecutor of the church had suddenly showed up in Jerusalem claiming that he had been converted & had a change of heart.  Was he here simply to draw out the believers and then have them all arrested & turned over to be killed?  There was significant risk.

And yet Barnabas gave the benefit of the doubt to Saul.  They both grew up in Jewish communities a long way away from Israel.  (Cyprus & Tarsus) They both spoke Greek as their native language. 

Acts 9:26-27  …But they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

Barnabas’s record of trustworthiness causes the apostles to listen to what he has to say about Paul.

An encourager is also a reconciler

It is easier to see the potential in someone with whom you have little experience.  It is harder when you have a history of someone hurting or disappointing you. 

But Barnabas played that role as an encourager as well. 

In Acts 13, Barnabas & Paul had gone out on what we call their first missionary journey.  But part way through the trip, a young man, Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark became homesick and returned to Jerusalem. 

Acts 13:13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.

When Paul & Barnabas determined to go on a second missionary trip and check on the churches they had planted, John Mark wanted to go with them again.  But Paul refused. 

Acts 15:36-41: Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

From Paul’s letters we know that reconciliation took place and that Paul even recommended Mark to the church at Colossae (Col. 4:10). At the end of Paul’s life, he requests that Mark come to his prison cell in Rome. He adds that Mark has been helpful to him in his ministry (II Tim. 4:11).   John Mark fulfilled his potential.  I believe in part it was because Barnabas saw the potential in both Paul and John Mark and fought to have them accepted so they could fulfill that potential. 

Florence Littauer -- Silver Boxes: The Gift of Encouragement “Do you know someone who has: A song waiting to be sung? Some art waiting to be hung? A piece waiting to be played? A scene waiting to be staged? A tale waiting to be told? A book waiting to be sold? A rhyme waiting to be read? A speech waiting to be said? If you do, don’t let them die with the music still in them.”

Encouragers are not just namby-pamby optimists.   Encouragers have….

·        Mouths that speaks truth in love

At key points, Barnabas was willing to speak the truth in love, no matter what the cost.

There are those who speak the truth,

but have no love in what they say.

There are those who speaking lovingly, but shade the truth.

True encouragers are those who speak the truth in love.

Give background of this.  Peter had just preached to and brought to Christ, Cornelius, a Gentile.  Now other Gentiles were coming to faith in Christ, and the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas, the bridge builder to check it out.  He had to be a diplomat to mediate between these new believers & the more conservative members of the Jerusalem church, who believed only Jews could become Christians. 

Acts 11:23-24  When [Barnabas] arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, 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.

He knew that there were those who would misunderstand what was happening or take advantage of it, but he lovingly spoke the truth as he saw it.

Later, immediately after John Mark had abandoned Barnabas and Paul on that first journey, the pair come to Pisidian Antioch.  There they preached the gospel to the Jews first.  But when the Jews rejected their message, Barnabas & Paul stood up and boldly spoke the truth. 

Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.

The apostles know that Jesus told them never to be afraid when they are called to speak for him. Says Jesus, “You are not the ones who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you” (Matt. 10:20). Thus both Paul and Barnabas speak boldly on behalf of Jesus and observe their basic rule to proclaim the gospel first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (v. 26; 1:8; 3:26; Rom. 1:16; 2:9; see also Matt. 10:5–6).

I was at a conference a few years ago where they told the story of a church that looked as though they were really thriving: they had about 500 people attending, and had many outreach ministries reaching their community, and many people were coming to Christ and to church through their ministry. The problem was that the church was not growing in numbers – people were leaving as quickly as they were coming in. They began to do some research on the people who were leaving and they found that the majority who left were not attending another church, they just stopped going to church all together. They realized that although the church was great at evangelism, because of their inability to hold people, they were actually de-evangelizing their neighborhood. Those who were leaving were almost impossible to bring back into any community of faith. The senior pastor realized that something had to be done, so he called up that last 12 people to be baptized and invited them to supper at his house. These were all new Christians and very excited to be invited to the Pastor’s house. After supper he sat them down and asked if they wanted to know the future. They all said “yes!” So he said, statistically speaking in the next 2-3 years… two of your marriages will have broken up and the shame will cause you to leave the church, three of you will have a conflict with someone in the church and you will leave the church, one will have a tragedy and lose faith and leave, two will have a moral failing and leave, and two will lose interest and drift away. In two to three years, out of this group only two of you will be attending church, and only one of you at this church. There was dead silence in the room. All these wide eyed Christians were about to say “surely not I, Lord.” When one of them spoke up and said What can we do to change the statistics. The pastor said, you can get together and as a group decide that you are not going to let anyone go. That is exactly what they did – these strangers formed a small group and supported each other through the tragedies, divorces, conflicts and failings and in four years, only one had left the church never to come back. The church went from losing 10 out of every 12 converts to losing only one. That church that was so great at evangelism learned the hard way that small groups are essential for the growth, encouragement and perseverance of any Christian.

If you are not in a small group, you are missing out on the opp. both to be encouraged by other believers, but also to encourage other believers to remain strong & persevere. 

Alan Redpath (minister at the Moody Church in Chicago) once formed a "mutual encouragement" fellowship at a time of stress in one of his pastorates. The members subscribed to a simple formula applied before speaking of any person or subject that was perhaps controversial. T - Is it true? H - Is it helpful? I - Is it inspiring?  N - Is it necessary? K - Is it kind? If what we are about to say does not pass these tests, we should keep our mouth shut.

Encouragers speak the truth in love.   If you look down a few verses in ch. 11, you see another characteristic of encouragers: 

Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul & he brought him to Antioch where together they taught for a year. (I do, you watch, we do together, you do, I watch).

But after a year the church there wanted to send a benevolence  offering down to Jerusalem because of a famine that was going on. 

They entrusted the money to Barnabas & Saul. 

Acts 11:29-30 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the believers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

·        Minds that are trustworthy

This gave Barnabas the chance to report on their work in Antioch.  For Paul it was a kind of homecoming. The last time he had been in Jerusalem, the Jews had tried to kill him & he had to flee for his life.

If you cannot trust someone’s integrity, they will  not be an encouragement to you. 

I want to move to the last characteristic of an encourager as demonstrated by Barnabas. 

Encouragers have

·                    Hearts of courage

English word = en+courage (to cause someone to have courage

Double aspect –to have courage and to give courage. 

Acts 15:25-26 [Jerusalem Council’s commendation of P&B]: So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have seen several examples where Barnabas & Paul had to speak boldly.  They had to stand up in the face of opposition.  They had to be courageous. 

Encouragers both demonstrate courage, but they also give courage.

As an example of this, I don’t know if you saw this video clip: 

SHOW VIDEO OF ARMLESS MOTHER

The other day I saw an inspiring glimpse into what helped propel the New York Giants to the Super Bowl championship. In various ways before seeing this TV feature story, I had heard about how the Giants had turned around a season that appeared to be heading nowhere. Somehow they had that special something that puts a team over the top despite all adversity. Numerous announcers had spoken about what a fine season receiver Plaxico Burress was having even though he was playing on a torn-up ankle and a bad knee. That just doesn't sound like modern football, I thought, where injured players are kept out of games more often than in decades past. What's with this team?

Then I saw a TV feature about the man who seems to be a large part of the heart of the team. Greg Gadson doesn't even play football, but he knows team spirit. He is a lt. colonel in the army and a veteran of the Iraq war. He is a well-built man with a stout-looking head and neck and shoulders. The only thing he lacks physically is legs. They were blown off in Iraq as he rode in a Humvee. What saved Gadson's life were the people around him: the soldiers who pulled him to safety and got him to the doctors; the surgeons who rescued him medically; the friends and family who stood by him , encouraging him in his suffering.

So what does all this have to do with the Giants? The receivers coach for the Giants, Mike Sullivan, was a West Point classmate and football teammate of Gadson. After the second game of the season, when the Giants had suffered two overwhelming defeats, Sullivan told coach Tom Coughlin Gadson's story. Coughlin was moved and asked Gadson to come and speak to his team. The night before the game with the 2-and-0 Redskins, Gadson spoke from his wheelchair to the Giants. He told his story. He talked about what his Army team meant to him. As one of the Giant players said later, Gadson helped put things in perspective for him. The next day Giants came from behind to defeat the Redskins, and from there to overcome one difficult challenge after another until they overcame the ultimate challenge of the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. At every playoff game except one (because he needed surgery), Gadson was on the sidelines rooting his new teammates on to victory. One of the Giants players in the feature I saw said that if the team doesn't give Gadson a Super Bowl ring, then he would give him his.

In many ways the church is like a football team. Whether you ever have the opportunity to give a motivational message or not, you can be a Greg Gadson for others. You can inspire others with your example, your sacrifice, your perseverance in hardship. You can inspire in your conversations. Every church needs encouraging people.

Wow. That type of courage rare. But do you see both halves of that?  It TAKES courage for Greg Gadsdon to live and function, but it also INSPIRES us to be more courageous.  

Mother, like Barnabas, are encouragers.  Encouragers like Barnabas have

  • Hands that give aid
  • Eyes that see as God sees
  • Mouths that speak the truth in love
  • Minds that are trustworthy
  • Hearts of courage

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