Recently, I was on a call discussing the need for encouragement in this season of life and ministry. Many of our friends and colleagues are walking away from ministry and the church. It can be overwhelming to think about the changes that need to be made as we look ahead to a post-covid world. In the midst of all that, a wise friend encouraged me to be a Barnabas in a world where everyone wants to be Paul. Many people want to be center stage – perhaps especially ministry leaders! – but there is also a significant role to play as “the son of encouragement.” Let’s take a look at Acts 11:22-24 to see how we can encourage the believers around us toward renewal.
Lesson 1: ‘Encouraging People Are Ready To Go’
In verse 22, the church in Jerusalem sends Barnabas to Antioch. Encouraging people are ready to go, whether that’s on a dangerous mission or to step out in faith. They get their encouragement directly from Christ, our source, and they extend it to others. We talk a lot about red, yellow and green light people in the Renewal Lab. Encouragers are green light people – they are ready to take risks for the Kingdom in order to learn and grow.
Lesson 2: ‘Encouraging People Watch God Do It’
In verse 23, Barnabas observed “what the grace of God had done.” Sometimes it is just slowing down, sitting back and having our eyes opened to the wonders God has wrought. It is His work, His mission, His renewal and His people. If we are always looking solely to other people for encouragement, we will be disappointed. Human beings are fickle, but God is faithful. Watch what the grace of God is doing in your community and be encouraged!
Lesson 3: ‘Encouraging People Know How To Celebrate’
In the middle section of verse 23, it says that Barbabas “was glad and encouraged them…” Another translation says that Barnabas “threw himself in with them” and “got behind them.” What project or group of people in your church or neighborhood are you getting behind? I love the sense of gladness, joy and celebration that I see in Barnabas. He and so many others were blown away by what the Holy Spirit was doing in their time and place. There was passion, enthusiasm and excitement. While there is beauty in steadiness and faithfulness over the long haul, many of us have lost our passion for the gospel. I’ll never forget one of the sayings from Younglife: “It’s a sin to bore a kid with the gospel.” When God is moving powerfully, we should celebrate, we should be filled with joy and we should encourage all those around us!
Lesson 4: ‘Encouraging People Point To The Truth’
We have all been around exciting people who are passionate about the wrong things. What did Barnabas encourage them towards? “He encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (verse 23c). Perhaps this was his way of saying: Remember this day always. Remain true even when temptation comes. Remain true when the culture goes against you. Remain true when you are threatened with your life (a reality for the early church and for many believers around the world today). Barnabas had a beautiful way of encouraging them toward the truth of the Lord, who loves us with all His heart.
Lesson 5: ‘Encouraging People Are Full Of The Holy Spirit’
The first half of Acts 11:24 is simply a description of Barnabas as a person. “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” The Holy Spirit is always pointing us to Jesus and reminding us of everything that Jesus taught. When we call to mind Jesus’ words, we have a great foundation for encouragement. Sometimes it is best to just share those words, not try to make up our own!
Lesson 6: ‘Encouraging People Are Full Of Faith’
Barnabas was a man full of the Holy Spirit and faith. Many of our churches have been stuck for a long, long time. It feels like nothing is going to change. But when we get a new and fresh look at Christ, we know that He is the source of faith. He gives that faith out generously to His people. There’s a crass show on FX called “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” But in the midst of all their bawdiness and drinking, the character “Mac” has a favorite saying: “Through God all things are possible, so jot that down.” He goes around saying that to folks at the bar, his therapist and everyone else. What a great, simple reminder that nothing is too hard for God.
Lesson 7: ‘Encouraging People Often See Incredible Renewal’
There are many instances in the Bible where people who prayed for renewal didn’t get to see it, but the book of Acts is just the opposite. Acts 11:24b says, “A great number of people were brought to the Lord.” Isn’t that why we’re doing this? Isn’t that why we get out of bed in the morning? I am not encouraged by the process of growing a corporation for its own sake. But I will give my life to be part of a movement that sees “a great number of people brought to the Lord.” That is why we pray, meet together, send out these newsletters and sacrificially give. We want to see new believers come to faith and nominal Christians experience the power of gospel renewal. I hope that you were encouraged by the son of encouragement today!