Last Sunday we studied the biblical idea of blessing others, beginning with our families, then branching out from there (till it even encompasses our enemies, Luke 6:27-28).
The traditional Jewish blessing (if you recall from the teaching) means speaking words of high value over a person, where you picture for them a special future, and assure them of your active commitment in bringing that future to pass.
In keeping with that theme, we invited you to think of this as “Encouragement Week” at Bridgeway, and challenged you to come up with ten people outside of your family that you could bless this week.
The importance of encouragement is woven throughout the New Testament. One particular Greek word – parakeleo – is used more than a hundred times and means to speak to another for the purpose of admonishing, exhorting, begging, entreating, encouraging, strengthening, and consoling.
The Bible tells us to “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). That fact alone tells me two things: that life is hard, and I am weak. It’s a war out there, and we need each other’s cover.
After planting churches, Paul returned to those congregations, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) It’s also why he wrote his many letters. If they needed it, then so do we.
Life is hard, and I am weak. It’s a war out there, and we need each other’s cover.
When the church in Antioch simultaneously experienced persecution and revival (have you ever mused on how both often go together?), the apostles dispatched Barnabas to them to assist them (Acts 11:19-22). It was a strategic assignment, for Barnabas was actually a nickname the apostles gave him, which means, “son of encouragement”. There was something about Barnabas that was so winsome, that you couldn’t help but feel uplifted just to be around him.
If you’re wondering how to encourage someone, Barnabas is someone you want to see in action. Acts 11:23 offers a little tutorial in encouragement. It says, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”
Barnabas exhibits four qualities an encourager has:
1. They see evidence of God at work when others can’t.
“When he came and saw the grace of God…”. Barnabas could have found any number of things wrong with the church – the persecution, their weakness, their lack of leadership, their immaturity. But he chose to see God’s grace at work in them, and he focused there first.
2. Their default setting is joy.
It’s hard to encourage when you’re glum. It says of Barnabas “…he was glad.” Winnie the Pool always encouraged Eeyore, not the other way around. “The joy of the Lord is our strength” Scripture says (Nehemiah 8:10). One promise Christ gives his followers is to instill his joy into them (John 15:11), so ask the Lord to grow this fruit in you.
3. They speak purpose into other people’s hearts.
“He exhorted them…with steadfast purpose.” Blessing others means you help them to see the high value they have as an image-bearer of God, and you help them to see the purpose that the Lord has for them. For as long as God gives us life, he has a “hope and a future” for each of us. To bless others is to help them to see that their life matters.
4. They are full of God and his goodness.
Barnabas “was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit”. Barnabas may have been born with a naturally positive disposition, but his ability to encourage and bless others didn’t flow from there. It was a spiritual gift from God. Because Barnabas practiced a deep connection to his Lord, the life of his Savior flowed in, then out, of him like a life-giving river. It’s why we are always inviting you to develop that habit of a daily time with the Lord through Scripture study and prayer. You can’t give what you don’t have, so spend time – lots of time – with Jesus, the “fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13).
So that’s how you encourage others. We challenge you, invite you, encourage you, implore you, parakaleo you, to reach out beyond yourself and encourage one another daily. Pick ten, and begin with them.
Bear Clifton, writer and screenwriter, is the pastor of BridgeWay Community Church in California, Maryland. His blogs, screenplays and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, “A Sparrow Could Fall”, and his latest – “Living Under The Cross”, a collection of essays on the Beatitudes – all available through Amazon.