As we continue into month 5 or 6 of COVID-19, I find that many people I talk with are feeling discouraged. Whether it be loneliness, sickness, fear, employment, or another concern, discouragement seems to be the word that comes to mind when I reflect on the past few months. Students are unable to experience college to its fullest, pastors are unable to host full sanctuary gatherings, and the average Christian is either skeptical of getting back into crowds, or is unable to experience meals, bible studies, and church events. As we all seem to dwell on the rather morbid things, there is always some good news to come out of the bad! A pastor friend and mentor John Ed Mathison shares some good news with his listeners and followers each day, 7 days a week. He never misses a day. I believe bad news never misses a day either, but the good news is always an encouragement to us in times of struggle. As I listen to John Ed’s short 2 minute videos each day, I can’t help but ask myself “how does he find these encouraging lessons so quickly?”. I then remind myself that the Bible IS good news.
When I think of good news, I think about the power of the resurrection. The mighty act of salvation, the extension of mercy to all, and the grace that is freely given to all sinners under any circumstance at all times. That’s good news! But there is more to the Bible that just the resurrection, and the significance of it is too often dampened. Like the Apostle Joseph, who was known by the way he loved and encouraged others. Because of this, he was granted the name Barnabas…meaning “son of encouragement” or “son of exhortation”. Let’s look in the book of Acts, chapter 11 verses 22-24. ““The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.” Here we see the description of a man who was clearly joy-filled. Through his acts of encouragement, contagious personality, and seemingly simple acts, we see that “considerable numbers were brought to the Lord”. That passage popped out at me. As I look at Barnabas’ ministry, I see someone who doesn’t work off of his own selfish desires, but rather desires to lift others up and help those around him. The verse that comes to mind is 1 Peter 5:6 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” God used Barnabas to lift up and encourage others in times of need. Being full of faith, he was willing to put himself on a limb to be a supporter and friend for those who needed it most. He kept true to his name by living a giving life, helping others time and time again.
The good news is that God can use you in the same way that he used Barnabas, to be an encourager. Encouragement, especially in these times of bitterness, can reorient us all towards faith. The impact that an encouraging work can have on someone’s life is mind blowing, and can in fact change the lives of many. If someone is feeling a bit down or discouraged, be that light for Christ that they see. I’m not saying that rather overused “be a light” statement lightly, I’m strongly recommending that YOU be a light that others see, and let them see Jesus in you. I found myself in situations on numerous occasions where I was possibly the only Christ-like figure they ever saw. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 simply says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Hebrews 3:13 goes along those same lines by partially reiterating “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” And one final verse, Proverbs 12:25 “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
A few days ago, I was walking in a rather unfamiliar neighborhood when I heard someone whistle as to get my attention. Being quite far away, I notice it is an older gentleman, signaling for me to come closer to him. As I begin to walk closer, I immediately recognize who it is…a church member which attended the same worship service as I did when in attendance there. As we spoke, he began to encourage me, although he had no idea I was feeling slightly discouraged on a certain issue. He encouraged me without me indicating that I needed it, and what an encouragement it is to know that someone is encouraging others! His encouragement toward me brightened my day, and made me rejoice in the Lord’s plan and will for my life. I believe we need more encouragers and less complainers. “Vacancy! Encouragers needed! Not accepting applications for complainers as this time…we already have enough of those!”
I’ve been blessed to have been surrounded by many Barnabas like Christians. Always encouraging, and always willing to help me in my times of struggle. Although I’ve been blessed with many refreshing encouragers, it doesn’t stop the need for me to be an encourager, but rather makes that need more vital in the lives of others. How refreshing it is to hear encouragement in times of trouble. May you be one of those refreshing encouragers, and remember to take the meaning of the cross to the world, spreading only good news! Blessings to you all, and continue to pray for me as I pray for you! -SB