Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Value of Encouragement

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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Acts11:22- 24
News of this reached the ears 
of the church at Jerusalem, and they 
sent Barnabas to Antioch.  23 When he 
arrived and saw the evidence 
of the grace of God, he was glad 
and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  
24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit 
and faith, and a great number of people 
were brought to the Lord.

Its a rainy day here. It seems like it has been gray and raining for days.
I'd very much like to be curled up on the couch reading a book but there is still a long list of things yet to do today.  I have been trying to trust the Lord to order it all and to not worry about how much there is to do and how I will get it all done. You would be amazed how loosing that portion of worry makes everything so much better. I had a chance later in the day to encourage someone along those lines.

I got a note today from someone who has been following these devotionals. Its always encouraging for me to know that you are out there reading. Its nice to know that what I have written has somehow touched your heart. Its funny, I may think something I've posted is under par and then someone comments how it was the best one yet. It reminds me of how important encouragement is in our lives.
It is easy to get discouraged and we all need people around us who will encourage us and point us to Jesus. Even more than that we need to be the kind of people who encourage others.

Today I wanted to talk about a guy named Barnabas. The Bible tells us he was a Levite of the country of Cyprus. If you recall there were 12 tribes of Israel. The Levites were the one who were not given a portion of the land as their inheritance. Instead land was set aside for them with in all the tribes because they were the ones who were set aside to take care of the Tabernacle ( the big moving tent of worship to God) later when the Temple was built they were still the ones in charge of its services and up keep. Any way Barnabas was a Levite designated to serve in the temple and in a subordinate rack to the priests.

It is interesting that Barnabas gets mentioned in the New Testament 29 times. He is the one who went to find Saul / Paul and "took him and brought him to the apostles.  Keep in mind that Saul had been persecuting and killing off the Christian believers until he had an encounter with God on the road to Damascus. You can understand why the leaders of the church at that time might have had reason to be very cautious about a guy like Saul.

Barnabas was one of those people who was able to come along side of Saul and had the credibility with in the church to open doors for Saul - who's name was changed to Paul. Barnabas actual name was Joses. He must have really been quite remarkable because he is called Barnabas which means Son of Encouragement. In Acts 11:24 it says "For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith."
He was a good man which means his character was above reproach. He was full of the Holy Spirit which explains the powerful and effective ministry he had. He was full of faith which is evidenced through his encouragement of Paul and his some what flakey nephew Mark. Who became in his later years a very effective minister of the gospel. He continued to believe in people even when they let him down at times. His faith is also evidenced in his on going encouragement of the church.

So what can we learn from a guy like Barnabas?
• Encouragement is one way we can help others.
• Encouragement opens the way for us to share the gospel with unbelievers.
• We all need people to come along side us and encourage us to move by faith.
• We all need to look for opportunities to encourage others. One never know how far a kind word will go and how many people will be effected by the ripples it creates.

I heard someone say recently" Paul asked: What can people do for God's work - Barnabas asked: What can God's work do for people."  Barnabas and Paul had quite a partnership in ministry. In the early years you will see it listed as Barnabas and Paul later Paul's name is the first name. Which is an indication that Paul had stepped up to take the lead. Barnabas was the kind of person who could step back and allow another to be in the forefront.  In Acts 14:14 it is interesting to see that both are listed as apostles. It reads "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this....."
It is also noted pretty clearly in Acts 4:37 that Barnabas was a generous person. "having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet." This was not something that he had to do but it was something that he simply had a heart to do.

Barnabas is an interesting guy and one who sets a good example for us to follow as believers. You may not be the person in the background of someone like Paul, but perhaps there are people in your life who are more in the spot light because you have been their Barnabas.  We are not all called to the spotlight and those who are really can't do what they do with out people who are backing them up. I suppose if you are one of those in the spot light folks, I would remind you to look at the folks who have come along side you and don't take their service for granted. 
We are all in this together - for His glory.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the people in our lives who have been there to encourage us on our journey. Help us to look around and begin more and more to encourage others around us. We all have varied gifts and callings and places with in your church and your kingdom. Help us to be thankful for the people who encourage us and help us to pass that gift of grace on to others.  

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