Sound Words, December 16, 2018

Sound Words, December 16, 2018

Sons of Encouragement

Few things are accomplished in life without help. The larger and more complex the task, the larger the team required. A project manager assembles workers with the skills required, sets budgets and schedules and assigns supervisors, inspectors and record keepers. Expeditors prod vendors and contractors who fall behind. Each successive task is choreographed then executed until the whole project is complete.

Even when we undertake projects alone, the example, teaching and influence of others dictates how we approach the task at hand. Some of us are meticulous planners while others dive in headfirst without thought to the tools, materials or order of operation. Road blocks and detours are par for the course with either individual approach. Challenges are even more numerous and magnified in the world of mega projects. How one manages the unforeseen always determines the outcome.

The range of emotions experienced during challenges and the toll they take make a serious impact on our ability to get back on track. Disbelief, anger, denial, self-doubt and discouragement will jeopardize any project. Sometimes these emotions permanently derail our efforts rendering us completely ineffective. It is one thing for the three story Victorian birdhouse we are building in the workshop to be put on hold. It is another story entirely if the building of our spiritual house comes to a halt; worse still should it come crashing down! “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say? “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. “But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:46-49 NKJV).

How then do we keep on task? God has designed the church to provide encouragement. We also know it as edification. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13 NKJV). These roles provide instruction and edification. Encouragement is not limited to roles of leadership. Once equipped by teaching and example, all saints supply edification to one another.

Joses serves as an illustration of the encouragement a servant of God can provide to others; apparently to the point that the apostles renamed him Barnabas. “And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), …” (Acts 4:36 NKJV). Barnabas is one of many who sold possessions to provide the needs of his new family. In Acts chapter nine Barnabas introduces the newly converted Saul to the congregation at Jerusalem. He serves as a character witness for the previous persecutor and murderer. How encouraging was that to the new brother and Apostle, now known as Paul? How comforting was that for the saints who were suspicious and fearful for their very lives?

The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch upon learning that many Gentiles had been converted following the death of Stephen. “Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord” (Acts 11:22-24 NKJV). How difficult was it for the Gentiles to grow in faith with minimal knowledge of God? I assure you it is overwhelming to change the entirety of one’s being. Discarding the old man of sin for the new man of God means discarding your identity and building a new one. However, it was not long until these new saints were engaging Barnabas and Paul to return to Jerusalem with relief for the church which had originally sent Barnabas to encourage them (Acts 11:27-30). How gratifying that must have been for the church in Jerusalem!

Barnabas was instrumental in the stand against false teaching at Antioch. He stood side-by-side with Paul in confronting Jews who promoted circumcision as necessary to salvation. They traveled to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and elders there and returned with a letter resolving the issue. “So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement” (Acts 15:30-31 NKJV).

The greatest test of character for Barnabas was perhaps his disagreement with Paul over John Mark. These brothers agreed to part company and work separately since they could not resolve the difference in judgment over the character of this young man (Acts 15:36-41). Paul later concedes that John Mark has become useful to him in the Lord’s work proving Barnabas’ investment was fruitful (2Ti 4:11). Let us all strive to be sons of encouragement.

Ken Fleeman (2018-12-16)

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