Delivered By
C. C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
July 3, 2016
Central Passage
Romans 12:6-8
Attached Document
Open Document
Description

START YOUR ENGINE

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy. Let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).

          Most of us have had the experience of having a car not start because of a weak battery.  We won’t deal with what caused the battery to become weak…but the short term solution was usually for another car to come alongside us and hook up a set of jumper cables from its strong battery to our weak one.  By drawing energy and power from the strong battery…we were able to start the engine of our car.

          Having someone come alongside and lend you energy to get going is the basic idea behind the word “encourage”…which is a key word in the New Testament.   And no one in the New Testament epitomizes that word better than a man named Barnabas.  His parents actually named him Joseph…but leaders of the early church called him Barnabas…which literally meant “son of encouragement.”

          Barnabas was a man you would have felt good being around.  That’s because he believed in the potential of people…even the potential of those about whom others were cautious or suspicious.  He was willing to give failures a second chance…which is why the early church gave him the name "son of encouragement.”

          Looking at the life of Barnabas…and his encouragement DNA…should help us to spiritually modify our personalities…which will enable us to behave more as encouragers and less as discouragers.

          A battery has a positive and a negative post…and so do we.  Unfortunately, almost everyone is hooked up to the negative post…but too few of us are hooked up to the positive post…even though most people enjoy being with people who encourage them.

          If you’re like Barnabas…there’s no doubt that you will exercise a powerful influence on people.  The root meaning of the word encourage simply means "to put courage in.”  In other words, it’s the injection or infusion of power, advice or inspiration that makes another person perform better.

          There are times in each of our lives when it seems that our battery becomes too weak to crank our spiritual engine.  That’s when we need encouragement most…to have someone come alongside and give us an injection of courage, perspective or attitude that makes us get up and get going again.

          There are many things in life that cause us to be discouraged…times when courage is drained from us.  Sometimes it’s a crisis…or sometimes it’s simply tiredness or sickness…and sometimes it’s the cutting words or actions of another person.

          To encourage is to do the direct opposite.  Where courage has dissipated…encouragement is the replacing or replenishing agent for it.  It represents the putting back of what has been taken away…or that which has leaked out of us.

          Romans 12:8 tells us that some people have a special gift…or a Holy Sprint-given ability…to encourage.  Of course, being encouraging to others is a responsibility that we all have as followers of Jesus.  We’re all supposed to be like Barnabas.  To a greater or lesser degree we’re called to come alongside fellow pilgrims on this planet for the purpose of fueling them with courage.  People have done it for us…and we need to do it for others.

          So how do we do it?  What are some practical ways that we can relationally be like Barnabas in dealing with other people?

          First, a Barnabas-type person is willing to get out of the way and allow his or her spiritual apprentice to grow.  God doesn’t save someone and then forget them.  He works on saved people continuously.  Spiritual maturity is not static.  People change and get better in the faith as the Holy Spirit works within them.  A Christian encourager like Barnabas will expect people to grow and mature…and even overtake them spiritually as the Holy Spirit works within them.

          In those early days following Paul’s conversion…other Christian leaders were suspicious of him.  But Barnabas took a risk and brought Paul to meet them.  It was Barnabas who launched Paul’s pastoral ministry in the church at Antioch.  And it was Barnabas who mentored Paul and coached him in Christian ministry.

          Later Barnabas and Paul launched themselves on a ministry as missionaries.  Early on Barnabas was the leader and Paul was the apprentice.  In the historical culture of the day the leader of the team was always listed first.  So we know there was a change…because later on in the book of Acts we read about Paul and Barnabas rather than about Barnabas and Paul.

          At some point in their journeys Paul assumed the more prominent leadership role.  Barnabas swapped being the mentor of Paul and became his number two. The leader allowed the prodigy to grow and mature and even usurp the leadership role.

          That means a Barnabas-type Christian isn’t enamored with prestige, position or title.  He…or she…merely wants to serve the Lord.  A Barnabas-type person is willing to step aside and allow their servant to become their leader.  They allow the person under their spiritual care or apprenticeship to grow up and take the lead.

          Second, a Barnabas-type person affirms the capability that they see in other people.  There’s an interesting challenge to encouragement in Deuteronomy 1:37-38.  Moses had been telling the Israelites that because of their stubbornness, rebellion and faithlessness…that none of the older generation would enter the Promised Land.  He told them that they would all die in the desert…and that he himself wouldn’t make it.  Moses said, “Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, ‘You shall not enter it, either.  But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it.  Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it’.”

          Moses echoed the same sentiment in Deuteronomy 3:28, when he said: “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.”

          The people were to affirm the Lord’s call to Joshua.  They were to speak into him words of courage, strength and support.  And Joshua was emboldened by the encouraging words that people spoke to him…affirming the capabilities that they saw God had given to him.

          This is the role that a Barnabas-type person fulfills.  They see the growing competency in other people…and they affirm it or express their support.  Great things are achieved by great people…and great people are supported by significant others who have spoken affirming words of courage and inspiration to them.  Believing what people can become is a very Barnabas-type thing to do.

          A Barnabas-type person points people to the "opportunities" side of a problem.  Surrounding every dark and gloomy cloud there is always a silver lining.  Whatever the Devil means for our harm…God can turn around and use for our good or for His glory.  The person with a Barnabas-type disposition sees problems as opportunities…not as disasters.

          That’s why James wrote these words to Christians who were facing the most severe persecution: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

          The Barnabas-type encourager looks beyond immediate pain or suffering and sees the big picture that God is painting.  They lift the vision of people to see how even disastrous circumstance can be used by God to bring good.

          Obviously, being a Barnabas-type encourager doesn’t necessarily minimize the pain and suffering that a person sometimes goes through.  But he or she realizes that they are doing more than exercising a phony positive attitude.  He or she understands that there is always a bigger picture that God is painting…and they feel that they’re called to help other people see it, too.

          Fourth, a Barnabas-type person speaks prophetically to other people.  On at least two occasions in his letter to the Corinthian Christians…Paul clarified the primary purpose of prophecy as being for encouragement.  In 1 Corinthians 14:3, he wrote: “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.”

          And in 1 Corinthians 14:31, he wrote: “For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.”

          The word of God is given so that people in the family of God might feel built up and encouraged…and a person with a Barnabas-type disposition has an active antenna for what God is saying to a person in their circle of acquaintances.

          Many people have shared with me a special word that they felt the Lord was giving them about something happening in my life.  I don’t pooh-pooh what they tell me because I don’t have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit.  In fact, there are times when the word that they share with me enables me to clarify a course of action.

          You should always share with others the prophetic insight that God has given you.  Obviously all prophetic words need to be held lightly and tested…but there’s opportunity for spiritual growth in our experience of encouraging each other with what we sense God is saying to us.

          Fifth, a Barnabas-type person is comfortable telling stories about what God is doing in his or her life.  When Paul wrote to Christians in Philippi…he was in prison.  His situation was sad and desperate.

          Let’s face it, no one likes the idea of persecution…and the fear of something similar happening to them probably sent shivers down the spines of many readers of Paul’s letter.  But, fortunately, around a dark cloud of persecution and suffering there will always be a shining, silver lining.  So even though imprisoned…Paul was being effective as an evangelist.  He had a "captive audience"…and God was using a bad situation for incredible good.

          As Paul told the story of how God was at work in his situation…it provided powerful encouragement to his readers that God could also turn their suffering into good.  In Philippians 1:14, he wrote: “Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

          Never underestimate the power of storytelling.  Storytelling is the best way to cast a vision and hope among people you are leading.  Stories hook onto feelings and emotions…which, of course, is why Jesus used parables to communicate the nature of the kingdom of God.  When we hear how God has worked in the life of a fellow Christian…it raises hope and faith in us.  We think that if God can do it for them…He can do it for us, too.

          But storytelling should be honest.  Many Christian testimonies are too sugarcoated…focusing only on triumphs and victories.  That’s great, but we also need to tell stories of struggles and failures…of how God has met us amid hard times as well as good times.  If we only testify to the good stuff…we sometimes give a false impression that spirituality always means success and victory.

          And that’s not honest.  Life can be extremely hard work…and we need to be honest in telling stories of God’s activity in the midst of our struggles as well as our triumphs. That’s what Paul was alluding to in this verse in Philippians 1.  Paul was suffering in chains…yet God was evidentially with him in the midst of his suffering…and that story gave courage to other Christians.

          A Barnabas-type person is also firmly committed to a Christian community of faith…a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  To have an encouragement mindset requires placing a high value on belonging to a community of faith.  To be Christian…according to the New Testament…is to belong to a fellowship of believers.  And engaging in the regular practice of coming together with fellow Christians is expressly stated as an act of mutual encouragement.

          Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

          One of the ways we encourage each other in the Christian faith is to gather together with fellow believers.  To stay apart…to not relate with fellow Christians…has the opposite effect.  That leads to discouragement.  As Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

          Coming together with fellow Christians…being part of Christian community…encourages fellow believers in their walk with the Lord.  For example, burning hot coals together in a fireplace give off heat to each other.  But when you separate them…they go out very quickly.

          A tragedy of contemporary Christianity is the spirit of consumerism that pervades the church…the attitude of "What’s in it for me?"…or, “If my personal needs aren’t being met, why bother going to church?”

          Hebrews 10:25 suggests that it’s not just what you get out of worship with other Christians that’s important.  Just as important is what you’re able to give to other people. So when you neglect corporate worship…it’s not just a matter of what you’re missing.  It’s about robbing other people of the courage and encouragement that you’re capable of instilling in them.

           When we all worship together…I, along with everyone else, observe your connection with Jesus.  And when I see that connection…I’m stirred and motivated about my personal relationship with God.  If you stay away from corporate worship…you’re robbing fellow Christians of that charge of courage and encouragement that only you are capable of putting in them.

          If you’re really serious about behaving in the Barnabas-type manner towards other people…then one of the best places to start is by adopting a high value of Christian community.  Being a Christian is about much more than a simple personal belief system.  It’s also about belonging to…and being an intricate part of… a community of faith that encourages other people.

          So being Christian is not just about “Me and Jesus.”  It’s more correctly about “We and Jesus.”

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