August 26, 2014
Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.
From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
We have already seen it referenced several times throughout the pages of Acts. We will see it several more times before we are done. In fact, it will appear in most of Paul’s letters and Peter’s and John’s and James. When I think about it, it may be the prevailing character and ethos of the whole New Testament (if not of the whole Bible).
This “it” I reference may be the most important thing you can do today. Though “it” continues in today’s text, I passed right over it in yesterday’s reading. Here “it” is.
Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
The followers of Jesus must be strengthened and encouraged to persevere. The currency of the growing Kingdom of God is encouragement. For a person who aspires to be a real Christian, encouragement is money in the bank. The ministry and mission of Paul and Barnabas (whose name means “Son of Encouragement”) might be summed up in this single word, “Encouragement.” In SportsCenter fashion, here’s a bit of a highlight reel.
Paul put it like this in his letter to the Church at Colossae,
“My purpose is that you may be encouraged in heart and united in love so that you may have the full riches of complete understanding in order that you may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)
Writing to the Church at Thessolonica he said,
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11.)
In the letter to the Hebrews,
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 3:13.)
And again to the Hebrews,
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 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. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
All of these texts make it abundantly clear. Encouragement is not an optional Hallmark card. It is mission critical to the movement of the Kingdom of God.
The consistent Greek word in all these texts, in one form or another, is “parakaleo.” And yes, it’s a first cousin of the word, “paraclete” which is one of the primary ways Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit. Para means “alongside.” In other words, the Holy Spirit is always ready to come alongside another person and encourage them. He only needs a person like you to do it through.
Step 1: Pray this: “Come Holy Spirit and fill me with the Spirit of encouragement and lead me to those whom I can encourage. Make me brave for your Kingdom that you might make others brave through me.” Step 2: Watch for opportunities and promptings of the Spirit to exercise this ministry of encouragement.
If you have an extra minute today and want to see an “Encouragement Manifesto” from the Old Testament, check “it” out here.
It may be the most important thing you can do today.
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
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