March 1, 2013

Someone paid me a compliment the other day. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I never get complimented. I mean every Sunday is a long stream of things like, “Oh my goodness! Can anyone possibly preach better than you?!” or “Wow, that had to one of the finest sermons I have ever heard!” You know, stuff like that. It almost grows wearisome sometimes. Okay, enough… seriously. Are there any of us out there that don’t really, really appreciate a compliment or word of encouragement every now and then? I don’t think so.

Do you know the character in the Bible named Barnabas? Actually that was his nickname, his given name was apparently Joseph. He first appears in Acts chapter 4: 36-37 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. In ancient times in some cultures it wasn’t unusual for names to be changed to reflect the character of a person. Apparently this Joseph from Cyprus was such an encourager that the Apostles simply called him that… “Look here comes the son of encouragement.” Interestingly enough, whenever Barnabas appeared in the remainder of Acts in almost every case we are told that the church grew or increased in numbers. I wonder why?

I certainly have a theory. I think we like to be around people who are encouragers. Especially those who are really gifted at it. They don’t make it seem unnatural. They just have a knack for saying the right things to us that point out our positive qualities. And somehow they are able to do it in a way that we know is true. I have a few friends who have this gift. I cherish the time spent with them.

So, here’s a question; if we all know that encouragement is a good thing, and we like to be encouraged, and we like it when people say good things about us, and we know others like and need to be encouraged… WHY DON’T WE ENCOURAGE OTHERS MORE? I’m not sure either. I know I don’t do it well! There are people in my life who I am so amazed by; people who have gifts that I envy and at which I marvel. Why don’t I tell them how great they are? I DON’T KNOW! Maybe because it is so foreign to our normal way of communicating that it sounds forced and unnatural. Could that be it? I’m not sure. I just know that I don’t do it enough so I lose the opportunity to bless others.

I don’t know how you do in this area. Are you a steady encourager? Or does it feel awkward and contrived to you? I’m going to guess that there are a few folks in your life who could use a word of encouragement. Maybe a word spoken in kindness and intended to make their day. I could be wrong but I suspect we would have to go a long way to find someone who would not appreciate a kind word of affirmation. We never really know what that might do for someone.

I wish I could say that my dad was an encourager… but it wasn’t his nature to say much. I do remember one time… October 21st, 1984… it was the night I was ordained into the ministry. He told me he was proud of me… it was the only time I ever heard those words from him. I cried like a baby… “Wow, my dad is proud of me!” I cherish that memory. Again, does anyone need to hear from you? Don’t let the opportunities go by. I’ll try to be better at it as well.


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