Called to Encourage

A pat on the back, a prayer on your behalf, an inspiring word from someone we look up to, a clap or a cheer—all of us know how such words and gestures serve to empower and motivate us, especially when it comes to encouragement from God’s people and God’s Word. But have we been “paying it forward” and reaching out to others who need that same support? Join us today as we revisit a timely and timeless post from the past by our very own Dr. Juan Valdes.
I will never forget what happened on a cold February day in Iowa a few years back. I was in Des Moines for a weekend apologetics conference and to debate Hector Avalos, an atheist professor at Iowa State University. Being my first major debate, I was a bit anxious. (You must understand, this was really a David vs. Goliath battle.) Dr. Avalos (Goliath) had both a master’s and doctoral degree from Harvard, had published numerous papers in scholarly journals, had written several academic books, and was a seasoned debater. I, on the other hand, was just finishing my doctoral work and only had experience debating informally.
In one sense, I was confident because I knew that when you have the truth, there is nothing to fear, which is why I accepted the invitation to debate. In another sense, however, I was nervous and worried—I did not want to misrepresent the Lord or His Word. So, even though I had been preparing for months, I wasn’t sure if I had prepared sufficiently. Nonetheless, as a dear brother was driving me (in my state of anxiety) to the event, I received a message on my phone from my congregation in Miami. It was a video message, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  

We are called to come alongside those that are discouraged, hurting, sad, or depressed, and to speak life into them.

As it turns out, a group of young people and their families had put together a short video to encourage me. Let me tell you, just thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes, as it did that cold February afternoon in Iowa.  To hear these precious brothers and sisters from church, one by one, speak words of encouragement to me lifted my spirits. My wife and my kids were also on the video to give me a pep talk. When the video ended, I was in tears and praising the Lord. (Click HERE if you'd like to watch that video.)
With such reassurance, all of my anxiety washed away! Believe me when I tell you that I felt 10 feet tall when I entered the auditorium that afternoon. The lesson learned was priceless!

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

All believers are called to be encouragers, and especially to encourage one another! We are called to come alongside those that are discouraged, hurting, sad, or depressed, and to speak life into them. Though I'm aware of many people in the Bible who provide us with outstanding examples of this calling,  I want to take the time now to focus on the apostle Barnabas.
In Acts 4:36 it says, “Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas, a Levite, a native of Cyprus . . .”  He was a man who had a special talent—supporting and reassuring others, and he became known as the ”Son of Encouragement.” His nickname (also the meaning of his name) matched his most outstanding characteristic.
Why did the apostles consider him to be an encourager? The answer is found in several passages in the book of Acts.
  • First, in Acts 9 we read of how Barnabas stood by Paul when Paul first got saved and was an encouragement to him. It is very likely that the early church would not have embraced Paul (for obvious reasons) had he not been represented by Barnabas. It is easy to imagine how discouraging it must have been to Paul that nobody believed he had been saved and was genuinely responding to a calling to serve Jesus. How critical was this intervention at such a crucial time in Paul’s walk?  
  • In Acts 13 &15 he stood by John Mark and was a tremendous encouragement to him as well. After John Mark abandoned Paul during the first missionary trip, Paul did not want him to be a part of the second trip. John Mark probably felt rejected and discouraged! Would he ever be able to overcome the bad choice he made during the first missionary trip? Would people ever see the potential in him? That could easily have turned into a pity party. BUT Barnabas crashed the party! What was the result of Barnabas’ support of John Mark? John Mark went on to write the Gospel of Mark. Additionally, Paul later came to recognize this young man’s usefulness and requested his company again (2 Tim. 4:11).
  • In Acts 11 we read of how Barnabas stood by and encouraged the local church. He truly was a son of encouragement. It’s hard to imagine what the early church would have looked like without the intervention of Barnabas' gift of encouragement. 
Over the years, God has put many a Barnabas in my path. It’s hard for me to imagine where I would be today had it not been for brothers and sisters coming alongside me and being “sons of encouragement.” So I challenge you today to go out of your way to lift up those whom God has placed in your life. It is an absolutely essential and priceless ministry in the body of Christ. The Church will never have a shortage of people who want to be its "Paul," but are you willing to be its Barnabas?
To learn more about Dr. Juan Valdes, or to book him as a speaker, click HERE.
To answer the questions you or your children may have about God, creation, and the Bible, I encourage you to purchase a copy of our book, Did Jesus Commit Suicide? And 27 Other Questions Teens Are Asking about the Bible (That Adults Want to Know, Too) by clicking HERE.
HELP US REACH 10,000 DOWNLOADS OF OUR APP!  Our app is FREE and is designed to encourage you in your walk with Christ and to train and equip you in staying bold in your faith. Just click HERE, and look for the blue asterisk on the black background.

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