Vol. 8, No. 10
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Every right-thinking person knows how feeble he is, and he prays with David: "O Yahweh, make me to know my end, and the measure of my days, what it is. Let me know how frail I am" (Psalm 39:4). "Truly every man is but a breath" (Psalm 39:11), and "we are dust" (Psalm 103:14), "a vapor which briefly appears, and then vanishes" (James 4:14). Consequently, he needs encouragement in his soul, his spirit, the only part of him that will never die (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 10:28; 22:32).
Powerful in self-encouragement is daily prayer in the "evening and morning and at noon...and he will hear my voice," said David (Psalm 55:17). Likewise, daily Bible study gives one fresh courage: "this is my comfort in my affliction," said David, "for thy word has quickened me" (Psalm 119:50, KJV), "renews my life" (NIV), "has revived me" (NASV), "invigorates me" (FHV). You cannot imagine a person more in need of self- encouragement than Job "with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head" (Job 2:7), and having a wife who turned against him: "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9). However, he refused to give up, and his Bible reading was strengthening, saying, "I have treasured up the words of his mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12).
As important as is self-encouragement, unless a person determines also to encourage others, he is selfish and a misfit. "A loner isolates himself, seeking his own desire, and he sneers at all good judgment" (Proverbs 18:1). "Let no one seek what is his own, but what is another's" (1 Corinthians 10:24). "With neither selfishness nor conceit, humbly consider others to be better than yourselves. Have regard, each of you, not for your own things, but each one for the things of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).
As God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and good angels love every human being (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; Revelation 22:17; Luke 15: 10), "not wanting any to be lost" ( 2 Peter 3: 9), so every person should resolve to be an encourager, an exhorter, a soul-winner (Matthew 22:39; Acts 8:4; Philippians 2:15): "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assemblying of ourselves together, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Since Christians cannot see the judgment day approaching ("of that day and hour knows no man," Matthew 24:36), and since Christians were not commanded to assemble when the Roman soldiers were to come in 70 A.D., but to "escape to the mountains" (Matthew 24:16), the only other biblical "day" which Christians could see approaching was the weekly Lord's Day (Revelation 1:10). So, even now, when one Christian leaves another, the phrase "See you Sunday" is a phrase of encouragement.
1. Jonathan. One of the reasons why God has preserved the Old Testament is to teach Christians how to live (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). At one time King Saul sent out soldiers to find and to kill David (1 Samuel 23:14). David was hiding "in the wilderness of Ziph" (1 Samuel 23:15). King Saul's son Jonathan loved David "as his own soul" (1 Samuel 18:3). In an act of bravery Jonathan went alone to David's hiding place in the wilderness, "and strengthened his hand in God" (1 Samuel 23:16). A spiritual encourager was Jonathan! David was then in his 20's, and he lived to be 70 years old (2 Samuel 5:4), but it is certain that he never forgot that secret visit from the king's son in the wilderness of Ziph!
2. Barnabas. Another man who loved his neighbor as he loved himself (Leviticus 19:18), the second greatest commandment (Mark 12:29-31), was a Christian named Joseph at Jerusalem. He so impressed the apostles that they called him Barnabas, "which translated means, Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36, NASB). He "owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:37).
After Saul (that is, Paul) had been baptized at Damascus (Acts 9:18-19), on making a trip to Jerusalem, and trying to associate with Christians, he aroused opposition for "they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple" (Acts 9:26). Then, Barnabas, the "Son of Encouragement," to the rescue! Barnabas "brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that he had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus" (Acts 9:27). Thank God for Barnabas!
On another occasion the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to help the Antioch church, the first integrated congregation, Jews and Gentiles together, a trip of some 300 miles (Acts 11:22). There he "exhorted everyone to abide in the Lord with purpose of heart" (Acts 11:23).
At Antioch Barnabas' dedicated mind remembered that, seven years before (36-43 A.D.), the Jerusalem church, fearful that unbelieving Jews would kill Paul, had sent him back to his hometown, in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 9:28-30).
During those seven years, apparently Barnabas had heard nothing about Paul. Barnabas, truly a brother's keeper, on his own decided to make that long trip from Antioch to Tarsus, some 150 miles, "to look for Paul" (Acts 11:25). Happily, Barnabas "found him, and brought him to Antioch, where they met with the church for a full year, and taught a large number" (Acts 11:26).
While they were in Antioch, "the Holy Spirit said, Set apart now for me Barnabas and Paul for the work to which I have called them" (Acts 13:2). Consequently, those two evangelists and encouragers went on a three year missionary journey, establishing several congregations (Acts 13-14).
3. John Mark. Though Paul had lost confidence in John Mark (Acts 15:37-39), Barnabas, the "Son of Encouragement," did not give up on the young man: "Barnabas took Mark," and they left for a missionary trip together (Acts 15:39) in 51 A.D.
That Mark grew spiritually and became, like Barnabas and Paul, an effective exhorter and encourager, is known by the fact that, eleven years after Paul had rejected him (Acts 15:39), Paul was proud of him! In 62 A.D. Paul complimented him in letters both to Colosse (4:10) and to Philemon (24), and again in 67 A.D. Paul wrote to Timothy about his forthcoming visit with Paul in the Roman prison, and said, "pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service" (2 Timothy 4:11). Thank God for Barnabas' patience in encouraging John Mark, and for Paul, who had seen his mistake in rejecting Mark.
4. Paul. After Barnabas had brought Paul to Antioch (Acts 11:25-26), Paul's work as an encourager is recorded to the end of his life. In 51 A.D., after Paul's and Silas' bloody and harrowing experiences in Philippi (Acts 16:23, 33), the city magistrates asked them to leave town. Those two men of God, before they walked out of the city, "went from the prison to Lydia, saw the brothers, encouraged them and departed" (Acts 16:40).
5. Phoebe. A Christian lady was moving from Cenchrea to Rome. Somehow Paul knew about her move, and he wrote to the church in Rome: "I recommend to you Phoebe our sister, a servant of the congregation in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever need she may have, for she herself has helped many, and me also" (Romans 16:1-2).
Some have tried to make Phoebe a "deaconess" in the church at Cenchrea. A Gospel preacher writes: "Did Phoebe hold the office of a deacon? No one knows she didn't. The Greek text calls her one. Why would we doubt it?" If there were stated New Testament qualifications for deaconesses as there are for deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13), and if there was an inspired salutation addressed to the "bishops and deacons and deaconesses," as there is one addressed only to the "bishops and deacons" at Philippi (1:1), one could reasonably conclude that Phoebe was a deaconess.
But simply because the Greek word diakonos, meaning "servant" or "deacon, " is written about Phoebe (Romans 16: 1) does not mean she was any more than a servant, as all Christians should be, both men and women. That same Greek word also describes the "servants" who filled the waterpots at a wedding (John 2:5), but they were not church deacons. What we know for sure is that Phoebe "helped many," including Paul, and that fact means that she was an encourager. We look forward to meeting Phoebe in heaven, along with many other unselfish women who have "helped many."
6. Roman Christians. In 61 A.D., Paul, after a long sea trip and shipwreck, on his way as a prisoner from Caesarea to Rome, received encouragement from a group of Roman Christians. They had heard about his walking from Puteoli on the Appian Way toward the city of Rome: "As soon as the brothers there heard the news about us [Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus, Acts 27:1-2], they came to meet us at the Forum of Appius, and the Three Taverns" (Acts 28:15).
Those Roman Christians had walked 13 miles from Rome down to the Three Taverns, and then 10 miles farther on to the Market of Appius to greet Paul and Luke and Aristarchus. "When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage" (Acts 28:15).
7. Jesus. The Son of God made himself the Son of Man personally as an encourager: "Do not let your heart be disturbed: you believe in God; believe also in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house. If this were not true, I would have told you, because I go to make a place ready for you, and if I go and make a place ready for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3).