Remember a time when you were in a crisis when life was dark, dour and desperate? You were in a quandary, at sixes and sevens and you were discouraged. Then someone came along and offered words of comfort and assurance. And he or she urged you to persevere and never give up. If you have received such encouragement, how did you feel? Do you still remember that person today?
The God-given gift of encouragement is often under-rated, underestimated and under-used and yet it is such a vital and important gift that uplifts souls and builds the church.
The bible has provided many examples of men and women who were effective encouragers. One prime example was Barnabas. While every Christian has heard of Paul, many may not know who Barnabas was. While the apostles were busy converting people and setting up churches, Barnabas was constantly encouraging the believers to spur them to greater efforts. He was someone who connected people for the greater good of the then nascent church. When Paul was tasked by God to spread the gospel after his spectacular and “blinding” conversion, many Christians shuddered to go near him in view of his brutal and ruthless track record of persecuting Christians. But Barnabas welcomed and endorsed Paul and thus paving the way for Paul’s ministry to proceed (Acts 11: 21-26). Subsequently, Barnabas continued to mentor and encourage a young John Mark after he had failed in his ministry and was rejected by Paul.
However, the greatest encourager of the whole universe is God. The bible is replete with stories of how God encouraged and assured his people when the chips were down and the situation was dire.
For example, when Moses passed away and Joshua was tasked to lead the Israelites to take the Promised Land, Joshua must have felt daunted. First, he had very big shoes to fill and second, the Promised Land was filled with many nations with terrifying, formidable and intimidating armies. How did God respond to Joshua’s predicament?
He gave Joshua the following encouragement, command and assurance.
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9) Brothers and sisters, let us never cease to encourage each other so that we may be strong and courageous in glorifying God.