Encouragement in 3 Types of Relationships
Topic: Encouragement Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Acts 4:36
Encouragement in 3 Types of Relationships
In 1943 Richard James was a naval mechanical engineer stationed at the shipyards in Philadelphia and was developing springs that could support and stabilize sensitive instruments aboard ships in rough seas. James accidentally knocked one of the springs from a shelf and it “stepped” down couple stacks of books to a table top and then to the floor and then recoiled itself.
James began working to get the property of the steel and the tension right to make it walk. He fine tuned the toy and the neighborhood children loved it.
His wife encouraged him to continue to experiment and to take out a $500 loan to help produce them.
At first they had trouble selling them to toy stores but with his wife’s encouragement he made a deal with Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to demonstrate the toy on a snowy day before Christmas. It was such a hit that he sold his entire inventory of 400 units within 90 minutes.
Without his wife’s backing and encouragement James may not have continued to push forward and we would not have the toy that “walks down stairs…alone or in pairs and makes a slinkity sound…
The slinky which was introduced into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2000.
So because of the encouragement of James wife he accomplished a great thing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing
But I want to start elsewhere The Book of Acts, chapter 4:36-37
It’s talks about a man named Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus. I’m just going to bet a lot of us don’t know about Joseph, that’s because the Apostles had a nickname for him, Barnabus, But what does Barnabus mean-- it means, son of encouragement. That’s what I want to talk about today. The concept of encouragement. What that means? How we’re called to do it? the fact it is a powerful act of faith.
I’ve looked up the word encouragement, or to encourage. It means literally, 1) to inspire with courage, spirit or hope, to hearten. And 2) it means to spur on or to stimulate.
I’d like you to go to the Old Testament, first Samuel, chapter 14, this will be the first example of encouragement that I want to talk about this morning, I want to think about encouragement in 3 different types of relationships that we might have.
What does it mean to encourage those who are leaders in our life?
Number 2, what does it mean to be an encouraging friend to other friends?
And number 3, what does it mean to be an encouraging mentor.
So, what does it mean to encourage those who are leaders in our life, in First Samuel, 14, we learn about Jonathon, who’s the son of King Saul. And it was at the time when king Saul was doing anything but serving the Lord, he was in a time of rebellion against God and the enemies of Israel were leaving them completely defeated, and Saul was paralyzed, his armies weren’t going to war the way they were supposed to and Jonathan one day decides to do something about it. And so we’re going to read about that in First Samuel, 14:6-14
we’re going to skip ahead, then it says, in verse 23:
“So the Lord rescued Israel on that day”
This is an amazing story of a conquest of two guys who start a battle that conquers an entire army, hundreds of enemy soldiers. , the main character here in the story is Jonathan. Jonathan who decides, ‘let’s not just sit here, let’s try to do something. And there’s a lot we could talk about from him, from his example, courage, almost a reckless faith, a desire to move when everything seems defeated.
But the person I want to focus on in this story is the armor bearer. Now, the armor bearer’s name,?....There’s no name for the armor bearer. This guy is an amazing character in this victory for Israel and we don’t even know his name.
Now, I don’t want to read too much into that but just from the top, what could that possibly tell you about this person, or at least from our perspective in this whole story? That he is part of the incredible victory, and there’s two main characters and we don’t even know his name, that tells me, this is somebody who doesn’t need necessarily to make a name for himself, somebody who cares more about success for the Kingdom of God, someone who cares about his leader, the guy whose armor he is carrying. His ambitions and his goals are absorbed or included in the visions and goals of the person he is serving, and I see this armor bearer as an incredibly encouraging person to a leader. And especially in a situation like this.
Now, in those days any significant soldier, any significant leader would have a shield that the armor bearer would hold and he would follow him into the battle and it was his job to watch out for his master, watch out for the person he was serving.
Now, this is a situation where if I had to put myself into his shoes and it’s just the two of us and we’re about to take on a whole army without anyone backing us up, and the way Jonathan puts the story. If you notice, Jonathan says, ‘Let’s go over to the other side, perhaps God might do something on our behalf, because nothing can stop God from saving’.
now that implies uncertainty. It implies that I’m not totally sure about what’s going to happen . He’s saying, let’s move and perhaps something good will happen if we just start moving.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when someone invites me to do something I like to know what the plan is. I like to know where are we going with this, what’s the plan for how we’re going to do it, and I like to have some certainty that it’s going to work.
And in this story Jonathan wasn’t completely sure, he was feeling his way as he went and he invited his armor bearer to be part of this. But this is not just a project, this was risky, this was life or death. They could have died in what they’re doing. The armor bearer could have responded saying, ‘Jonathan, you know, it’s a good idea, but I don’t think it makes much sense, I need just a little bit more explanation, a little bit more of a plan. Otherwise I’ll let you go and if it works then I’ll come in.’
He could have done that, a lot of us would have done that. But the way he responds and I want to highlight that verse, he says in verse 7:
“Do all that you have in mind, go ahead, for I am with you heart and soul”
And I think of the beauty of being an armor bearer for someone else, of saying I don’t have any more certainty than you do that what you have in mind is going to work, but I know that you’re a person of faith, I respect you, I’m with you so do everything you have in mind, and I’m with you heart and soul.
He’s not saying I’m going to follow to do my duty, and not really let my heart be in it with you. He says, I’m committed to throw my heart into this with you, even though neither of us is sure of what’s going to happen. And if we lose, we lose together, but I’m with you heart and soul.
I want to ask you to think about, who are the people in your life that are in some role of leadership for you. Now, that could be in the church context, spiritual leaders, it could be in your jobs, because I think these principles apply even outside of a faith context. Your employer, your supervisor, your leaders, people in your life, your parents, and ask yourself the question. Can I be an armor bearer for this person. Have I adopted and made my own this person’s vision for this company, this office, this ministry, our household, this success? Am I internalizing it with him or her and am I willing to put myself out there and jump into the fray with this person? Are you an armor bearer for someone? Being an armor bearer is a good thing to do. And those who have had one at some point in your life, know that there’s nothing like that and there’s nothing worse than jumping into the battle and finding that no one’s with you.
And the thing is, most people in leadership when they’re doing something new, are not 100% sure of what they’re doing, very rarely is a person 100% confident and having people saying, ‘I’m with you in this, heart and soul, I trust your vision, I trust your heart and I’m willing to put myself on the line to see what God’s going to do with this and to be an armor bearer.
And then they jump into it and they do it in classic military style. You’ve seen the movies, where there’s soldiers right there and there’s one facing one way and the other is facing the other way to cover each other’s back, it’s that kind of image here, where the armor bearer is behind Jonathan and he’s covering his back literally and just seeing to it that Jonathan is safe and that he’s ok. And that’s part of being an armor bearer, selflessly protecting the well-being of the person that you’re committed to serve.
God is looking for people who have that kind of heart, who are willing to encourage those that they’ve been called to serve.
I’m going to leave the challenge that I believe that when we choose to be a faithful and encouraging supporter, I believe there’s a blessing that comes.
I heard a phrase once and it really impacted me. Loyalty does not mean that you’re going to blindly say yes to anything without any disagreement. Loyalty means, we choose not to question the motives of those we’re serving. Dr Samuel Chance said that, you can question what I do, but if you are loyal you won’t question why I do it. That’s between me and the Lord. So you can question my techniques or my actions but not my motives.
So, being an armor bearer, the first way of encouraging people in leadership for you.
Second example I want to look at together, is in First Samuel 23 and this is the kind of encouragement that happens between peers, between friends, between people that are equals in life, that God has put with us. And this example, also involves Jonathan. And I found myself asking the question, isn’t it interesting , that two of my favorite examples of encouragement involve the same person. In one case he’s receiving encouragement, and in the other case he’s giving encouragement. And then I stopped to think, you know, I don’t think it’s an accident. I think it’s just a principle, a reality that we reap what we sow in life, that the best way to cultivate relationships that are encouraging is to be an encourager. How many of us know that?...The best way to earn respect is to show respect. The best way to have people encourage you, there’s so many people walking around wanting to be encouraged, and that’s a natural human desire, but it’s the wrong orientation. The orientation should be, whom can I encourage today? Whom can I inspire to go forward in life?.
So Jonathan, we know that Jonathan and David were best friends, but they were more than best friends, they were soul brothers. The Bible says that there came a point where the two of them became one in spirit virtually, they were so unified in their faith and in their heart for God and in their commitment for one another, they became like brothers.
How many people know the value of having a Jonathan in your life? That kind of friendship of a person you can trust. And so they were with each other and it’s ironic because Jonathan was King Saul’s son. Now the history of it is, you’ve got King Saul, who’s become a corrupt king, you’ve got David, whom God has called to replace him and now you’ve got Jonathan, Saul’s son. Now, technically, Jonathan as the king’s son is in line to become king. He’s the prince. And yet instead of that he chooses to recognize that God’s plan was not for him to be king, but for David to come along and be king. And there comes a point when King Saul decides he doesn’t want to be replaced and he starts chasing David.
Many of us know the story: he pursued David and his men and David was fleeing and running through the dessert and hiding in caves and king Saul was chasing after him. Of course, this was long after they’ve had some individual confrontations. In first Samuel 18:10-11 we read that David was actually serving in the palace playing the lyre, king Saul was so angry he threw his spear, sticking in the wall and David’s there ducking. Now, David, God had promised David that he would be the next king. God had told him through the prophet that that was his destiny, that was his future and yet, instead of becoming king, he finds himself fleeing and he was hiding out and King Saul had him virtually trapped. and he didn’t know what he was going to do.
How many of you have experienced times in your life where you know God has made promises to you and God has a purpose for your life and yet it looks like it’s never going to happen? Things you know God’s with you and yet everything seems to be going against you and against what you thought God had for you. And there are the dead ends we hit in life for we just don’t know how it’s all going to sort out. And yet we feel like God has promised us good things David was in that kind of moment in his life, hiding out in the strongholds of the wilderness and we’re going to read what happens when he’s there in First Samuel, 23, verse 14 through 18.
Read First Samuel 23:14-18
In that moment where David was trapped, he was at a low point. Jonathan went and found him and had a conversation with him and I love what he tells him. Our scripture says, he helped him find strength in God.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a moment where you feel like you are just out of gas spiritually, and you don’t know where the strength is going to come from and that’s the moment when God needs to send a Jonathan to you, an encourager. And he comes to him and helps him find strength in God, and how does he do it? He does it by reminding him of some things. He says, don’t be afraid He says, “…, my father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel”.
There’s moments when we need to know what God has called our friends to do and the promises that God has given to our friends, and the good purposes and intentions that he has for them. Let’s think about that for a moment. Think about some of the friends in your life that God has given you. Do you feel like you know what some of the good promises are that God has for them? If you don’t, one way to be a good friend is to discover and to find out and to pray about it , what is it that God is calling him or her to do? What are the promises that God has for this person? Because there will come a moment when everything is going wrong, and he or she will need you to come and find them and sit them down and say, don’t worry, in this case, in David’s case Jonathan encouraged him “you will be king”.
You see, Jonathan wasn’t there when the prophet Samuel gave David the prophetic word, but he’d heard about it and he believed it. And he said, you will be king. It’s going to happen. We don’t know how, and it doesn’t look like it right now but God will fulfill the good purpose that he has for you. He will do it and I will be second to you, that’s amazing right there, the humility, the willingness to be second, that’s a very impressive thing. But what he’s saying there is not just that you’ll get through this, he’s saying, we’ll get through this. I’ll be right there behind you and when you get through this, not if, but when you get through this I’ll be right there cheering you on, and we’ll say, look what God has done.
That’s a beautiful thing to say to someone. I don’t know if you’ve had someone do that for you at a dark moment, a person that God sends and says, don’t worry, we’re going to get through this. God is going to fulfill his purpose for you, and we don’t know how and it doesn’t look good right now but I know that God is with you, and I know the things he’s done in your life and I know the purposes some of them, that he has for you, and I know that he’ll fulfill those purposes, and when he does, I’ll be right there cheering you on and we will say look at what God has done.
I challenge you to be an encouraging friend. Now, we all need friends like that, and how many know there’s been moments when we feel like we need a friend like that, and there’s no one there, and that’s because God is saying, no, it’s time for you just to find strength in me by yourself this time. But what we need to do is have the mentality of looking for the people who need a word of encouragement, people who need to hear that God is with them and he’ll fulfill his purpose in their lives. That’s being an encouraging friend.
Now for the 3rd relationship example.
What does it mean to be an encouraging mentor, let’s go back to
Barnabus, son of encouragement.
Now, I want to focus on two particular relationships that Barnabus had and one of them we read about in Acts 9. Now there we read about the Apostle Paul, ok?. Now what did the Apostle Paul do before he was a Christian? What was Paul’s job? Killing and persecuting Christians, that was his job. He persecuted the church, he was a Pharisee, he was a Jewish religious leader who believed that the Christians were a horrible sect that needed to be stamped out. He was personally responsible for the arrest and murder of Christians.
Now, we all know the story of Paul’s conversion, one day, he’s on his way to persecute and bam…. He gets knocked off his feet, a voice says, and at that time his name was Saul, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I’m Jesus, whom you’re persecuting, I’m paraphrasing of course, and Saul was struck blind for 3 days and then finally Ananias came and prayed for him, he received the Holy Spirit, he received his sight. And so he is converted and he becomes a Christian later to be called Paul and proclaims Jesus in the synagogues of Demascus. After escaping Demascus he tries to join up with the Apostles in Jerusalem. he’s like, I’m a Christian now. I believe.
Read Acts 9:26-27
How did the Apostles respond? Did they throw him a party? Are they all excited? Do they invite him to preach that night? Some have had conversion experiences that are so dramatic that people don’t want to believe it. They don’t want to believe it because it’s such a…wow, could that have happened?.. They respond with mistrust. They don’t believe it. They don’t believe what happened. They’re suspicious of him.
But Barnabus took him and he brings him to the Apostles and he tells Paul’s story how he’s been knocked off his feet and was blinded and he’d been met by the Lord and how he preached. How did Barnabus know all this about Paul? How did he know all these stories about his testimony? he must have taken some time to really hear what had happened and to set his own prejudices and biases aside and say, ‘God, what are you doing in this man’s life?’
I believe in order to be a true encourager in the Christian world we need to have a gift of discernment or an ability or a willingness to discern what God is doing in the life of that person, and to listen to their story and to care about it and to see that you know, even though this person comes from a crazy background, I see God at work in this person’s life and I see potential in this person. Isn’t it a beautiful thing when someone sees potential in you and appreciates what you could become?
You know, throughout the Bible God often gives people new names based on the prophetic potential that he sees in them. Moses had a certain helper. He had a disciple, Moses was a mentor and encourager for someone who took his place, that person’s name was Joshua. Did you ever know that Joshua wasn’t his original name? In Numbers 13:16 we are told that Moses changed the name of Hosea son of Nun to Joshua. which means Jehovah saves, the Lord is my salvation.
Moses knew, Hoshea, who’s helping him, is going to be used by God for the salvation of Israel, so change his name, prophetically, seeing the potential he had and God does that throughout scripture.
Abraham, ok, what was his name before being Abraham? Abram, God changed it, even though he was an old man who was unable to have kids, he and his wife, God changed his name to Abraham which means, ‘father of nations’, because God says ‘I see a future for you, you’re going to become the father of many nations’. Prophetic name.
Jesus with Peter. Peter’s original name wasn’t Peter. It was Simon,. Peter in Greek means ‘rock’, and Jesus said, this is Peter, the rock and on this rock I’ll build my church. He’s going to become a solid, stable leader, because Jesus saw the potential in him.
Barnabus was like that with Paul. He saw the potential in Paul and he was willing to give him a chance and to be an encouraging mentor in his life., Paul started doing his thing. But Things didn’t work out because, he was right out of his past, his ministry just didn’t work. He ended up going back to Tarsus his hometown Barnabus, the Bible says, went to Tarsus and he found Paul, and he spent a long time with Paul, talking and getting to know Paul, mentoring and discipling him, encouraging him and helping him become the man of God he was meant to be.
And then, when they went on missionary trips, it was Barnabus and Paul together. You know, it’s interesting, In Acts 14:12 when they were preaching in one town, and did some miracles, God used them to do all kinds of miracles, and people in the town, thought they were gods. They believed in the Greek gods, and they called Paul, Hermes, because Hermes was the God that speaks and then they called Barnabus, Zeus, because even though he doesn’t talk much, we can tell who the leader is here, we can tell who the mature one is.
Now as the story unfolds they rebuke the towns people and tell them they are not gods and to turn from such vain things to the Living God, but what impresses me there is that Barnabus is in a quiet way projected a leadership that allowed Paul to grow and become the man of God that he was meant to be. Paul needed a Barnabus an encourager and he found one, and that’s why he became the man he was.
Now, the second story with Barnabus that happens is eventually Paul and Barnabus together going on their missionary trips, they take along a young man whose name was John, and they take him along on a missionary journey. But everything didn’t go too well on the trip. There was opposition, there were problems, there were difficulties, persecution and so, what do you think John does when the times got tough, this kid who wanted to learn how to be a missionary, what do you think he did?
John quit, and so he went home. The bible doesn’t tell us specifically why but many scholars believe it was due to the difficulties they were facing. Now, some time later they’re about to go on another trip and John decides he wants to give it another try. He wants to try to go again
Now, Paul how do you think Paul reacted to John coming along again? I think it could have gone something like this. He failed us once, I’m not going to trust him again. This kid isn’t worth it. Knowing what we know about Barnabus, the encourager, how do you think Barnabus responded? He went with John, he said, let’s give him a chance. And Paul said, no way, this kid failed us, we’re not going to give him another chance. And Barnabus said, come on, I see potential in this kid,. I see potential in him and so they had a sharp dispute, the Bible says, that they parted company and went separate directions. Paul took Silas, and Barnabus took John.
Now, John eventually kept serving and ended up becoming a Christian leader and he had another name. , what was John’s other name? Mark as in the gospel of Mark. This kid that failed, this kid that Paul just wanted to give up on…. ended up writing a gospel in the Bible. He became a great man of God and Paul himself at one point says, ‘please I want Mark to serve with me, he’s useful in my ministry’. He wrote in 2Timothy that he asked them to send Mark along to help him. And why was that? Because Mark thank God had a Barnabus an encourager.
But I want to challenge you in this: who are the people, the Marks, in your life? Who are the people that you could inspire to great things? Who could you tell “I think you’ve got potential’., what a difference, when someone looks at you and says, you know, I see what God has given you and you’ve got potential. and I know that you’ve got what it takes to become all that God wants you to be.
There are people who need you to be a Barnabus for them And I’d encourage you to start closest to home, the people you do life with, your family, your spouse if you have one, your friends, your room mates, the people who are close to you in your life, your kids and to be a Barnabus for them. To let God speak to you about other people’s lives and other people’s abilities and potential and to see what God sees in them and to see them with eyes of faith, to choose to overlook all the defects that are glaringly obvious.
John Mark had a lot of glaringly obvious defects, he had failed. He deserved to be rejected when he wanted to try again. He deserved rejection but Barnabus chose not to look at his defects but instead to look at his potential..
Are you up for it? Are you willing to be a Barnabus. I challenge you. There’s a need for Barnabus in the body of Christ, for spirit of encouragement, inspiring people to great things.
And I want you now to think of some people in your life, just with your eyes close and in a spirit of prayer, to think of somebody who’s in leadership in your life. It could be, as I said before, it could be your employer, your supervisor, it could be a spiritual leader of some sort, some sort of leader in your life. and I want you to visualize yourself by their side saying, I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. I’m with you heart and soul. Inspire them to do what they’re called to do. And I want you to think of a friend you have in your life now, one or two, do you really know what some of the promises of God are in that person’s life? I encourage you pray about their life, God has a purpose for that person’s life, for that friend, then seek opportunities to express that to them.
And now I want you to think of a person that you could take under your wing, it could be a kid, , it could be a new believer, it could be a seasoned believer, it could be someone at work or…. And I want you to think, can I be a Barnabus for them? Can I be an encourager…
We all need encouraging, even the disciples. Here are the closest people to Jesus and they needed to be encouraged. They spent their days learning at Jesus’s feet and they needed encouraged. In John 14 Jesus spends the entire chapter encouraging his disciples that even though he is going away he will always be with them. So don’t be discouraged if you feel you need someone to encourage you often, again the disciples where doing life with Jesus and they needed him to continuously encourage them.
and now I want you to think of somebody in your life who has been a Barnabus for you, somebody who has encouraged you in some way at some point, who’s spoken encouragement into your life. And just thank God for them.
Father, I thank you.
……………..in Jesus’ name. Amen.