Jump Start # 2572
Acts 4:36 “And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, son of Encouragement).”
I read something the other day that bothered me. It was about the Coronavirus epidemic. The news blip said that many communities were cancelling Fourth of July activities. Fourth of July? We are not through April yet. Then all of May. Then all of June. Then comes July. Now, behind this of course is lots of planning, hiring people, having professionals set off fireworks, bands, food vendors. These things can be planned a week out. But, the fourth still seems a long way out.
And, all of that takes us to our verse today. It’s not about the virus epidemic, but a much larger picture that is often over looked. So many preachers and shepherds are doing all they can to make videos and podcasts to keep the members in the loop, connected and growing. Great things are being done. There is more wonderful encouragement and lessons to be found on the internet than ever before. As social distancing continues on, it is easy for the encouragers to need encouraging. That is a thought that is often not considered.
Those that teach, preach and encourage others are always filling the buckets of others. They always seem to know just what to say. They always are upbeat, hopeful and pointing to the Lord. But after a while, who fills their buckets? What if the Barnabas’ among us needs encouragement? Who encouragers the encourager?
Here are a few thoughts:
First, shepherds need to include preachers in their shepherding. Don’t assume that the preachers are always ok. Sometimes we are not. Sometimes we want to believe that we are Superman and we never are discouraged, but that’s not the truth. A good and close relationship between the shepherds and the preachers will pick up on things and notice things. A honest relationship will allow them to be candid and open without fear of rebuke or criticism.
Second, the woodsman understands that there are times when you must stop chopping and sharpen your axe. A person feels bad when that happens. He feels like he is letting others down. But the truth is, by taking a little time to sharpen that axe, he will come back to the work fresher and able to do more than using a dull axe that wears him out. Find some challenging books to read. Not novels, not sci-fi, but books that will help you do your work better. Get away and visit someone who has ideas. Spend and afternoon talking, listening and growing. Many professions will send workers to conferences, continual education and things to make them better. Find similar things. Be willing to send your encouragers away to learn how to encourage more.
Third, sometimes a person just has to do this on his own. When David and his men were being chased by King Saul. They returned home only to find their wives and children had been kidnapped. David’s men became so distraught, that they were going to kill David. David was alone. The passage says that he “strengthened himself.” He found a way to get focused, get encouraged and stay in the game. A person has to do this sometimes. No one else can help because they are all ready to pick up stones and throw them. Others are wanting to walk away for good. If you have to rely upon someone else to help you, there are times when there is no one. You must find a way with the Lord’s help to encourage yourself. You must strengthen yourself.
Finally, the Lord is always there. That is what really helps. Remember the Lord. Pour yourself into Scriptures and prayer. The Lord understands. The Lord reigns. So, when it seems that the night will never end, keep looking to the Lord. The day always breaks. People look up to you because of the role you fill. You are a leader among God’s people. They feel that you must always know. They feel that you must always be on the top. There are days when you are not, but people expect you to be. Allow the Lord to help. Listen to your own sermons and advice. You are not different than others. The same that you would tell others, tell yourself.
So, you are not a preacher or one of the shepherds in the church. What can you do to help your leaders stay encouraged so they can keep encouraging you? Here are a few simple things you can do.
First, one of the greatest things you can do is to utilize all the resources that your congregation is providing. Keep watching the videos. Keep up with the classes. Keep worshipping in your home. The greatest fear as this “stay-at-home” policy continues, is that people will start dropping out and dropping off. You must be at the helm of your faith, not the church, not others. You must keep feeding, using and exercising your faith. We cannot be together, but that is no reason for you to become weak and indifferent to your soul. Find a routine that works for your family. Don’t become a “Sunday-only” Christian. Listen to podcasts during the week. Keep up with the mid-week Bible classes. Do your daily Bible reading. Preachers are putting a feast before you. It’s up to you to pick up your fork and eat. There will be some causalities in this crisis. Some will be spiritual. You decide and you make up your mind what will become of your faith.
Second, let the leaders know that you appreciate what they are doing. An email. A text. A card in the mail. Preaching to a camera with no audience is hard. Are people watching? Are we effective? Is this working? Through this social distancing with our worship assembly cancelled, I have received so many cards and emails letting me know that what we are doing is helping. That’s awesome! That’s so helpful. That encourages the encourager.
Third, keep using your teachers and preachers. It’s hard to teach a class when no one is sitting in a class. Are there questions? Are there comments? Send yours to the teachers and preachers. This is helpful. This is encouraging.
Fourth, keep praying. This should have been first on the list. Always pray. Pray that the leaders remain strong, connected to each other and encouraged. Thank the Lord for those in your congregation who are trying to make worship as “normal” as they can. God can do things that you cannot.
Barnabas—the encourager. There are times when the encourager needs encouragement.