Today’s Reading: Romans 12:1-21
Have you ever had the experience of being out some place and the car won’t start; the battery is flat? Everything else in the car works fine but the “get-up-and-go” in the battery has “got-up-and-gone”. Leaving aside the more serious reasons as to why batteries run down, the short-term solution is usually for another car to come alongside and hook up a set of jumper leads from their strong battery to your weak one. Drawing from the alongside energy and power your car is able to start up again and function normally.
That act of drawing alongside or lending energy to get another going is the basic idea behind a key word in the New Testament. The word is “encourage”. Over the last little while we have been tracking the life and example of a man in the New Testament who had a particular reputation for encouragement. His parents named him Joseph but the leaders of the early church called him Barnabas, which literally meant “son of encouragement”.
While Romans 12:8 indicates that some people have a special gift or Holy Sprint-given ability to encourage the act of being encouraging is a responsibility we all have as followers of Jesus. We are all supposed to be like Barnabas and to a greater or lesser degree there are fellow pilgrims on this planet to whom we are called alongside for the purpose of putting courage into them. People have done it for us in the past and we need to do it for others.
Corrie Ten Boon tells an amazing story along these lines in her book “The Hiding Place”. She and her sister Betsy had been imprisoned by the Nazis for harbouring Jews in their home. The prison camp that they were in was apparently riddled with fleas. The conditions were absolutely horrific and beyond imagination. However during a time of prayer that Corrie once had with Betsy she heard her pray “Lord thank you for the fleas!” Corrie couldn’t go on in their prayer meeting without stopping her sister and asking why she prayed along those lines, to which Betsy lovingly explained from her heart “Corrie don’t you see> The Lord provided the fleas. That way the guards will not bother us in our barracks so we can pray and worship freely”. In other words, Betsy had Barnabas eyes to see the positive side of a difficult circumstance.
Being a Barnabas doesn’t necessarily minimize the pain and suffering that a person goes through. It is more than just being supremely positive. But in whatever we go through there is always a bigger picture that God is painting and a Barnabas-type encourager helps people to see it.