It has struck me how many times British medallists at this year’s games have said how much difference a home Olympics and a home crowd has made to them. In short, they felt they needed something from the British people to take them further, faster, beyond what they had managed before.
On a smaller scale, we too can feel indebted to others for things that we have achieved. Without those people we wouldn’t be who we are or where we are today. What, then, is it that has made the difference?
The short answer, it seems, is encouragement. Without encouragement we can lose motivation, feel our resources draining faster and find it harder to persevere through difficulty. With encouragement, we can keep going, find fresh energy and enthusiasm to reach higher goals.
Each of us can play a key role in someone else’s life. We might be the only person who encourages someone to go on and pursue their gifting – and that person flourishes as a result. Being involved in helping someone else to come to life and achieve great things can even be as exciting as our own achievements, or possibly more so. The more people we encourage, the more wonderful things we can join in with rejoicing about.
How might we go about encouraging people? In the book of Acts, a follower of Jesus named Joseph was so good at encouraging others that the apostles named him “Barnabas” – “son of encouragement”. He became known for his positive role of helping others to achieve their best. So, what did he do?
Barnabas encouraged new believers who were in poverty by giving financially. He sold land so that they might not go hungry. He also took time to get to know people and see the good in them that others overlooked. He looked out for God at work and he saw that in Paul. The apostles were wary of Paul and if it hadn’t been for Barnabas, they would have excluded him. Without Barnabas fighting Paul’s corner, we might never have had most of our New Testament!
Barnabas was not self-sufficient. He knew his limitations and remembered the gifts of others. He was chosen by the apostles to go to Antioch to help encourage new believers in their faith. But, he realised that this was a great opportunity for Paul and not just himself. Paul had gifts to develop that would benefit this community and fill in the gaps in Barnabas’ abilities. So, Barnabas sought Paul out and brought him to Antioch.
Later, Barnabas ends up parting company with Paul because there was another young man he wanted to give a second chance to. Paul did not trust Mark any more because he had made a mistake. Barnabas insisted on giving Mark a second chance. Paul refused and they went their separate ways. But, years later, Paul wrote that Mark had indeed become helpful to him as a co-minister for Christ. Barnabas had been right not to give up on Mark.
These are just some ways in which we too can encourage others – be their advocate, give second chances, look for the good in them, support financially, get to know their gifts, open doors of opportunity, etc.
Maybe you and I could become known as “Barnabas” characters in our churches and communities? You don’t know what might happen if you encourage someone – they might become a great theologian like Paul, they may win a medal, they might come to life rather than stay curled up in their shell.
God has created amazing people to do amazing things – yet each of us needs a smile, a kind word and someone who believes in us to become all that we can be. Will you be the encourager that someone else so badly needs?
© Joe Lenton, August 2012