We all need encouragement in order to grow as followers of Jesus Christ. A life devoid of encouragement is like a plant without water. The plant fails to flower and bear fruit. Its leaves begin to droop and grow yellow, and finally, it withers and dies altogether.
When a corporate accountant committed suicide, an effort was made to find out why. The company’s books were examined and no shortage was found. Everything seemed to be in order. Nothing could be uncovered as to give any clue as to why he took his own life, that is, until a note was discovered and in that note it simple read, “In thirty years, I have never received one word of encouragement. I am fed up.”
A word of encouragement can make the difference between quitting and keeping on. Indeed, we all need encouragement; that word of gratitude, that warm, caring smile, that appreciative hug, that honest expression of appreciation, that loving exhortation to press on, to persevere.
One little boy expressed his need of encouragement this way, “Daddy, let’s go out and shoot baskets. I’ll shoot and you say, ‘Way to go!'” I think there is that little boy there in each one of us. “I really want someone along side of me just to say, ‘Way to go,’ ‘Keep at it,’ ‘Good job! ‘”
Charles Dickens’s novel, David Copperfield, had young David returning from a happy visit with friends to find his widowed mother remarried to Edward Murdstone, a harsh and domineering man. Mr. Murdstone, and his permanently visiting sister, Jane, set out to conquer David’s spirit through cruel punishment and through intimidation. Early in this process, David describes his feelings this way, “I might have been approved for my whole life. I might have been made another creature by one kind word.” David looked and he never found that word at home.
God intends for Christian churches and Christian families to be oases of encouragement in a world made dry and dusty by sin. That is why we, as believers, are commanded to encourage one another.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, God says,
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”
In Hebrews 3:13,
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
That is interesting, isn’t it? First, it tells us that encouragement should be a daily responsibility that we look to. Just as we have daily responsibilities to care of our bodies and care for our homes and our work, there is a daily spiritual responsibility to encourage one another. The reason for that is even more interesting in Hebrews 3:13,
…so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
The idea is that sin looks less appealing in an environment of encouragement. It is easy to fight against sin and pursue Holiness when we are encouraged. So, each one of us is given this sacred responsibility to make the church an encouraging community.
Christian encouragement is much more that a compliment or a pat on the back. As helpful as these are, Christian encouragement is much more. The word translated “encourage” in the New Testament literally means “to urge forward; to stimulate the discharge of ordinary duties of life.” Christian encouragement helps others to obey God. Christian encouragement makes others to want to grow in faith, even when the temptation is strong and when life becomes very difficult.
God sets before us in Acts 11, a wonderful example of encouragement. This example both instructs us as well as inspires us. It’s Barnabas, whose name means “The Son of Encouragement,” who is used of God to show us how we could encourage others in the pursuit of holiness. We have been introduced to Barnabas and we are told that the name that he was born with and was raised with was not Barnabas.
In Acts 4:36, it says,
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
This is our introduction to this man and from this introduction we learn he is a Jew from the Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, and this was a very important thing for a Jew to be born in such a privileged and precious tribe. We also learn that his hometown was Cyprus; that he grew up among Gentiles in Cyprus, and so he came from a Gentile city. He would be a man who was comfortable with cultural diversity; with mixed settings. We also learn from these couple of verses that he was an extremely generous giver; that he saw a need and he saw that he had a field and he sold that field and he gave the proceeds in the name of Jesus Christ to benefit Christ’s Kingdom and Christ’s people. He was an encourager. His name began with being Joseph and so encouraging of a man he was, “We are not going to call you Joseph anymore. We are going to call you Barnabas because that is your character. That is what we think about when we are around you.”
Barnabas again appears for us in Acts 9, and we remember how the Saul had become a believer in Jesus after being a persecutor of the church and now he comes to embrace Jesus as the Messiah and Lord.
We read in Acts 9:26 and following,
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him…
and rightly so. He had been the one who threw men and women and children into prison and had them whipped, beaten, and some killed. It wasn’t easy to accept him. He has completely turned around and changed from being a persecutor of the church to
“…being one of us.”
They distanced themselves from Saul; “You know we are not going to trust him yet.” Then we have this precious Verse 27,
But, Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the lord and the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
God used Barnabas to introduce Paul to the church and for the church to accept Paul and to embrace him as one of the members.
We continue our story in Acts 11:19,
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.
There has been a brief pause from Acts 8 to Acts 11. We are told the stories of Saul’s conversion and then of Peter’s interaction with Cornelius. It has been an important pause in the story. In Acts 8:1, for instance, we read Saul is part of the persecution on the church,
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
Then in Verse 4 of Chapter 8,
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
There is eight to ten years of time that has passed by, and we come to Acts 11, and we see Luke writing in very designed form, to be very logical and orderly in his presentation of the history of the church, and he says in Acts 11:19,
“Now those who have been scattered by the persecution…”
In other words, “Do you remember when I was talking how I told you a little bit of that story? They were scattered, but they were only preaching to the Jews. This was a message from Yahweh, the Lord God, and the Lord God had chosen Israel. All of Israel should hear this message, but at this point, it was still difficult for the community of God to consider that this message would be of any interest to the Gentiles, or should be scattered, or should be proclaimed to them. They kept their focus upon the Jews that were scattered throughout the world.”
We read then, in Verse 20 and 21,
Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch…
Again, about eight to ten years of time has passed, and they
…began to speak to Greeks also…
This is rather radical.
…telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
God is showing that it is possible for the Gentiles to hear the Gospel; and not just possible for them to hear the Gospel, but for them to believe it and become members of His new community, of His new society of the church.
This might not seem so radical to us as we read it. After all, this is what has been happening for the last two thousand years, but for that 1st Century Christian, this was extremely alarming and radical. “What? Tell that story again. That is an amazing incident that this Gospel should begin to be proclaimed to Gentiles and that they would believe it and be included in God’s new community.”
The focus of this story is the city of Antioch and it is important for us to know a few details about Antioch. Antioch is an ancient center of politics and commerce. It is a very wealthy and luxurious city. Its main street was some four miles long and paved with marble. Along that main street were marble colonnades lining the street of Antioch; a very wealthy, luxurious, cosmopolitan city. It was the third largest city and the most influential city of the Roman Empire, behind only Rome and Athens. It was a city that was culturally and racially diverse. It was a melting pot where all different peoples came together and it was the access between the East and Rome, and the West. Everything flowed through Antioch, and as a result, there were all different kinds of people in that city.
It is important for us to observe that this was a spiritually, dark city. It was morally corrupt, even by ancient standards. It was, perhaps, second only to Corinth in its reputation for being sexually immoral. It was considered the center of licentious sexual indulgence with open prostitution in the streets and as part of the worship of the gods and goddesses. It was in this environment that God chose to introduce the Gospel to the Gentiles and take root and spread throughout the rest of the Gentile world.
As we consider Barnabas as a model of Christian encouragement, we discover four actions that Christian encouragement practices.
Christian encouragement gets personally involved.
Christian encouragement rejoices with others.
Christian encouragement strengthens spiritual maturity.
Christian encouragement enlists other encouragers.
The first action that we are going to observe is that Christian encouragement gets personally involved.
Look at Verse 21 of Acts 11,
The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
It is important for us to observe that Antioch was not evangelized by the professionals, by the clergy, as it were, or even by the church leaders. Antioch was changed. Antioch had the church planted, had Christianity started and rooted there, as a result of the effort of average members of the church, laypeople, who were faithful in their following Jesus, in their obedience of Him, and in their witness to Him. As ordinary men and women who went about their ordinary lives, they told others about Jesus and people believed and it says, “They turned.” That is not an accident that that word, “They turned,” is there. They turned from their idols, they turned from their sin and they turned to God and they turned to Jesus Christ as Lord and as the Messiah.
Verse 22, it tells us,
News reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem…
This was an established church. It was a church that was some ten years old. It was now a mature church, and so they hear of all these people believing and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. They sent the man with the biggest heart to help these young, growing Christians.
It is vital that the church of Jesus Christ would send a person to talk with these new Christians, to teach them more, to encourage them along the way, to help the become rooted and grounded in the faith. Without such a teacher, without such an encourager, a church is very fragile; a Christian is very fragile. It is vital that when a person comes to faith in Christ, they immediately be connected with other believers who are able to root them and ground them, in the Word of God. This is the vision of the church in Jerusalem and so they send Barnabas.
It is important for us to note that the church didn’t send a set of commentaries and say, “Study the Word. Here is a set of commentaries. God bless you.” The church didn’t send video tapes, e-mails, or send money. It is not that these things are not helpful. They are, and they are ways that we can encourage others. But, we first have to recognize that without personal relationships, there can be no real influence, no real impact, upon the lives of this church.
Professor Howard Hendricks would often say, at Dallas Seminary, “You can impress someone from a distance but you can only impact them up close.” If we are to have impact, if we are to have spiritual influence, we have to get personally involved. If we are to be encouragers, we must build personal relationships with people. It is vital to remember this as we set out to encourage others. Personal involvement requires much more time and energy.
Antioch was three hundred miles away from Barnabas in Jerusalem. Yet, Barnabas didn’t blink an eye. “Go to Antioch.” “I’m there.” He didn’t say, “Boy, you know, I don’t know if that fits into my daytimer.” Barnabas instead, recognized the absolute necessity of personal involvement and that personal involvement would require time and energy and so Barnabas started walking. If you and I are going to be encouragers we are going to have to be ready to sacrifice time and energy to be personally involved in the lives of other people in the church.
Personal involvement also requires a risk; a risk of rejection. Barnabas could have arrived and the Gentile Christians could have said, “Well, who are you? Why do we need you here? I just think we are doing fine by ourselves. We don’t need some outsider to come up here and teach us the Word. We can be fine on our own.” That was the risk that Barnabas faced.
Barnabas could have thought, “You know, I don’t know if I am going to be welcomed there. I don’t even know if they want me, anyway.”
I believe that one of the major reasons we are not more encouraging in the church is this: we have an idea that maybe other people maybe don’t want us to get involved in their lives. Maybe they will turn away from us if we do and so we don’t want to put ourselves in a place we are not wanted. It might be true that we might find someone resisting encouragement. If we don’t risk rejection, we will never be able to be personally involved and have a ministry of encouragement and strengthening other Christians which is our sacred responsibility before God. We think, “You know, I really don’t want to be a bother.”
I want you to stop and think for a moment about the people who have influenced your life, who have impacted your development the most. Were they not people who got personally involved with you? For some of you, it may be that mom or dad who took time with you throughout their busy lives. They made sure that they made time for you as a young boy or as a young girl, and they impacted you deeply because of that. For others, it might be that teacher who risked rejection and reached out to you, or that friend who stood with you in rough times, even when it became uncomfortable and others stood at a distance. If we are going to encourage others, we have to get up close and personal and take risks and invest time and energy.
Jackie Robinson was the first black player to play major league baseball, and while breaking baseball’s color bearer, he faced criticism and jeering crowds in every stadium. One day, while playing in his own home-stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error, and the crowd was merciless to him as they began to jeer and ridicule. He stood at second base just humiliated as the noise pounded down upon him. It was then shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood right next to him and he put him arm around him and then Pee Wee Reese, who was a very popular player, just looked around at the crowd and the crowd got silent and they didn’t to that to Jackie Robinson ever again. Jackie Robinson later said, “That arm around my shoulder saved my career.”
Beloved, personal involvement is necessary if we are going to be an encourager.
The second action that we find in this passage is Christian encouragement rejoices with others, especially in God’s blessing of others.
Look at Verse 23,
When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad…
It is possible to pass over these little statements lightly and say, “Well, of course he was glad. God was working. Who wouldn’t be glad? What is there not to be glad about?”
Commentator James Boyce writes, “We must remember that this was a new situation and it was not a foregone conclusion that a Jew, particularly a Levite, would rejoice in it. He might have opposed preaching to Gentiles entirely. Or, he might have said begrudgingly, ‘Well, I guess the Gentiles have a right to hear it too, if they must. If God is determined to include them, I won’t stand in His way.'” But, Barnabas did not react that way. On the contrary, when he saw the Gospel was bearing fruit in the Gentile community, he was delighted to see it. These were not his people. Antioch was not his home city, but God was working and he was pleased.
We really do need to learn from Barnabas in this respect; to learn to be happy when God is blessing others, when God is working somewhere else. All of us are happy when God is working graciously in our lives, or in our church, or in our family. It is easy to rejoice, “Wow! Look at what God is doing?” But, what about when God is blessing people who are not in our families, who are not in our church; when God is blessing somewhere else? Often times, we are not so happy, are we? We are restrained in our enthusiasm and we must learn if we are to be encouragers, to rejoice with those who rejoice. Barnabas was genuinely happy for these Christians in Antioch, “God is beginning to work a marvelous act of grace among these people.” He refused to allow self-centeredness and jealousy to spoil his joy in other’s blessing.
When we cannot rejoice when God blesses others that is a sure sign that dark sin reigns in our heart and we remove ourselves from the ministry of encouragement altogether. Sometimes we allow self-centeredness to take root and it robs us of our own joy because the truth is, when we encourage others we are not subtracting from the blessings of God in our lives, but rather, we are adding to it when we rejoice with others. I wonder if self-centeredness and jealously is not often the cause of “Christian grumpiness.” There is much too much Christian grumpiness in this world. Sometimes trials do weigh us down in life, and sorrow is appropriate. It is not necessarily always appropriate as a giddy smile upon our faces, but even then in the midst of our sorrow, our hearts can be lifted up if we are willing to love others enough to genuinely rejoice with them when God blesses them. It is in this way that God brings us out of the depths of our sorrow as we rejoice with others.
Barnabas refused to embrace a critical spirit and really it was a matter of seeing. What did he set; here among the people? It says, Barnabas
…saw the evidence of the grace of God…
He had different eyes. He could have seen something quite different among these people. After all, these were very new Christians and they had lived in a very pagan environment and undoubtedly, they had lived very pagan lives prior to their coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly, these new Christians, like all new Christians who live in a pagan world, still carried the mud of Antioch with them. Their language would not have always been appropriate in church. Their relationships, their ethics would still have been a mixture of transformation but still a lot of that mess of the darkness of their past world would have still stuck to them as God was bringing about the process. It would have been very easy to say, “You know, these Christians in Antioch, they don’t know nothing like we Christians in Jerusalem do. They have so far to go.” He could have taken a rather harsh tone, “Well, you’ve done a good job, but…” and could have taken a very, very harsh tone with them. Instead, Barnabas saw God’s Grace at work; he saw the Fruit of the Spirit beginning to take root and grow in love and joy and peace and he was glad.
By way of application we have to remember this with our kids. Sometimes we see how much they need to grow yet; how far they have to progress before they truly are ready for this world, to mature, particularly mature in Christ, that we miss seeing the Grace of God at work. We become harsh, and critical, and belittling and always harping on the things that need to be changed as opposed to rejoicing with them; of seeing how God is at worked and encouraging them, stimulating them on in the faith.
Barnabas did not feel the need to point out everything that was not quite right yet. Yet, he trusted God’s Grace to make progress in their life. It is so sad when Christians are known more for their criticism than they are for their compliments.
There was a little girl who once prayed, “Lord, make the bad people good and make the good people nice.” Isn’t that interesting? A little perception of a little girl, “All the good people I know seem to be grumpy. They don’t seem to be as nice. Make the good people nice. Lord, make the Christians nice.”
If we are to encourage others we must be willing to rejoice when God blesses others.
What does Christian encouragement do? It first gets personally involved. Second, rejoicing in God’s blessing of others. The third action we observe is Christian encouragement strengthens spiritual maturity and I believe this is the main thought behind this story.
Verse 23, says,
…he was glad and encouraged then all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
Encouragement is not just giving compliments. It is also sometimes exhortations, saying, “This is what I want to encourage you in. This is the direction that God has for you. On the basis of the Word of God this is what God says about your lives and about the commitments to be made.” He says, “First, I encourage you in the area of remaining true; persevere in this, don’t give up. Yes, it is going to get tough, but keep your eyes on Jesus. Remain faithful to Jesus. Secondly, do it with all your heart; be passionate about this. Be whole hearted. Don’t go halfway. Don’t come to a certain point and then stop and say, ‘That’s enough!’ But with all your hearts, give yourself wholly over to the Lord.”
Believers everywhere need this kind of encouragement to remain true with all our hearts to persevere and do so with passion and zeal and energy.
Who needs this kind of encouragement? Children do. Teenagers do. Moms do, too. Remain true to the Lord and do so with all your heart. I think grandmas and grandpas need that. What about Cat engineers? How about carpenters? How about doctors and nurses? What about Sunday school teachers, do they need that encouragement? “Stay true to the Lord. Do it with all your heart.” What about deacons? What about pastors? “Persevere. Be whole hearted.” Encouragement can make all the difference in our lives as we hold on to God.
To remain true to the Lord means to love Jesus, to walk in His ways, to obey Him, and to submit to God’s Word to serve Him faithfully. Where will we find such encouragement? If we are to find it we will only find it in one place and that is among God’s people. You will never find that kind of encouragement anywhere else. You won’t find it in a seminar. You won’t find it in Congress. You won’t find it your neighborhood. There is one place you are going to find that encouragement and that is among God’s people. The question is, “Will we find it there?” We need it and God’s people are the only people who can provide it. Will we find it among God’s people?
It is up to us, isn’t it? It is up to us to grab hold of those commands that God’s given us to be part of that encouragement. The church must be more than the place to catch up on family news or health concerns or political happenings or sports stories. All of this is good and right in conversation within the church, but the New Testament fellowship goes deeper than socializing. We must have conversation that lifts up, builds up, and helps up brothers and sisters who need booster shots in their life of faith, and we all need booster shots at some time. Christian encouragement is not just about making the person feel better about themselves but Christian encouragement gives strength through spiritual maturity. It is easier to encourage others if we are to remain true to the Lord and are doing so with all our heart. I want to encourage you today, do not loose heart. Yes, the battle is hard but God is stronger than all our enemies. He is stronger than the flesh that battles within you. God is stronger than the devil that battles outside of you. God is stronger than the world that battles against you all around you.
Barnabas had an ability to motivate other believers in their walk with Jesus that was contagious, and he is our model. Perhaps you have discovered some people in your life, when you come around them their conversation drags you down. It is depressing; it sort of just sucks the morale out of the room when they are there. It is all down, down, down; all gloom, all joyless, all critical, all harsh. Then there are others you can spend five minutes with and you just sense there is a strengthening as you walk toward them. You want to serve God more whole-heartedly just because of their demeanor, their conversation, and their actions.
Beloved, this is Barnabas and this can be you and this can be me, just as we read in Verse 24,
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
A church that is full of encouragement is a church that is full. What happened when Barnabas started encouraging? More and more people began to walk with Christ and be witnesses and more and more people came to know Jesus as Savior. A church that is full of encouragement is a church that is full.
The fourth action is Christian encouragement enlists others to encourage as we see in Verse 25,
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul…
Barnabas looks at this church that is growing and he is trying to encourage everybody and he realizes, “Man, there are more people than I can encourage around here! I’m going to need some help and I need someone who is going to be able to teach this group of people who don’t know anything about the Scriptures. I am going to need someone who is going to be able to teach them the Word of God. That is what this place needs. I need someone else who can come along side of me to help encourage this new church,” so he goes on his search and he goes to find Saul.
We should admire Barnabas for his humility and being willing to share his ministry with others. This is uncommon. Sadly, it is uncommon. Barnabas had no proprietary relationship with people in Antioch to say, “These are my people. I want to make sure they always will see me as the guy to go to for spiritual counsel; to look to as the spiritual model.” None of that, he says, “No, it doesn’t really matter who they look to. I just want to see that they look to someone who is following Jesus Christ.” He was willing to allow his name to decrease in order for the church to be blessed. That was his heart and his passion that God would be glorified and God’s people would find greater joy in Jesus Christ. He didn’t care how it happened. He didn’t care who got the credit. He didn’t care if he faded out in the complete background altogether. All he cared about was that God would be glorified. If we are going to be encouragers, this must be our heart. We can’t care about who gets the credit or who gets the honor. We can only care about God’s Glory and the joy of God’s people growing in Jesus Christ.
Barnabas, as he brings Saul in, is a prominent guy. We have seen two different sections, Chapter 4 and Chapter 9, and now Chapter 11, “Barnabas. Barnabas. Send Barnabas. He is the man.” Then we are going to find that they are going to send Barnabas and Saul together on the first mission trip and it is going to say, “Barnabas and Saul,” but from there on whenever Barnabas and Saul’s name appear in Acts, it is not longer “Barnabas and Saul.” It is “Paul and Barnabas.” Paul takes prominence among the people and we don’t see any sense from Barnabas that he is bothered by that at all. “That’s all right. To God be the glory.”
Beloved, it is vital for us in our relationships with other Christians not to become jealous, not to become envious of how close other people are to other Christians and beginning to try to protect our relationships and keep others out. All we are to care about is the glory of God and the joy of God’s people and let God take care of all the rest. God will take care of you. God will give you more joy than you could ever possibly imagine.
In Verse 25, “He went to look for Saul.” That word, “to look,” it is easy to pass over that, but sometimes finding other people to encourage is not so easy. And that word, “look for Saul,” suggests a laborious search. The Greek Lexicon says, “It’s specially used of searching for human beings with an implication of difficulty.” Barnabas had a hard time finding Saul, but he didn’t give up. Sometimes when we are looking for other people to encourage to the Body of Christ, “You know, I need another person to teach Sunday school with me.” “I need another person to be a part of this youth group.” “I need another person to teach a women’s Bible study or a men’s discipleship group.” Sometimes in our search, it is going to be hard and it is going to be fraught with difficulties, but we need to be like Barnabas in this encouragement business. We need to say, “I am going to seek and seek and seek, and I am never going to give up. I am not going to be discouraged because the first person said, ‘No,’ and the second person said, ‘No.’ I am going to seek and seek because I am an encourager and encouragers always recruit other people to bring more encouragement to the Body of Christ.”
For a degree that I received, I wrote a dissertation on How Church Members Become Church Leaders; what is the process, how does that happen. I interviewed many church leaders, lay church leaders, in several different churches and one of the things that stood out amongst the vast majority of those men that I interviewed was, “Early in my Christian life, someone,” they’d name their pastor, a couple of them named their dad, a couple of them named other Christian friends, other Christian leaders, lay leaders, church leaders, “came up to me and said, ‘Joe, you need to be teaching Sunday school'” Joe said, “I looked at the guy and I said, ‘I don’t know how to teach Sunday school. I don’t think I am gifted in that way.'” “Joe, you need to be teaching Sunday school. In fact, you are going to be teaching next week,” and so, Joe taught Sunday school next week. As Joe taught Sunday school, he sort of fumbled his way through the first lesson and the second lesson, pretty soon, he realized, “You know, this is a delight.” He saw how God began to use him and he said, “This is what I really am looking for. I am so excited about serving God now.” It happened, almost without exception, all of these guys who are now seasoned church leaders looked back at some point in their life, “Someone recruited me. Someone made me do something that I really didn’t want to do, but they encouraged me. They brought me into the process.”
A healthy church is not afraid to ask others to join in ministry; not afraid to go up to people personally because we are not doing it for ourselves. We are doing it for Jesus Christ. That person whom we ask, if they respond to God, they are going to find more joy in that in their life than anything else and the will come back to thank us.
Encouragers recruit. How can I become an encourager? First we need to become Christians. We need the Grace of God to change our hearts.
It was here in Antioch that,
The disciples were called Christians…in Antioch.
That is interesting in Verse 26. Barnabas and Saul spent a whole year teaching this group the Word of God and this group, as they grew, and they grew not only in numbers, but they grew in maturity to such an extent, they didn’t say to themselves, “We are going to print some t-shirts. What should we call ourselves? ‘Christians,’ how about that?” Do you know how they got the name “Christians?” It was the unbelieving community who looked at this growing group of people, whose lives so much centered around Jesus Christ, they talked about Jesus Christ, they lived like Jesus Christ, everything about them was, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” and they looked at them and said, “Who are these people? They are ‘Christians,’ you know, ‘Christ Ones.’ They belong to Christ. It is so obvious to us.”
The name “Christian” has lost much of its meaning today because it means if you are not Muslim, if you are not Hindu, you are “Christian.” You go to some church or you are part of some religious party. That is not what it meant in the 1st Century. What it meant in the 1st Century is “That person’s life is so different and it is so evident that everything about them revolves around Jesus Christ. Yeah, they are ‘Christians.’ They are ‘Christ Ones.'”
The question we have to ask ourselves as we embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is, “Does the unbelieving world, do they view us that way? Do they see and recognize that everything about our lives really does center on Jesus so that they look at us and they are willing to say, ‘Yeah, that is that Jesus-person. That is that Jesus-man or that Jesus-woman.” If that is what is what is happening here, if we are going to become encouragers, we are first going to have to become Christians. We have to know God.
Secondly, I want to read Verse 24.
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith…
We need God’s Holy Spirit to empower our lives. We need to be full of God’s Spirit and dependant on God’s Spirit daily and we need to be full of faith. That means we need to hold on to the Truth of God in such a way that God’s Truth brings passion into our live, it brings love for other people, and it directs our path, it directs our conversation full of faith.
If you want to be the encourager, God has designed you to be an encourager for God’s Glory and for your joy.