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Be an Encourager for God

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Be an Encourager for God

Acts 11:19-26

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Nov. 17, 2013

*Everybody needs encouragement. The night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre, he was carrying: two pairs of glasses, a small velvet eyeglass cleaner, an ivory pocketknife, a large handkerchief with "A. Lincoln" stitched in red, a tiny pencil, a brass sleeve button, a fancy watch fob, and a brown wallet with a Confederate five-dollar bill. But Lincoln also carried 8 newspaper clippings that he had cut out and saved. All of them praised the President who carried so much weight on his shoulders. (1)

*Lincoln carried those positive clippings because he needed encouragement. Everybody does. And God wants us to be those encouragers. Our encouragement can do great things for God.

1. So in today's Scripture, notice first the suffering. Our encouragement can help other people overcome great suffering.

*Verse 19 reminds us that these early Christians had gone through some terrible suffering. There God's Word says that "those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only."

*This was a most difficult time for the church. Stephen the Deacon was one of their best leaders, and he had been cruelly murdered. That alone was a terrible blow to the church. But the suffering did not stop with Stephen's death. In fact, Stephen's murder set off a tsunami of persecution on the other Christians.

*Before he got saved, the Apostle Paul was one of the ringleaders. His original name was Saul, and Acts 8:1-4 tells us that:

1. . . Saul was consenting to his (Stephen's) death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

2. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

3. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

4. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

*People were being beaten, thrown into jail, even killed, just because they were followers of Jesus Christ. The early Christians had to run for their lives! The church was scattered.

*But as they went, they preached the good news about Jesus, and many people turned to the Lord. That's why in vs. 22 the church in Jerusalem sent a man to help out in Antioch. He had first come on the scene in Acts 4, and his name was Joses. But he was such an encourager that they gave him a nickname: "Barnabas, The Son of encouragement." And his encouragement helped these suffering people.

*Over 60 years ago, R.A. Bosshardt and a man named Hayman were taken prisoner by the Communists in China. They sat on the freezing floor one December day. There was no fire, and only a little rice and vegetables to eat.

*The two Christian men were forbidden by the cruel guards to even speak. Things couldn't have seemed more gloomy and dismal. But the Holy Spirit sent a one word message to R.A. that made a world of difference. That word was "Emmanuel," which means "God with us." It was one of the names given to Jesus, because He truly IS God with all who will trust in Him.

*R.A. longed to pass his encouragement on to Mr. Hayman, so he formed letters on the ground with pieces of straw to spell out "Emmanuel." It was just one word on the cold, hard ground, written in pieces of straw. But that encouraging word turned their freezing cell into a place of great joy. (2)

*Our encouragement can help suffering people too.

2. But also notice the sending in today's Scripture. God sends us out to encourage more people.

*In spite of the crisis (and partly because of the crisis) great things were happening in Antioch. We see this in vs. 20&21:

20. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.

21. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.

*Great things were happening in Antioch. In fact, it was the greatest thing of all: People were believing in Jesus, turning to the Lord and getting saved!

*But encouragement can make a great blessing even better. So in vs. 22-23, the church sent Barnabas to Antioch:

22. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.

23. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.

*The church sent Barnabas to "encourage" or "exhort" the Christians in Antioch. And God wants to send us to encourage other people. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to encourage one another every day.

*But what does God mean when He tells us to "encourage" one another? It helps us to know more about this important word in the original language. It is "parakaleo" and it is found 108 times in the New Testament. That fact is easy for us to miss, because this same word is also translated as "beseech," "plead" and "beg."

*For example, Matthew 8:5&6 says:

5. Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, PLEADING with Him,

6. saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented." (That word "pleading" is the same word as "encouraging" here in Acts 11.)

*Matthew 14:35&36 says:

35. . . When the men of that place recognized (Jesus), they sent out into all that surrounding region, brought to Him all who were sick,

36. and BEGGED Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well. ("Begged" is the same word.)

*Sometimes this word is translated "desire" or "pray". In Acts 16:9, a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and PRAYED him, saying, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us." ("Prayed" -- Same word)

*This word for encouragement is also translated as "comfort." In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be COMFORTED."

*So our encouragement for other people can include comforting, pleading, even begging them. It also helps to know that the word picture here is "calling someone close by your side." And this word is especially important, because God chose the noun form as a name for Himself: "The Comforter."

*On the night before He went to the cross, Jesus said this in John 14:15-18:

15. If ye love me, keep my commandments.

16. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;

17. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

18. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

*Jesus called God's Holy Spirit "the Comforter." And God the Father sent His Holy Spirit in part to encourage us. So being an encourager is not only important to people, it's important to God. It's a big deal...

*Being an encourager is a Christ-like, Godly thing to do. And God wants to send US to be encouragers. Barnabas knew that. That's why we see him back on the road in vs. 25-26:

25. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.

26. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

*Barnabas went all the way to Tarsus to encourage Paul to come help in Antioch. That was a trip of 100 miles by sea or 150 miles by land. And beyond the distance, imagine how hard it was to find anybody in that time. Barnabas probably had to travel on foot, with none of the modern technology we get to use every day.

*Also remember that this was a big stretch for Barnabas, because Paul had been one of the chief persecutors of the church. And even after Paul got saved, the church was not too eager to accept him. But by the grace of God, Barnabas saw the change and the potential in Paul. So back in Acts 9, Barnabas vouched for Paul before the church in Jerusalem. And now he encouraged Paul to come help the church in Antioch.

*I'm so glad Barnabas did that! Boundless good came from that encouragement. Boundless good came, because Barnabas was willing to go the distance for God. How far would you be willing to go? And how long would you be willing to look?

*God is still sending His servants out to encourage other people.

3. But also notice the saving in today's Scripture. Our encouragement can help more people be saved!

*This is one of the best things our encouragement can ever do, and we see it happening in vs. 23-24. Here the Bible says this about Barnabas:

23. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.

24. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

*Many people were added to the Lord. They were saved! Why did that happen?

[1] One reason why is because Barnabas shined for the Lord.

*In vs. 24, people could see that Barnabas was a good man who was full of the Holy Spirit. There was something special about Barnabas. He overflowed with the goodness of God. People could see Christ in him, the hope of glory, and that's who they need to see in us.

*Sue Kidd tells about the time her little girl got a part in the Christmas play: She was the Star of Bethlehem. After the first rehearsal, Sue's little girl came running through the door with her costume. It was a big, shiny, golden star that hung over her shoulders. Mom asked, "What exactly will you be doing in the play?" And her daughter replied, "I just stand there and shine." (3)

*That's what we need to do! In a cold and gloomy world we need to show other people that there is a better way. We need to shine for Jesus!

[2] But that's not enough. Barnabas also had to share the good news about Jesus.

*Verse 24 tells us that he was full of faith. Barnabas believed in Jesus Christ. He believed the good news. He was so full of faith that it just had to overflow, and it did when Barnabas shared the truth about Jesus.

*He told people about the cross:

-How Jesus died on the cross for our sins...

-How He rose from the dead...

-How Jesus is Lord of all...

-And how He saves anyone who will trust in the Lord.

*Barnabas did all he could to share Jesus, and so should we. But here's the amazing truth: Just a few words of encouragement from us can help someone go to Heaven. Tell somebody what Jesus means to you. Invite them to church. Show them kindness, and tell them it's just a small way to say "God loves you."

*There are many ways to share the good news about Jesus.

-And our encouragement can help more people be saved!

4. But our encouragement can also help strengthen other Christians.

[1] It can help strengthen their grip.

*That's what Barnabas did back up in vs. 23: "When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord." The NIV says he "encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." Verse 23 in the KJV says Barnabas encouraged "them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord."

*"Cleave to the Lord." I like that. Keep following Jesus. Stay true to Him. The idea is to be intentional and persistent about holding on to the Lord. Stay close and loyal to the Lord. Get a good grip on the Lord. Hang on to Jesus with all your heart, because He is worthy of our trust and devotion. Hang on to Jesus! That's good advice! It's the best advice we can ever give.

*God wants us to encourage other Christians to hang on to the Lord with all their hearts! -- And our encouragement can strengthen their grip.

[2] Our encouragement can also strengthen their growth.

*That's what happened in vs. 26, when Barnabas found Paul:

26. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

*Paul and Barnabas taught the believers, and Christians grew strong. Now you may not be a teacher, but your encouragement can help other believers grow in grace. Your encouragement can make an amazing difference in someone else's life.

John Ortberg gave a testimony about his father-in-law, Al. Al was a likeable guy, a natural athlete and a devoted outdoorsman who loved to hunt and fish.

*He must have loved to go dove hunting, because John said this: "We didn't realize how excited Al was about the prospect of taking (our daughter, Laura) to the Great Outdoors with him. Then one day we were driving home from their house, where she had been secretly coached by Al for some time.

*We were putting her through one of the routines that toddlers have to endure:

-'Laura, what sound does a kitty make?' 'Meow.'

-'And what sound does a doggie make?' 'Woof, woof.'

-And what sound does a birdie make?' This time, without hesitation, she answered: 'BANG!' Her grandfather wanted her to know."

*John's testimony took a serious turn when he said this about his father-in-law: "Al's ragged edge ran toward the bottle. -- He was an alcoholic, as were his father, uncle, and brother, not the sloppy kind, he didn't miss work or throw away money. But it made him hard to get to know.

*Nancy always knew her dad loved her, but he never said it outright. Sometimes if she told him she loved him, over the phone, he might say, 'Me too, punk,' but he never volunteered it.

*One fall his skin turned yellow, and the doctors told him they wanted to test him for pancreatic cancer. . . We were waiting at his house for him to come home with the test results. 'Got it!' were his first words when he came in the door. He didn't say much more about it. . .

*He had never been very concerned about God one way or the other. He wasn't particularly hostile, just casually disinterested. We tried to talk with him now but didn't get far, until one day when my mother was visiting.

*She talked to Al about how they shared the same grandchildren, about how life was unpredictable. Maybe she would go first, but if Al should die, and the grandkids should ask someday about him and God, what should she tell them? How did it stand between Al and God?

*'Fine,' he said. 'Everything's fine with God and me. Why shouldn't it be?' She pressed further and explained about how 'God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.' The light dawned, the ice melted, and Al prayed and gave his life to God. . .

*Not long after that Al went into the hospital. On a Friday night, he called for Nancy. They talked for a while. Then before Nancy hung up the phone I heard her say one of the few phrases I will remember as long as I live: 'I love you too, Dad,' she said.

*I asked her if that meant what I thought it did. Yes, her dad said he loved her. That was on a Friday night. The next morning, Al suffered a stroke, which is not uncommon given his condition and treatment. For six weeks he was virtually unable to speak or control the simplest of bodily functions, and then he died.

*The last time Nancy heard her dad speak was the first time he said, 'I love you.'" (4)

*On top of that, Al is now in Heaven. And all of these blessings came, because one of his in-laws went to Al, and encouraged him to trust in the Lord.


*Our encouragement can make an amazing difference in other people's lives. Christians: Remember this great truth, and commit yourself to be the encourager God wants us to be.

*And if you have never trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me encourage you right now: "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us." Give your life to God. Open your heart to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

*You can do that right now, as we go to God in prayer.

(1) Fleming, Candace. The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary. (New York: Random House, Inc., 2008) - -

(2) Gary Bowell p. 46 - 1330

(3) Sue Monk Kidd in her book "Where the Heart Waits"

(4) Adapted from SermonCentral illustration contributed by Josh Hunt - Source: Ortberg, John (2010-04-27) - "Love Beyond Reason" (p. 27) - Zondervan - Kindle Edition

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