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Cultivating a Spirit of Encouragement by Jen McCarthy

By December 11, 2006Uncategorized

Dear Wonderfully Made Ladies:

It is a great thing to be heading into another Christmas season! I absolutely love the Christmas music, breaking out the wrapping paper, making Christmas goodies, attending holiday concerts, seeing family again…and most of all, having another reason to celebrate the birth of our Amazing Savior, the one true reason for our joy!!!

The thing of it is, for many women this isn’t an accurate portrayal of the holiday season at all. Don’t we all know women who struggle at the holidays, women in situations more like these?

Terri, a dorm friend, lost her dad this past spring. She still feels overwhelmed and empty, but she doesn’t want to burden or bore friends with this kind of conversation.

Alexa is dating someone new, a guy all wrong for her. She knows he’s hurtful, but she’s so scared of being alone again.

Sydney wants to be better than she is. She comes off as genuine and good-natured, and everyone loves her. But she struggles secretly with an “embarrassing” sin, and she’s not sure how to stop, and if God could possibly love her.

Maybe you have friends struggling in relationships, dealing with loss or loneliness, addictions, sins, or depression; friends questioning their purposes and worth. Even among the women dutifully planning parties, baking and wrapping, many are deflated, anxious, and insecure…devoid of true hope. So many women need hope!

I wanted to give you a special charge this year, Wonderfully Made Women! Would you ask God to show you where you can deliver hope and encouragement to others this holiday season? The Lord is so kind and faithful- abundant in compassion and mercy! He is the reason for our hope, and He uses us to pass along these messages of hope to other women! In turn, we reap the benefits of loving others. Loving and selfless service is one of the greatest secrets to fulfillment and joy!

How can you prepare for your holiday ministry of encouragement?

To answer this question, there’s a fantastic guy I’d like you to meet! His name was Joseph, but the apostles gave him a new name, Barnabas, meaning “Son of Encouragement.” You may have come across him if you’ve done reading in Acts, Luke’s writing that chronicles the acts of the Apostles and the birth of the Christian church.

Barnabas was an unbelievably amazing encourager! Scan his resume of character and encouragement below:

The Acts of the Apostles

Barnabas had a selfless, others-focused spirit. He sold his own land and laid the money at the apostles’ feet. (At this time, believers were selling their possessions to share everything amongst each other).

9:27: Christians were afraid of Paul. He was such a horrible persecutor of the church, and they didn’t trust him- even after he claimed to be a Christian. It was Barnabas who embraced him, stuck up for him, validated him, and vouched for him. He believed the best in Paul, someone hard to trust and love, and connected him to other Christians.

11:22-30: The Good News of Christ wasn’t just for Jews. Gentiles were hearing and being saved, too! When the church in Jerusalem heard about Greeks becoming Christians, they sent Barnabas to Antioch, home of the first largely Gentile church. Luke wrote that when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, “he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.” Luke explained that Barnabas did this because he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And lots of people were brought to the Lord! These passages also show that Barnabas was faithful to these new Christians. He discipled them, sticking around to teach them for an entire year.

12:25-13: Barnabas fulfilled his mission in Jerusalem. And the Holy Spirit told the Christian leaders at Antioch to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which the Spirit had called them. Then they quickly obeyed and got to work, sharing the Good News with others!

13:43: Barnabas and Paul were urging the believers to continue in the grace of God. In other words, they were encouraging folks to keep on keepin’ on!

13:46: Barnabas and Paul spoke out boldly, and many people became Christians. They were eventually persecuted and driven out of this area.

14:3: They spent a long time in their new location, Iconium, speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord. And God granted that they would be able to do signs and wonders to confirm the truth of their message and the approval of God.

14:12-18: Okay, you won’t believe this part. Barnabas and Paul fled to a city called Lystra after Iconium, and the patron god of Lystra was Zeus. When God performed a miracle through Paul (a man who had been lame from birth was made able to walk), the people thought that the gods had become like men and had come to them. They began to call Barnabas, Zeus! They even tried to make sacrifices to them (with oxen and garlands). But when Barnabas and Paul got a whiff of this, they tore their clothes- this symbolized great anguish- and they began to plea with everyone. “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”

See, this was their big chance to smile, to be flattered, a little pompous. Oh no, I’m no Zeus, Barnabas could have said, grinning. But they didn’t even consider a prideful response, not for a second! Barnabas knew that things might get ugly after this, but he knew, more importantly, that this wasn’t about him.
14:19-23: And oh man, did it ever get ugly! Disbelieving Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and they won over the crowds. They began to stone Paul, and when they thought he was dead, they dragged him out of the city. But he was well enough to leave with Barnabas the next day! They went to another city where lots of folks became Christians, then returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. Why on earth did they go back?! To do the following thing!

Strengthen the souls of the disciples, encourage them to continue in the faith. They also told them that we must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations, and they helped to establish the church leaders, commending them to the Lord.

14:27: In Antioch, they gathered everyone in the church together and started reporting on all that God had been doing, how he had opened a door to the Gentiles and done other things through them. And after sharing these encouraging acts of God, they stayed with these disciples a long time.

15:2-3: They refuted a lie about salvation. Some folks were saying that you still had to be circumcised to receive salvation, and Paul and Barnabas argued to set the record straight. It was decided that they should go address this issue in person (it was originating in folks from a different city), and on the way they stopped to encourage Christians in other cities- “bringing great joy to all the brethren!”

15:12: They argued for the gospel, sharing what they believed: that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus. Everyone listened to Barnabas and Paul as they relayed the wonders and signs that God had done through them.

15:22-31: When legalists were making Christians insecure, Barnabas and others delivered a few essential rules to clarify the truth and to relieve these Christians of an unfair, untruthful burden of legalism. They delivered hope! The church received this news, and they rejoiced because of its encouragement.

15:36-39: Paul and Barnabas decided to take a trip (this was the second missionary journey) to visit every city in which they’d previously proclaimed the gospel. They wanted to check up on the new Christians and see how they were doing. Barnabas wanted to take John-Mark (you know him as the author of Mark), but Paul did not want him joining them. After all, John-Mark had deserted them on the last trip! Paul and Barnabas actually split up over this disagreement*, Barnabas believing the best and wanting to give John-Mark another chance.

*(Co. 4:10: This verse confirms that eventually all things were smoothed over between Paul and John-Mark!)

And that is the last time we hear about Barnabas in Acts!

So now…back to you, Precious Daughter of God!

Here are some steps you can take to see where God might be leading you this season in terms of a ministry of encouragement:
1. Pray! Invite God into your holiday season, and ask Him to use you however He’d like!
2. Review! Go back over this list, reading the words or phrases in bold. Think about how you might be able to apply these to your life and ministry. How might you embrace these characteristics to become a Daughter of Encouragement this season?
3. Act! Begin to encourage others…today!!!

Merry Christmas, Wonderfully Made Ladies!!!

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