Shepherds Are Not Harsh or Forceful

The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. (Ezekiel 34:4)

The second half of this verse further demonstrates how we should not act if we are living in such a way as to grow up and fulfill the “good work” of shepherding God’s flock.  We have to learn to not deal harshly, angrily, or forcefully with our brethren.  This can be tough in our youth and time and experience is often needed to temper us and show us how to be patient and careful in our words and actions even when we are trying to help.

Harshness, anger, and forcefulness can come out in many ways.  First, it can come out in our words.  We cannot be slanderous or speak derogatory things about our brothers and sisters.  We must be thoughtful and careful with our words as we have said earlier.  We need to ensure we are not speaking in a way that injures, discourages, or inflames others.  Through thoughtful consideration of the situation and God’s word, we can then speak with care and avoid further hindering another.

Harshness, anger, and forcefulness can also come out in our actions or behaviors.  Our actions and behaviors do matter and even when we think that others are not watching, they are.  This is true in the world as we work to live as lights for the gospel’s sake and work to make decisions, take actions, or speak in ways that would not hinder someone coming to Jesus.  This is true with brethren too.  Again, it comes back to knowing them and knowing what actions or behaviors are encouraging versus a distraction or a stumbling block.  It is our responsibility to know that and to act carefully and in a way that builds up and not tears down.

For me, in both cases, my pride can often get me into trouble with words or deeds.  Even if I think I am right and/or I am defending another who is right, if I am not careful, my own feelings become more important than the others’ and I can become divisive and cause more damage to an already tough situation.  I can say that it seems to happen less as I get older, but it is still something I must work on.

Taking the time to put myself in another’s shoes, not projecting my own negative feelings onto another, and carefully deciding how to act and what to say has allowed me to be more understanding and I think more useful for those I am trying to help.

You know what types of situations can get you into trouble.  Take time and think about them.  What kinds of things put you on the defensive?  When do you become intolerant of other’s thoughts or ideas?  What things about you can set others off (i.e. posture, faces, emotions, words, etc.)?

Take some time and be honest with yourself.  It is okay that we are not there yet.  We are working to live a life that prepares us to shepherd.  Be self-aware.  Ask others for their assessment.  Seek out those that you observe handling situations well that you might not…and get their advice.

This is a team sport.  Remember we are body and shepherding is a gift along with a lot of other gifts God has given us to be used for our edification and to build us up in Jesus.  One step forward in improving how we talk and act in a kind and careful way is a step towards growth and preparedness for even greater opportunities in the future.

Shepherds Seek Weak Sheep and Strengthen Them

The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.  (Ezekiel 34:4)

We continue to consider what types of behaviors we should participate in as men in living a life for Jesus which prepares us for the “good work” of shepherding God’s flock.  In the above verse, we find another thing Israel’s shepherds were doing that was not correct and provides us insight into what right things we should be doing.  These shepherds did not seek out the weak and they did not take action for those needing help.

As followers of Jesus, we must build relationships with our brothers and sisters so that we know them and we know when they are struggling.  It is not enough, however, to just see it or to know it.  If we are going to grow up and be qualified to shepherd, we have to notice those that are struggling and we have to make it our responsibility to do something.  Provide a comforting word, take time and pray with them, encourage them for the good they are doing, go to the shepherds (or a more experienced man or woman if appropriate) and get guidance or ask for help.

We have to prepare ourselves to find ways to strengthen the weak.  We will have to find ways to help heal the sick, bind up the injured or bring back the lost.  Again, it doesn’t mean we have to go it alone.  It means we are aware and willing to be involved for the benefit of our Christian family.

There is nothing passive about God’s shepherds.  Therefore, if we are to grow up right, we cannot be passive either.  We need to train our heart and our mind to be proactive and work to help everyone we notice who is slipping or straying.  We might not always know the right thing to do, but we can know that something needs to be done and find help to act. We must be active members of the flock.

It is a common mistake to sit back and expect that someone else will notice or someone else will take action.  It is a mistake to only look out for those brothers or sisters you feel most comfortable with.  We have to be involved and active.  God expects it of us as part of the body and especially God will expect demonstrated proactive behavior over time if we are going to be qualified to shepherd.

We cannot be empathetic.  We cannot be lazy.  We cannot make excuses.  We are more than conquers in Jesus Christ so we can and must do something that will help another if we see the need.

Remember though, be thoughtful.  Thoughtful in how you speak and act.  Don’t be a hindrance.  Be sure you are making the situation better.  Remember God has the power and ability, we are an instrument so be prayerful.  Seek God’s strength and His power in all of this and you will be able to act confidently.  If we seek Christ, then we will act in ways that help and not hurt others.

Take some time and think about opportunities you have taken and ones you might have let slip by.  Think of those you might need to get to know better so that you can be an active participant in their walk.  Take time and pray about this and seek God’s wisdom and involvement in your growth as an active participant in His family.  Don’t try to do it all…crawl, walk, run.  But move forward and make this an important part of your life as your grow and serve.

Shepherds Feed Sheep, Not Themselves Alone

 

We will continue our discussion about shepherding and the importance of knowing what it means to shepherd God’s flock, understand what we can be doing as we mature in the faith to be prepared for this role, and work with each other help each other grow towards this “good work”.

Yesterday I referenced 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 as where we can go in God’s word to see what His qualifications are for shepherds (and deacons). In my mind, we can take these qualifications and work them backwards to determine what we should be doing throughout our lives so that we will be qualified when called. That said, we can also look at God’s word and find out what NOT to do and learn the same important lessons. That is what we will do starting in the beginning of Ezekiel 34. We are only going to look at the first few verses this week and will find God’s rebuke of the shepherds of Israel. But you can (and should) read the entire chapter and will find God talking about how He will shepherd and what we find there looks just like Jesus’ words in John 10 when He talks about being the Good Shepherd.

In Ezekiel 34:2-3, we read: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.

God gives us visual language so that we can understand but what God is talking about is a spiritual matter. God’s shepherds must be concerned with the maturity and spirituality of others. Though we can get caught up in the material things of this world in such a way that we do not take care of the more important spiritual matters, the soul of a person is what matters in the end. As men, we have to ensure we are in fellowship with God and our own soul is being strengthened. This will allow us to strengthen others to the point we can make it our mission to love, feed, and nourish the souls of others as we grow and mature in the faith.

So what can we do if we aren’t shepherds but a member of the flock? Good grief, tons! But today I will just give you a couple things to think and pray about in your own walk and things we can be looking out for in encouraging and helping other brothers and young men.

First, build relationships with others in the flock. Really get to know others. Make that important to you and position yourself to have a spiritual impact in another’s life. You can do this by ensuring you are present when the flock meets or making it a point to get together with others in different settings. The bottom line is to get together and make it your job to do the inviting and always try to say yes when invited.

Second, speak and speak God’s word. Participate in bible discussions, be thoughtful, share your thoughts, demonstrate your heart. This will edify others and will also provide opportunity to grow as you might need another’s guidance or help but how will they know if you don’t have a relationship or trust and/or you don’t speak. Be thoughtful, be about God’s word, be about edifying others and using your words not to defend your position but to build up another and make them feel safe.

God says of His shepherds: And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15)

Make it your mission to learn God’s word, build relationships so you know what is really going on in other’s lives, consider God’s word in the context of your relationship and speak His word into other’s lives for their edification through knowledge and understanding and God’s love demonstrated.

Hospitality

Hospitality is a word and concept we studied this morning in Bible class.  The Greek word for hospitality is “philoxenos” which means love (philos) strangers (xenos).  We considered many things during class in regards to what hospitality is, what our motivation should be towards hospitality, what prohibits us (or we allow to prohibit us) from being hospitable, who we mean when we say “strangers”, and several other shared thoughts and examples.  To cover all of it in this post would not be possible.  With that said, take time and read Romans 12 and Hebrews 13:2 and meditate on this idea of loving strangers.  Think about who a stranger is in your life…not just those in the world but who do you need to get to know better and show love towards within your church family?

For the remainder of this post, let’s look at 1 Peter 4:9 where we find the word philoxenos.  In chapter four of this book, Peter continues teaching Christians how to live in knowing that the end of all things is near and more specifically how to live “the rest of their time” …not in the flesh but in the will of God.  Peter first commands them to keep their minds clear and alert and be prayerful.  Next Peter tells them to have fervent love for each other noting that “love will cover a multitude of sins” (Proverb 10:12).

In verse nine, Peter directs Christians to demonstrate love by offering hospitality without grumbling, or begrudgingly or in a selfish manner.  In class, we discussed the different ways this might take place and even though we might think it is limited to what we might see as the standard today in terms of having people in our homes, visiting others, serving those in the community, etc.  But God is saying here through Peter is that we should be prepared to love and we should love with the gifts that God has given each individual.  That is the awesome part of the body…that its parts are different but put together are powerful.  Well, in this case, if the individual takes their gift and uses it in finding ways to and then loving a stranger…that is powerful too…and that is hospitality.

In Peter’s day, Christian hospitality in great need of and could be a great burden.  Many Christians were forced to flee in persecution which often meant traveling without much to take care of themselves.  These refugees relied on brothers/sisters in Christ to share their homes, goods, food, etc. while hosting them as they traveled through to their destination.  This kind of hospitality could be risky.  It could have been that those sharing didn’t have much to begin with putting the host’s family at risk of running out themselves.  Those hosting could be taken advantage of if the stranger(s) they were inviting in were not who they thought they were.

Still, Peter reminds his readers—and us—that is how family loves each other. It’s part of our purpose as God’s set-apart people. We should embrace the opportunity to give that kind of sacrificial love, instead of offering such hospitality reluctantly.

We could spend a week or two thinking about all the different ideas we covered today in class and maybe we will in the future.  But for today, take 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12, and Hebrews 13:2 and read them, pray about them.  Take stock of what you are already doing and more, ask God to help move you out of your comfort zone, identify even more opportunity to love strangers, look within your brethren first, and love.  God loved us first when we were strangers to Him because of sin.  There is our example and motivation.  Loving like Him will encourage, reflect the gospel, and provide opportunity for growth in you and in others.

The First 60 for 30 Challenge

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

How do you start your day? The alarm goes off, maybe you hit snooze or maybe you get right up. You head to the bathroom, taking your phone with you. Perhaps you head to the kitchen for the first cup of coffee and you sit down with your phone to get caught up on social media or email, and review your schedule for the day.

I don’t know what your mornings typically look like but I’ll bet the first hour includes your phone or tablet in some way. Jim Kwik is a leading expert on speed learning, memory retention, and how the brain works. He emphasizes the need to protect the sovereignty of the first hour of our day.   We need to develop habits and routines that allow us to frame our mindset and set the course of our day. One thing he stresses is to avoid the phone for the first hour. When we immediately grab our phones and start looking at social media and email, we surrender our thought process to the demands of others.

So I have a 30 day challenge for all of us. Let’s call it The First 60 for 30 Challenge. For the next 30 days, start off your day like this:

  • Get out of bed and stretch for 5 to 10 minutes, concentrating on taking deep breaths
  • Head to the kitchen and drink a big glass of water
  • Put on some comfortable shoes and take a 10 to 15 minute walk. Don’t put in the headphones, just listen to the sounds around you
  • Upon returning to your house, get another big glass of water and sit down at the kitchen table
  • Make a list of 5 to 10 things you are thankful for. Things that money can’t buy
  • Say a prayer, focusing on thanking God for the things on your list
  • As you get your third glass of water, read for 20 minutes
  • Do all of this before you touch your phone

Our brains need certain things every morning to help us be at our best all day. We need to hydrate and we need to increase blood flow. Drinking water, deep breathing, and movement will help jump start our brains and remove the morning “fog”. We also need to train our minds towards gratitude.

Do this for 30 days. You’ll find that your attitude is improved, interactions with others is improved, and you have less stress throughout the day.

“We form our habits and then our habits form us.” – Jim Kwik

Pass the Ropes

On January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge shortly after take-off from Washington DC. It came to rest in the icy Potomac River, killing 74 people instantly. Arland Williams was one of six people to initially survive the crash.

News cameramen recorded the event from the bridge as bystanders attempted to rescue the survivors with a makeshift rope. Around 4:20 PM EST a U.S. Park Police helicopter arrived and began a rescue operation. They lowered a rope into the water and Arland caught the rope and passed it to another passenger. After pulling the passenger into the helicopter, they lowered the rope again and Arland proceeded to grab the rope and hand it to another passenger. This process was repeated until five of the six passengers were safely on board the helicopter.

As the rope was lowered for the sixth time, Arland did not grab the rope. He had succumbed to the cold and fatigue and drowned in the icy Potomac.

In life, Arland was not an extraordinary man. He was born and raised in Mattoon, Illinois and graduated from Mattoon High School in 1953. After graduating from The Citadel in South Carolina, he spent two years in the military and then went into banking where he worked as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve System in Atlanta. He was a divorced father of two and engaged to be remarried at the time of his death.

The only things I know about this man is what I can read on-line. I don’t know what kind of husband he was or why his marriage failed. I don’t know if he was an involved father or a workaholic that neglected his family. I don’t know if he sought after God or if he was consumed with the things of this world.

What I know is that in a terrifying situation, when he had multiple opportunities to save himself, he handed life over to a stranger. As the cold settled in and his arms and legs became weaker and weaker he made the choice to put the needs of someone else first.   I know that in death, he demonstrated the best of what humanity can be.

Stories like this always cause me to wonder. How would I react in such a situation? Would I grab the rope or would I pass it on? Would I hang on to my own life so tightly that I failed to consider the wellbeing of those around me? I really don’t know.

The likelihood of any one of us being in this kind of situation is almost zero. We will probably never have such a grand occasion to show our selflessness and love. Nevertheless, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the same spirit we see in Arland Williams on a daily basis. In that cluttered commute to work we can allow others to merge without a fight. When competing for the prime parking spot at the big box store we can take the space a little farther back. When that co-worker or brother in Christ really wants to have their way we can resist the desire to argue and prove ourselves right. We can get a little less sleep and help with the kids so our wives can get some well-deserved rest. We can turn off the game or put down the tablet and listen to our children. Every single day we are presented with multiple opportunities to put the needs of others first.

For most of us, it will not be the grand singular moment that defines our lives and secures our legacy. For most us, it will be the small acts of kindness and everyday selfless decisions that demonstrate our Christ-like character.

Encourage and Strengthen

Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.  (1 Thessalonians 3:1-3; NKJV)

In this text, Paul is writing to the Brethren because he is not able to be with them and wants to encourage them. A not so subtle point from the verses prior to these that I think is important is that Paul and the Thessalonians WANTED to be together and work together. That starting point allows them to then care for each other, desire to encourage one another, and puts them in a position to be able to build up the other.

The first thing I see in this text is Paul’s self-sacrifice for them. Timothy meant a great deal to Paul and was a tremendous helper and teammate…so for Paul to be left alone in Athens was not going to be easy…but to encourage and strengthen others it was worth it to him.

Secondly, there were no private or hidden agendas. Paul and Timothy wanted to help Christians and their work. The gospel is what mattered and what set the agenda and they wanted to ensure those who had heard and obeyed stayed faithful while sharing the good news with others so that they might also be saved.

Thirdly, this is about strengthening (to make firm, solid, stable) and encouraging (urge someone to take ethical action). Timothy was being sent and coming alongside the Thessalonians to help them no matter what they were facing individually or as a collective. Just like we do for one another when we are strengthening and encouraging, Timothy was urging them not to panic when things got tough. Providing stability knowing that instability and discouragement often results from a weak faith or a faith out of focus. Timothy could be their strength and he could help get them/keep them focused.

God wants and intends for all of us who believe in Him and His Son to have a strong faith. He knows we will be tried and challenged and knows we will be “disturbed” at times…or shaken/unsettled in our beliefs. Jesus prayed for us (John 17) because he knew we would face afflictions just as the Apostles and first disciples did.

Paul wanted to deepen the faith of the Thessalonians, not disturb it. We should want the same, it should be our motivation, and we should be willing to sacrifice to accomplish it. We should also recognize the troubles have a purpose. Those troubles of another might hurt us but if we are strong in our own faith than that pain, trouble, or difficulty might be just what God intended to use to cause growth. So we stand strong, we encourage, and we strengthen…knowing that another will do the same for us when the time comes.

There won’t always be good times. I heard it said “All sunshine makes a desert.” It has to rain sometimes…the sun goes away and the storm clouds come. But just like the grass of the field in August…it might just be what we needed…especially when we are in it together.

The Master and Us

Whatever your role as a man, you have responsibilities.

Today we are considering our role(s) as it pertains to the women in our lives…husbands, fathers, sons, brothers…and this is whether we are single, married, widowers, divorced…there are women in our lives and we have responsibility to them because of our responsibility to Jesus.

How well we fulfill our responsibilities depends upon our view of the Master of the House.

As we start with the Master…let’s define the word “master”.  The Greek word is “kurios” and means “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he as the power of deciding; master, lord.  This is used universally, of the possessor and disposer of a thing, the owner.  Kurios is a title of honor, expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants salute their master.  (Thayers)

Just to be clear.  When we talk Master we are talking about Jesus Christ.  The Savior.  The Messiah.

Because of Who He is…The Lord of Lords!  Because of What He did…Sacrifice!  Because of What He is Doing…Intercession!  Because of What He is Going to Do…Glory!

He is our Master and therefore we are to “…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”  (Ephesians 5:21; NASB).

“Subject” is to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection.  “Fear” is reverence, respect.  “Christ” is the anointed of God, the Lord of Lords, the Master of the House!

So when we live our lives and find ourselves saying “I can’t do this or that for a particular woman in my life”; let’s change the question and ask “Can I do this or that for the Lord?”

Because, the truth is, what we do we do for Jesus whether we mean to or not.  If we are looking to Him and endeavoring to follow (be subject to) Him, then He will lead us and we will be the man we need to be and He will be glorified.  If we live like that, then the women in our lives will notice and it will make a difference.

The reward in living like this is a reward for all.  If we lead by example and live our lives subject to Jesus then it is likely those women in our lives who we care about, seek to influence, or work along side will be impacted for good.  If we live this way, then together with the women in our lives we can seek out and expect the reward God is offering.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  (Colossians 3:23-24; NASB)

Strive for the crown of life promised by God for you in Heaven…and hold tight to the women in your life and don’t let them go…serve them because Jesus is worthy of our service no matter what or who we might be dealing with.

Because You Have Done This

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
(Genesis 22:14-18)

“Because you have done this” – That statement could be in between a bad choice leading to a awful consequence, but for Abraham it was quite the opposite. Abraham made a choice to obey God even when it would cost him his son Isaac. Because Abraham made this choice to obey God even through extreme sacrifice of what he held most dear, God would richly bless him and his family for generations to come.

We studied this chapter last night in a Bible study at someone’s home, and it really caused us to reflect upon the faith and trust that Abraham had in God’s promises. That trust in God’s promises led him to the conclusion that if he killed Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He knew that God would provide, even if Abraham gave up the very things God promised him.

What a great example for leaders of homes, and what an encouragement to know that if we make the commitment to follow God fully, God will be there in our homes blessing us and providing us with wisdom and strength. Abraham said, “The Lord will provide,” and that is just as true for us today as it was for Abraham. Our job is to fully obey His voice. The calling for us is the same as it was for Abraham; don’t withhold anything from God. Don’t let anything be so valuable to us that we would not give it over to Jesus.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(James 2:19-24)

The Barnabas Touch: How to Be An Encourager

Gentlemen, we have considered this week the importance of being a humble servant as we follow the example given to us by Jesus (John 13:1-17).  I came across an article (written by Jason Moore) I was provided many years back and in reading it I wanted to share it with you today as we wrap up our week.  I hope you find it encouraging and invite you to take today and the weekend to consider the importance of our encouragement to our Brethren and the impact this style of living will have on those we encounter in the world.  Have a blessed day!

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Barnabas was conspicuous for his encouragement of others. An examination of his life teaches us the skills of an encourager, the job of every believer. The apostle commands, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).  Barnabas illustrates the commandment:

  1. Get off your island. Barnabas was born on the isle of Cyprus, but left Cyprus for Jerusalem (4:36), Jerusalem for Antioch, the third largest city in Roman world (11:22), and Antioch for the world (13:2). Encouragers are not just naturally gregarious people—that’s a myth. The essential qualification is unselfishness. Encouragers leave their comfort zone to go help. It’s the best cure for self-pity and any “self”-ish tendency.
  2. Build a bridge. Barnabas believed in men like Saul and John Mark even when others didn’t (9:26-27; 15:37-39). He risked his own reputation in reaching out to them. Bridge building is hard work and there is always the risk of falling. But encouragers run the risk of seeking, finding and enfolding folks whom others have isolated or who have isolated themselves.
  3. Spread good gossip. Barnabas told Saul’s story to the apostles (9:27), Antioch’s story to Saul (11:25-26), and the Gentiles’ story to an assembly in Jerusalem (15:12). A gossip likes to tell the bad he knows about others while an encourager likes to tell the good. An encourager can’t keep the story of others’ growth or progress to himself. He broadens their influence by telling something good on them.
  4. Lead the line to lend a hand. Barnabas led the file to relieve needy saints on at least two occasions (4:36-37; 11:30). It’s not that the encourager is always the first on the scene when a need arises, but he is always out of breath when he gets there. The promptness of an encourager says that his service is a privilege and not a burden.
  5. Acknowledge an effort. The word of God commends Barnabas as a “good man” because of his encouragement of the church in Antioch (11:23). The Holy Spirit acknowledges him for his acknowledgment of the efforts of others. At least three steps are involved in mastering this skill.
    1. Be watchful. An encourager is observant of the progress of others, however slight.
    2. Be thoughtful. He finds new ways to say, “Good job” and “I appreciate you.”
    3. Be impartial. The encourager never reserves his encouragement for just his circle.
  6. Go out of your way to involve another. Barnabas went looking for Saul in Tarsus in order to bring him to Antioch (11:25-26). Seeking someone’s partnership in a project says, “I need you,” or, “I believe in you.” Both of those are encouraging sentiments. The essential element in this skill is the nonverbal message sent by going out of one’s way to solicit another’s help or participation.
  7. Keep your commitments. Barnabas built a reputation for dependability (11:22, 30) and for fulfilling his mission (12:25). He always got the job done and often exceeded expectations. Over-commitment and empty promises encourage no one; quite the opposite. They cool enthusiasm. Encouragers honor their commitments in a timely, unimpeachable fashion.
  8. Don’t forget your family. John Mark was Barnabas’ kinsman (15:39; Col. 4:10). That surely was not the only reason for his peculiar encouragement of him, but it also wasn’t a reason to ignore him. Family members frequently air their complaints and criticisms, but neglect the custom of encouragement. Happy is the home where mutual encouragement is a habit. Miserable is any abode in its absence.
  9. Be a sympathetic ally of the leadership. The apostles gave Barnabas his nickname (4:36). He was their A Peter and Paul need encouragement as much as a John Mark. And a Barnabas needs it too. Leadership is far more resilient and confident when others stand with them. Leaders are also far more willing to hear the criticism of the encourager than the whine of the complainer.
  10. Always leave people better than you found them. The apostles, the poor saints in Jerusalem, Saul of Tarsus, John Mark, the church in Antioch and many churches abroad were bettered by the Barnabas’ touch. Midas was the fabled king of Phrygia to whom Dionysius gave the power of turning all that he touched to gold. Encouragers have a golden touch too. But they invest themselves in people, not trinkets. And they enrich others and not themselves.