Son of Encouragement

I talked in the last post about how the Holy Spirit is our Paraclete, our encourager, advocate, comforter.  As I continued my search through scripture on that word, I realized that it was used in another key passage in scripture…

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”)…
Acts 4:36

Barnabas, the son of encouragement.  The word encouragement here is parakletos, a derivative of Paraclete.  Here is a person, an early church father, nicknamed the Encourager.  Called by the same terms as the Holy Spirit.

Finding this made me think.  What is our role as believers when it comes to encouragement?  We humans are created with an insatiable thirst for encouragement.  We have an indwelling God who is our full time encouraging, and yet we still hunger for affirmation.  How do we as brothers and sisters in Christ, live into this space?

Something started pinging in the back of my brain… Romans 12, one of my favorite passages…

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.

Encouragement is a spiritual gift.  Something God values enough to list in one of the three main spiritual gifts passages in the New Testament.  This is clearly something important to Him, something He desires to see happening in his kingdom?

So why don’t we experience this more?  Why does the modern church have a reputation for being judgmental and harsh, not a place of encouragement and solace?  Where are the sermons preached, the classes taught on how to encourage others?

And, if we Christians have an indwelling Paraclete, why aren’t we using that gift of encouragement for those who do not; unbelievers who are so very thirsty for words of truth and affirmation?

I don’t know.  But this I do know.  When I take time to intentionally affirm others, I am encouraged in the process.  When parents take time to formally bless their children, those children begin to view their lives as a legacy ad not just a passing of time.  Encouragement matters.  It is powerful in a way that defies logic.

And I, for one, am going to try to intentionally engage in acts of radical encouragement.  When my life is over, may I be called a Daughter of Encouragement.   Care to join me?

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Paraclete

I don’t know about you all, but I have a powerful need for encouragement.  Perhaps it’s because success at my job isn’t easily measurable.  Perhaps it’s because my love language is words of encouragement.  Perhaps its because I am simply human.  All I know is that I need to hear that I am loved, that I am valued, and that I am doing well on a regular basis.

Which is unfortunate.

Because this world isn’t exactly engineered to do that.  We live in a society of cynics.  People who employ sarcasm as a weapon.  These days, we are all critics.  Voicing our opinions on Facebook, on yelp reviews, in countless ways.  When I read my book, my default mode is to examine what I didn’t like about it, instead of what I did. The same goes for restaurants, TV shows, etc.  Will I notice when it begins to creep into the way I view my life?  My faith?  My children?

Here is the truth.  I do not know a single human being in my circle who is not in desperate need of affirmation.  Whether we realize it or not, our souls yearn to be blessed.  We all need to be told that we are seen.  That we are loved.  That we are important.  And it doesn’t take much to do that.  But here is the problem… in order to truly be able to bless others, we must know what it is to be blessed.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.
John 14:16-17

According to GotQuestions.org, “The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:16, 26;15:26; and 16:7) is parakletos. This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another,” with the secondary notion of counseling or supporting him. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He is a personal being who indwells every believer.”  In other words, we have a full time encourager, who lives with us and constantly is whispering words of truth and affirmation into our lives.

How do we attune our ears to hear the Holy Spirit?  I believe the easiest first step is learning what is NOT his voice…

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

If you are hearing a message that makes you feel less:  less loved, less free, less beautiful or wonderful, I am willing to bet it is not the voice of God.  When we encounter God, we always want to be higher.  Even when we feel convicted, it is a conviction out of a need to be closer to God, not a feeling of condemnation or shame.

Who are you to God?  The Bible is full of answers.

You are:
Dearly Loved
Bought with a Price
Redeemed
Forgiven
Perfect
Whole
Created to be You on Purpose
There is a Plan for your life
It is a Good one
You are a Bride
You are Beautiful
You are Unique
You are Seen
You are Known
You are Not Alone
A Son or a Daughter
A Brother or a Sister
Restored
Important.

Take some time today and read over the list.  Reflect upon something that sticks out to you.  (Or add something to my list!) Realize that this is the TRUTH about you.  Hold it in your mind as you go about your day.

You.
Are.
Loved.