Encouragement!

by Rob Gibson           June 17, 2016

Post #8 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical Journey…

I just returned from a national convention of similarly striped religious types. It triggered someone in me, someone I want dead, as well as someone I want to thrive. I want a critical spirit to die and the loving encourager to thrive. 
Along my sabbatical journey, I read a piece that stuck me. It resonated too deeply for comfort and uncovered a deadly part of me. The sub-heading was “ The Compulsive Minister” — One who is angry and greedy for more. It slew me when I read:
“Pastors are angry at their leaders for not leading and at their followers for not following. They are angry at those who do not come to church for not coming and angry at those who come for coming without enthusiasm. They are angry at their families, who make them feel guilty, and angry at themselves for not being who they want to be. This is not an open, blatant, roaring anger, but anger hidden behind the smooth word, the smiling face, and the polite handshake. It is a frozen anger, an anger which settles into a biting resentment and slowly paralyzes a generous heart.” The Way of the Heart, Henri J.M. Nouwen

This pricked me as it revealed a seething dissatisfaction with myself and the results I greedily demand. It was triggered this week as demands for more baptisms, more passion, more of a burdened heart, more, more, and more were intensely preached. The desired results had been weighed and measured and found lacking.
I have a perpetually active evaluator in my head, heaping the messages “not enough,” “get it right,” and “do more” at me all the time. I do not need anybody singing with that choir. Rather, the choir we all need to hear more is a gospel choir, and the gospel is good news, not condemnation. The gospel is that Jesus Christ loved you and me to death, in spite of our falling short of the mark. His love is not measured or withheld based on our performance but rather abundantly flowing to us like the perpetually deep and fresh waters of a raging waterfall. The rivers of grace are full, even when I am empty and my striving stumbles and stalls. 

What I need and I believe the church and the world needs is a lot more Barnabas! Barnabas is a name that means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas encouraged the Christian community and the Apostles by his generosity (Acts 4:36-37). When Paul returned to Jerusalem, after his conversion, it was Barnabas that encouragingly introduced this former murderous persecutor of the church to the Apostles (Acts 9:27) when they were afraid of him and seriously doubted his Christianity. The son of encouragement propelled the greatest missionary ever to press on. He didn’t identify all the failures, foibles or faults in the man, which, by his own admission, were many (1Tim 1:15). Rather he focused on the possibilities, the opportunities and what could be. 

Like Jesus with Peter after his triple denial, he did not castigate his friend, but knew there was a passionate loving shepherd in Peter that needed to be encouraged to step into the love and power within him (2Tim 1:7). Jesus was an encourager — encouraging each of us to embrace the truth of his love for us. He invited sinners to lay down deadly ways of self-satisfaction and to receive the abundant life he offers (John 10:10). 

I want to be a Barnabas, not a critic. I want to live in Jesus abundant love and walk kindly, patiently and generously with others in the light of his love, even when we miss the mark. Let’s encourage each other to live in the freedom and love that is ours in Christ and run together into the glory that is increasingly ours in Christ (2Cor. 4:17-18). 

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