Rick C. Statham, Sr., senior pastor
Salem Baptist Church, McDonough
"Mildred" – what does that name mean to you? To me it means strong encourager!
When I (or someone else) question my presence in the pulpit my heart is flooded with the memory of her sincere words offered one fall morning to a 19-year-old preacher. Whether she learned to use her gift by following the biblical example of Barnabas or another, I do not know. But what I know is that her words were and are powerful catalysts in my soul – " You will be the next Billy Graham."
I have been preaching the Gospel for 35 years since that day, but its memory is as fresh today as it was that Sunday morning she stepped from her pew, came to the altar, took my hands with tear-stained eyes, and spoke lasting words of encouragement into my soul.
Billy Graham? Certainly not, but the point of her message to my soul that morning was “God has plans to use you for His Glory through your preaching gift. Use it!”
There is a reason the apostles began calling Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, “Barnabas”. Like Mildred, he was an encourager of the saints – a true "son of encouragement” as the name means. Though Barnabas has been physically dead 2,000 years his words and actions still speak – he offers ongoing encouragement. His gracious and joyful words refreshed and his actions sustained the saints.
Barnabas’ given name was Joseph which Strong’s says means “let him add.” Maybe it’s a stretch, but think about it – his life “added encouragement” to others. Could it be that encouragement was his way of living out the name given him on the eighth day of his life?
Barnabas was a Levite (Acts 4:36). The Levites served as assistants to the priests. As one writer states, “It was their duty to keep the sacred utensils and the temple clean, to provide the sacred loaves, to open and shut the gates of the temple, to sing the sacred hymns in the temple, and to do many other things.”
Therefore, in one sense the role of a Levite was to be an encourager of the priests in their duties. The Levite was to come alongside the priest and help him with what many might consider to be the meaningless and mundane things. In reality, these were the significant things in that they were essential to the functioning of the temple ministry.
After the recent birth of my granddaughter, I sought to encourage and thank those cleaning the hospital room, bringing the meal trays, sitting at the information desks, and many others who fulfilled what some see as the unnoticed, mundane, and meaningless tasks in a hospital. I asked them if I could take their picture to one day show my granddaughter.
I don’t have to tell you the response nor the impact, do I? One man who was cleaning the elevator said, “Thank you sir for noticing. I didn’t think anyone did.”
Encouragement is an essential part of God’s Kingdom Work.
As Christians we should seek to intentionally encourage those around us in their ministry, reminding them that “every part” matters (1 Cor. 12)! One strength of King Josiah was that he was an encourager of others – “He appointed the priests to their duties and encouraged them in the service of the LORD’s temple” (2 Chr. 35:2).
Barnabas was an encourager materially as he invested in the work of the Gospel through the giving of material resources entrusted to him (Acts 4:37).
Barnabas was an encouraging bridge builder of relationships in that he introduced and “recommended” Christ-followers to one another (Acts 9:27).
Barnabas was an envoy of encouragement sent by one church to another to support and strengthen the work of the Gospel in a specific place (Acts 11:23).
I’ve come to realize that every person needs ongoing encouragement – there are no exceptions. Therefore, you and I are faced with a decision. Will we sow seeds of encouragement and pray for the harvest they bring?
Reflect on who has encouraged you. What impact did they have?
Recognize the influence and importance of encouragement.
Repent if necessary, of sowing unneeded criticism.
Return if necessary and ask for forgiveness if you’ve hurt someone.
Recommit your life to the building up of others as an encourager.
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