Having recently returned from a high-flying trip to Louisiana, my place of birth where family resides and where I enjoy spectacular cuisine and daily collaboration, I have begun the process of revving down my engine. Because, let’s face it, I didn’t say “no” to fried catfish and shrimp, or that one restaurant that makes the best burger and onion straws this side of heaven, not to mention the blissful desserts (since logic bellows, “I’m on vacation”). Zooming through visits and activities and restaurants I seldom experience (because of distance), allows me the excuse –I don’t do it very often! However, a stay of ten days might be a bit much. (wink)
Since leaving home at 17, going home can bring the refueling I need to keep going. Quite frankly, there were many years I desperately needed a friendly smile, a reminder that someone actually cared about ME, and even, a great plate of food! Life is hard, and sometimes we totally miss the boat on the needs of those closest to us. But God . . . He is ALWAYS at work!
I find it truly inspiring to read how He gave “the early Church” an encourager through the life of an exceptionally compassionate man called Barnabas (Acts 4:36). Have you ever had someone encourage you despite your failures? Barnabas became an encourager for John Mark, a young man whom the Apostle Paul turned down (Acts 15). Maybe because of the encouragement Barnabas gave to John Mark, he then became useful to Paul’s work as seen in 2 Timothy 4:11. The book of Acts is the great transitional book from Law to Grace! Barnabas excelled in grace:
“Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:23-24, NASB).
A disclaimer that my “bible college professor husband” wants added: we would do well to remember that Paul and Barnabas divided over secondary issues and not primary. The primary issue they agreed upon was the necessity of fulfilling the Great Commission. Two teams emerged and the ministry continued. The secondary issue was the method. Concerning methods, the New Testament gives great leeway. It is quite possible Paul and Barnabas both were correct, but regardless, they were certainly unified in taking the gospel to regions beyond. With that said, we would also do well to consider how many times we turn our back prematurely on individuals to render a final verdict that all is hopeless.
In his book Encourage Me, Charles Swindoll shares a remark by Henry Drummond:
How many prodigals are kept out of the kingdom of God by the unlovely characters of those who profess to be inside!
Have you ever felt the world turn their back on you, or maybe just one important person but it felt like it was the whole world?! My Louisiana trip is not just for the encouragement I need but the encouragement I can give. And for my nephew in jail, I want to be that flickering light of encouragement that never gives up! I want to be a Barnabas!