March 22, 2011

Spiritual Gifts Series

The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation:

Barnabas

(Part III)

Acts 11:25-26

“And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

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     Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, went to Antioch and witnessed firsthand the grace of God at work in the Jews and Gentiles there.  He encouraged the believers, and watched many people come to salvation by faith in Christ Jesus.  Just when things were humming along in Christ, Barnabas left Antioch and went to lay hold of Paul again, and bring him to Antioch.

      Encouragers Often Leave.  In Acts 11:25, Barnabas left Antioch when things were going very well.  He knew that the spiritual activity there did not depend upon him, but upon the activity of Christ Jesus building up His church.  Encouragers know when to arrive and when to go. When they arrive, they encourage the believers.  When they leave, they are going to encourage someone else.        

      Encouragers Look for Believers To Encourage.  Barnabas was looking Saul over in Tarsus.  As part of the Spiritual Gift of Encouragement, the gifted person has a habit of looking for a particular person to encourage.  In fact, the encourager often continues to encourage the same person, over many months or years, even if the contact is not continuous.  In this case, Barnabas actively sought out Paul, again.

       Encouragers Find People To Encourage.  Barnabas found his target, Saul.  God often brings encouragers to people.  You do not meet encouragers by accident, and they do not find you at random.  Notice here that Barnabas travelled specifically to Tarsus to look for and now find Saul.  God makes it plain in the text that Barnabas does the looking and finding.

       Encouragers Bring People They Find with Them.  Not only did Barnabas look for Saul and find Saul, he also brought Saul.  Some believers do not find it easy to bring people, but encouragers have a gift for bringing people with them.   Remember, encouragers generally work close up and personally.

      Encouragers Often Go To Hotbeds of Christian Activity, and Bring Others with Them.  The Holy Spirit worked through Barnabas to bring Paul to Antioch.  Together they would witness the grace of God, and minister to the believers there.  Paul would see first hand how the Gentiles were coming to Christ in great numbers.  Paul would later describe himself as the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8).  So often encouragers bring believers to a place where God is pouring out His blessings upon men.  God uses encouragers to bring believers to the right place at the right time.  Notice the very personal contact between Barnabas and Paul.  Encouragers form very strong bonds with particular people God wants to encourage.

       Encouragers Often Work with Teachers.  Paul and Barnabas spent a year in Antioch and taught considerable numbers.  The Spiritual Gift of Teaching accompanies the Spiritual Gift of Encouragement.  They are not the same gift, but they often work well in tandem, like all spiritual gifts work together to build unity and maturity in the Body of Christ.  The gifts do not compete with one another to cause division, but promote growth, glory, and unity.  

   So we learn more about the Spiritual Gift of Exhortation today from the life and ministry of Barnabas.

         ●  We learn that encouragers may leave one place being blessed greatly by God, find one believer needing encouragement, bring the believer back to the starting point, and then minister there together.  Encouragers often go and get someone, and take the initiative to bring them into the spiritual activity.

       ●  We learn that the people using the Spiritual Gift of Exhortation encourage believers through personal contact.  They encourage at arm’s length, or up close and personal, even if they have to travel to find you.

          ●  We hinder the Spiritual Gift of Exhortation when we refuse to allow every believer, called by God and in fellowship with believers, to pursue ministry with us.  Encouragers bring them to us, and we should recognize the purpose of God in bringing new saints into the fellowship through the ministry of encouragers. 

Application for Today

        Today, I want to welcome new believers into fellowship.  As God brings new people into my life, I want to encourage my friends in Christ to love every new believer I meet, and to spend time getting to know them better.  Who will you welcome today?