March 23, 2011
Spiritual Gifts Series
The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation:
“Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.”
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Barnabas and Paul had returned from their First Missionary Journey, and had also reported back to Antioch the events at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-30). Now, Paul takes the initiative and urges Barnabas to go with him back to the cities where they had proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they were doing.
Encouragers Take Others Along. In Acts 15:37, Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark on this Second Missionary Journey. John Mark had accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the First Missionary Journey, but left them at Perga (Acts 13:13). As an encourager, Barnabas always wanted to work with believers who have had serious problems. Paul himself was rejected at first by the saints in Jerusalem, and Barnabas had encouraged him and the other saints. But, in this case, John Mark had deserted Paul and Barnabas. Encouragers will always be looking to give people a second chance, even when they were wrong the first time. They will take you along, even when others will want to leave you behind.
Encouragers Sometimes Get Deserted. John Mark had deserted (“ἀποστάντα“) Paul and Barnabas before and obviously Paul was unwilling to take him along again. In some cases, believers make very bad choices, and other believers will not be quick to forgive them and forget the wrong. Not all wrongs should be forgotten. If a person steals from the church treasury, you may forgive him, but you probably will find someone else to handle the money. He will have other roles for ministry in the church. Barnabas, however, understood he must encourage the deserter, and take him along.
Encouragers Sometimes Face Sharp Disagreement. At times, sharp disagreements arise between two saints, both seeking to do God’s will. In this case, the encourager who had brought Paul to fellowship with other believers, and accompanied him on the First Missionary Journey, and travelled to Jerusalem with him, now faced the prospect of letting go of Paul, because of John Mark, the deserter. In this case, the encourager faced a choice that may have been very difficult for most of us.
Encouragers Often Encourage the Deserters. Barnabas serves as a great example of the ministry of encouragement. The encourager will always be thinking of how to encourage a particular saint others do not want to be around. Encouragers love those people, and love to take hold of them, and bring them into fellowship. Barnabas had already encouraged Paul, and Paul was thriving in Christ. John Mark, on the other hand, was a deserter. In some ways, the decision for Barnabas may have been very easy. Who needed more encouragement? Obviously John Mark needed more encouragement to go back into missionary service with these men, facing life and death journeys, and depending entirely upon God to sustain them along the way.
So we learn more about the Spiritual Gift of Exhortation today from the life and ministry of Barnabas.
● We learn that encouragers may expect sharp disagreement related to the people God leads them to encourage. Remember, the encourager works with believers that others have already rejected or feared.
● We learn that the Spiritual Gift of Exhortation includes encouragement, and sometimes encouraging one person may lead to temporary divisions. Ultimately, things work out.
● We hinder the Spiritual Gift of Exhortation when we allow sharp disagreements to cause spiritual divisions. In this case, Barnabas and Paul still pursued ministries, and they visited cities to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Always keep in mind that encouragers have a unique ministry, often to the undervalued saints in our midst.
Application for Today
Today, I want to want to extend second chances to deserters. I want to encourage them to find ministries, and I want every believer to use his or her spiritual gifts to the glory of God, no matter what they have done in the past. Who will you give a second chance today and encourage with your friendship today?