You’ve seen the commercial for years, you’ve probably made comparisons between the two. Butter or Parkay? Of course, REAL butter is the best. Here’s another one. Sweet Tea with REAL sugar or Nutrasweet? REAL sugar of course!! Substitutes for the real thing have become a way of life and the desire to make something “just as good” as the real thing is going to keep being a way of life. A substitute is something or someone that takes the place of something else. It’s not the original or pure thing, it is a substitute or copy for the real thing.
More and more “substitutes” have been introduced into our culture, to the point that the real thing is much harder to find and more expensive or valued when you do find it.
One thing that can never be duplicated or substituted for something else is encouragement. Encouragement is one of those things that is so selfless and so pure in it’s existence and the impact is amazing when used in it’s purest sense. The definition for encouragement is giving support, confidence, or hope to someone. We all need confidence. We all need support. Yes, we all need hope. Probably the number one thing we need to spread around as Christians is encouragement. In the New Testament one man became known as a man of encouragement. His name was Barnabas and that means “son of encouragement.” Here is one example of what encouragement meant to Barnabas and all who knew him.
Acts 11:19 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23 Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord ; 24 for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. 25 And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul ; 26 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.
As you can see, Barnabus made a great impact wherever he went. He really knew the strength of what encouragement, REAL encouragement, could do. His REAL encouragement had some ingredients that really made it come alive.
1. He rejoiced with others over what God was doing and wanted to see even more done. He didn’t want to be a party pooper. He wanted to be a party player. It was his desire to make his encouragement be his act of worship to God. By injecting REAL encouragement into those he met, he kept them moving forward in the faith.
2. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit. Not PARKAY, real BUTTER. He was the pure essence of encouragement and it had a greater effect because he was full of the Holy Spirit. Spirit-led living is a term we throw around from time to time and the effect of it is great. When it’s put in our encouragement to others, it is way powerful.
3. He was in it for the long haul. When he saw all God was doing he went and found Paul and they came back and taught there for a year. Once again, not fly by night, but lasting encouragement. The end result was this. They started calling the disciples Christians for the first time. REAL Christians, who were like Christ in everything they did.
When you think about it, one of the things we hear or experience the least in our life is encouragement. We still make it through the things we do everyday, but it lacks vibrancy and purpose. Why? Not enough encouragement. Of course, encouragement isn’t all, “yes you can do that” because encouragement, REAL encouragement in it’s purest sense has to be directional and true. You don’t want to lie to someone as a means of encouraging them. I had someone ask me a few years ago about a decision to go and serve in a church. Since I was really “for them” I found out some things about that church and advised against it. My encouragement was taken as negative, but in reality it was found out later to be on track. So sometimes the encouragement is not taken well if it is different than what a person wants to hear. Barnabus had a problem with Paul when dealing with John Mark and they went on different paths because of their disagreements. Barnabus held to his guns in that encouragement, and was probably right in his read of the situation. Paul didn’t think so.
So, the next time you want to really help and uplift the cause of Christ. Pray to God at the start of the day and say, “Lord who do you want me to encourage today?” You will probably find plenty of opportunities and your impact will start to broaden and your life will change. But remember, be sincere in your encouragement. Not PARKAY, only BUTTER!!!
John Maxwell said this:
“Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”
The Pilgrimage continues……