Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – December 14, 2016
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
An angel from heaven showed up ten minutes before I was to be led back for my cancer biopsy hell. She was a nice middle aged lady (we later learned she was the head nurse) in dark blue scrubs with a surgical mask dangling around her neck. She walked up to Rita and myself in the gloomy waiting area and asked,“Are you the guy who writes the Wisdom Hunters Daily Devotionals?” Sheepishly, because I was not feeling very spiritual or worthy of taking credit for any kind of confidence in Christ that day—I said yes. In a warm, honest and grateful tone, she loved me: “I just had the worst 12 months of my life and a year ago a friend of mine from Houston, Texas emailed me a copy of the Wisdom Hunter’s devotional. God used those writings to keep me in His word and that daily encouragement in Him was how I was able to get through the past year!”
My precious Savior Jesus comforted me through His kind servant and then I was escorted back to my biopsy with a perspective of hope, faith and fearlessness. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “This illness is not about you, but about Me and My glory; it’s about the doctors, nurses, hospital attendants, maintenance workers, family, friends and all you meet who need to see Jesus in your life. My dear son Boyd, I want to do a work in you, so I can do a work through you, so I can do a work with you!”
Supports a New Christian: Gives Courage to a Leader with Questionable Character
“When he [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:26-27).
Barnabas was not afraid to risk his character capital in endorsing a new Christian with the reputation of persecuting—even killing Christians—but in spite of the high risk relationship, he brought Saul before the Apostles and testified to his genuine conversion to Jesus in Damascus. A faithful leader is able to see present and future potential in a suspect leader whose flawed character has damaged their reputation. Barnabas didn’t discount the need for discipleship and maturity for Saul, but he also did not disqualify him because of his sinful, murderous behavior pre-conversion to Christ in faith and repentance. A faithful leader may prayerfully endorse another broken leader, trusting God to grow them in humility, grace and holiness. A high risk investment in a potentially faithful leader can result in a high return for the Gospel of Jesus.
Values Truth Above Acceptance: Gives Courage Without Distorting the Gospel
“The rest of the Jews joined him [Peter] in this hypocrisy [ignoring their knowledge that Jewish and Gentile Christians were united, under the new covenant, into one faith], with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not being straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I told Cephas (Peter) in front of everyone, “If you, being a Jew, live [as you have been living] like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how is it that you are [now virtually] forcing the Gentiles to live like Jews [if they want to eat with you]?”(Galatians 2:13-14, Amplified Bible)
One weakness and very real temptation of an encourager is to allow the need for acceptance—relational harmony—to dictate the need to clearly state the truth. Peter and Barnabas, in an attempt to appease their Jewish Christian friends—distorted the Gospel by requiring these non-Jewish believers (Gentiles) to embrace Jewish customs as evidence of their faith. Paul, with his characteristic boldness, called them both out for adding works to grace as a requirement to becoming a follower of Jesus. Dispassionate and relationally uninvested, the missionary apostle was able to maintain an objective perspective in proclaiming the pure gospel and clarify by defining the truth of this nascent and nimble movement of the early church.
Emotionally charged and relationally risky—this was a case study in how the power of the Gospel can defend itself without having to accommodate to cultural expectations. Peter and Barnabas—genuine, faithful leaders—-learned a valuable lesson of not adding to or taking away from belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) as the only qualification of becoming a Christian and trusting the Father to draw people to Jesus (John 6:44).
The best encouragement dispenses courage without distorting the truth of God’s Word. Perhaps the bold encouragement you need to give is to clarify truth for another well meaning, but confused soul.
“I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
PrayerHeavenly Father, give me the courage to boldly speak truth in Christ's name.
ApplicationWhom do I need to lovingly, but boldly confront with the truth of God’s Word?
Related ReadingDeuteronomy 3:28; Psalm 10:17; Romans 1:12; Colossians 2:2
Post/Tweet todayThe best encouragement dispenses courage without distorting the truth of God’s Word. #WisdomHunters #encouragement
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