Have you ever had a nickname, or been called a pet name by family or friends? Sometimes it can simply be a shortened version of your name, or perhaps it’s a name that describes your personality or aspects of your character.
In Acts 4 we read of a man called Joseph who had a nickname. The apostles called him Barnabas which means “son of encouragement.” How good would it be to be so known for encouraging others that you are called “Barnabas” by all who know you?
Encouragement is something we all need—and it’s so much greater and deeper than just having our self-esteem boosted by hearing nice things said about ourselves. It’s more than the coach telling the football players, “You can do it.” I remember hearing a preacher describe it as “oxygen for our soul.” It’s vital!
The biblical idea of encouragement is to comfort, exhort, urge, and strengthen. How much do each of us need that deep, lasting, spiritual spurring on; the strengthening of words of truth and support, confidence and hope, given by those who walk alongside us on our journey of faith.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian believers, the context in which he calls them to be encouragers of one another, is that of the Lord’s return, or, the Day of the Lord, as he calls it here. This is a timely message for us too, so we would do well to listen to Paul’s exhortation and advice! He begins by declaring that Jesus is coming back, and, although we don’t know when, we need not concern ourselves or be preoccupied with dates and times but are to be prepared and ready.
So, how can we encourage one another to live ready?
Paul tells us of our identity: we are no longer what we once were, but we are “of light, of the day.” Paul also exhorted the Ephesian believers in this same way when he wrote, “You were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light—for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth—trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8–10).
Our world is a dark place, spiritually and morally, but we are called to encourage each other to live in contrast, in the light of God’s goodness and truth, shining the light of Christ as we share the hope we have in Him.
In our preparation for Jesus’ return, we are to be awake and alert, sensible and serious about living lives that reflect our coming King. This world can be a hard place in which to live, so we need protection against the enemy. Therefore, Paul urges us to be equipped with the armor God provides for His people. In Ephesians 6, Paul details the full armor that we should be putting on daily, but for now, he just refers to the breastplate and the helmet.
The breastplate covers the vital organs—it’s a reminder of the need to guard our hearts, being equipped with faith, as we believe and stand on truth and the promises of God, and His love both for us and for those living in darkness who do not yet know Jesus as Savior and Lord.
We are also to put on the helmet that is our hope for salvation, past, present, and future! Our minds come under such attack from the fiery darts of Satan, the prowling lion, the father of lies and the accuser of God’s people. It is crucial to have the helmet of salvation to protect our minds against such real and personal attacks.
The concept of wearing armor brings to mind the image of a soldier who is part of an army. When Paul writes about encouraging and building up, it’s in the context of community. Isn’t it so good to know that when we are part of God’s family He gives us sisters and brothers so we do not face the battles of this world alone? There is deep encouragement to be found in the assurance that God gives us His Spirit and His people to walk through the life of faith together: through the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the mountain top experiences, and the dark valleys of trial and suffering, we journey with one another.
Who are you thankful for today? Who has been a “Barnabas” for you in your darkest moments, or has celebrated the good times, rejoicing with you? Why not take a few minutes to thank God for them, maybe even send a text or a card to say what a blessing they are?
Or, perhaps, is God asking you to support, comfort, encourage, and shine His light and goodness into someone’s life right now?
Jesus is coming back, and until that day, we are called to:
Encourage one another: Speak hope and truth!
Live as children of light in this dark world: Shine!
Guard our hearts and minds: Put on the armor!
Spur one another on towards holiness and godliness: Build each other up!
Keep looking up, with confidence and hope: Fix your eyes on Jesus, He is coming soon!
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
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