I have not forgotten my series on Feelings and Faith and will be returning to it shortly. But in the meantime, I want to share with you a sermon I preached over the summer. Video is available to watch online here or you can download both video and audio. But thanks to the work of Kristen Keating I can share an edited transcript with you over the next few days http://kekeating.wordpress.com/
This sermon is one that meant a lot to me, and to a number of listeners. It addresses a very important concept for Christians today to get hold of. In the days of large churches where you can easily hide, and in the day of many professing Christians rejecting church altogether, this truth must once more come to the fore. You need biblical encouragement if you want to mature as a Christian. You need to learn to dispense biblical encouragement to others if you want to be obedient to Jesus command to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. I truly believe that Jesus will be much more interested in the deep lasting impact you have made in the lives of a few choice people that he gave you to care for and strengthen than in how big a crowd you managed to gather.
I encourage you to allow God to speak to you, challenge, and convict you through this message.
A prophetic dream
The Scripture tells us that young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams. I still like to think of myself as young although the beginnings of gray hairs tell me otherwise. But I am the right side of 40 just, so I was a little disconcerted recently when God spoke to me in a dream. But there you go, it’s happening. It’s a funny way to start a sermon, I know, but I would like to share this dream with you. It was a very vivid dream. I was sitting in a theatre a little bit like this, but instead of it being a cinema, there was a stage there and the curtain was down. The curtain lifted and I saw a few people from our church on the stage. We were meeting in this theatre (don’t worry, I’m not suggesting we are about to move, we’re not). But you’ll see the point of this dream in a minute.
The worship was just about to begin but then some more people started coming in from stage left and stage right. And a few more people came, and a few more people came, and suddenly the stage was full. I heard God say this: Aim for a church where there are more people on stage than watching.
It was a bit like Jubilee’s International Day. Remember that? When all the Nigerians flooded the stage? Now we’re not going to have a big choir here but what I am saying is that everyone has a role, everyone has a job to do. If you’re looking for your role one of the things you can do is go to the serving desk and sign up. I believe that is one of the ways you may need to respond to this word this morning.
What is encouragement
In Acts 4 we see Barnabas’ first appearance in Scripture as an early disciple. We read from verse 36: “Then Joseph who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
Barnabas was a big man who didn’t need a big role to make a big difference. He came, he gave his money, and he was an encouragement. He did not look for a position or a title before he began to play his part. The apostles named him “Son of Encouragement,” but interestingly that word Barnabas can also mean “Son of the Prophet”. You might say “Why is that?” We see that the purpose of prophecy, according to 1 Cor. 14, is to encourage, to comfort, to console, and to build up. Sometimes true encouragement is actually an exhortation or rebuke. It’s actually about purpose and mission. It’s coming alongside someone “parakalesis” coming alongside someone to help them to a purpose, to a cause, to a mission. It’s catching someone up in what God is doing. Now Barnabas it seems was probably a prophet but we don’t see a single prophecy that Barnabas spoke recorded in Scripture. But his character and his personality embodied these functions of the Holy Spirit. Some people ask “Why are you so interested in the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Why do you want prophecy amongst you? Why do you want the Holy Spirit’s activity amongst you?” The reason is very simple, we need encouragement we need strengthening, we need emboldening; we need to have courage put into us. That’s really what encouragement means. We need sometimes the right boot of fellowship, the provocation. It’s not so much comforting and consoling as rousing, and causing to rise up.
Mark Driscoll says of this: “The gift of encouragement involves motivating, encouraging and consoling others so that they mature in their walk with Christ.” There’s a sort of encouragement that says “there, there, you’ll be alright” but there’s a sort of encouragement that leaves a person stronger, better, more robust, more able to follow Jesus and, dare I say it, more able to help others.
To be continued…