One of my good friends in ministry (and a pastor in Alabama!) has a ministry of encouragement. Any time I am in the room with him, he makes me feel like I am the most important person there. He seems to care about what I tell him. He doesn’t so much offer advice. Instead he just takes some of the weight off of my shoulders by listening.
Church is like that. Some people seem to energize you and some people seem to drain you. Today I want to challenge you to a season of encouragement at a time in the life of this church where it could make a tremendous difference in the life of the church–but more importantly in the life of a person in this community of faith. How great is it when someone simply urges you on to be something or do something that you might not do on your own? Take a look at a video on YouTube. It will get you thinking about this ministry of encouragement.
Clinically, verbal encouragement has proven beneficial in studies on parenting, physical therapy, weight lifting, educational motivation, and the optimizing of ability in gifted children. In practical, spiritual and biblical terms, it is vital for our ministry. Before I do a mini-Bible study designed to encourage you, let me paint a mental picture. A hot air balloon is typically pictured against a brilliant blue sky, rising to the heights above pristine landscapes. As it rises, the balloonist (betcha didn’t know that word) controls the ascent by heating or cooling the air in the envelope (the balloon itself).
Before the modern hot air balloon, gas balloons did pretty much the same thing, but they ascended when the balloonist released weight, often the sand from sandbags, to allow the balloon to ascend. The weight or sand is called ballast.
Ballast is also used to describe the weight a submarine must take on in order to dive below the surface of the sea. Water is let into huge tanks to sink the sub. When onboard tanks are blown out and the water replaced with air, it gets rid of the ballast and the submarine is able to surface. So whether getting rid of weight to gain altitude in a balloon or to ascend in a submarine, the act of getting rid of ballast is what “encourages” the vehicle to rise.
A good definition of encouragement is “helping people get rid of their ballast so they can rise higher and become the persons God intends for them to be.” My friend understands that instinctively. So did the biblical character Barnabas whose real name was Joseph. He was so known for lifting people up that he had a nickname (Barnabas) that means “Son of Encouragement.” I will give you a brief introduction and a sermon outline and let you fill in the blanks yourself.
The story of Barnabas is found in Acts 4-Acts 15. In 4:36 Joseph gets a nickname. He demonstrated generosity in tough times, faithfulness and doctrinal soundness. He invested in people. To help with his example of a ministry of encouragement, let me give you a way to remember it. Barnabas made others feel like a “V.I.P.” He was a Very. Influential. Person.
V – Vouched for People (Acts 9:26-34) like Saul/Paul
I – Invested in the Church at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26)
An old story to close the deal: Redwood Trees in Northern California: their roots are shallow considering that some of the trees are over 200 feet tall. The way it works is that the roots of the trees intertwine with each other, making it possible for these great redwood forests to withstand tremendous storms.