Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Need Encouragement!

But Paul and Barnabas traveled inland to Antioch of Pisidia. On the Sabbath they went to the synagogue for the services. After the usual readings from the books of Moses and the prophets, those in charge of the service sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.” So Paul stood, lifted his hand to quiet them, and started speaking. “Men of Israel,” he said, “and you God-fearing Gentiles, listen to me..."- Acts 13:14-16.
All of us need and want encouragement. No matter how educated we are, how old we are, how self-sufficient we are; we never outgrow our need to be stroked, encouraged, comforted, supported, and invigorated. And yet, encouragement is often a commodity in short supply. An old minister, on his deathbed, was asked, "If you had it all to do over, would you do anything differently?" He replied, "Yes, I would have criticized less and encouraged more."

We live in pretty heavy days. We have a multitude of concerns: personal, inter-personal, national and international. Are we safe from nuclear warfare? Will the Middle East ever know peace? Will South Africa solve its problems? Is the stock market a safe investment? Is there hope for a cure for the AIDS epidemic? Can we ever solve the drug problem? Will I have enough money to send my children to college? Is my job secure? Will my pension/retirement funds be sufficient? Will my wife/husband/children/parents/friends ever understand me? Will I (or my loved ones) survive this threatening illness? What about death; am I ready to die? Am I prepared to meet God?

Oh, yes, it's easy enough to see why these leaders of the synagogue asked for an encouraging word. The world is a rough place. Paul's starts of with the Old Testament and on to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Now Paul comes to the good news, that "word of encouragement" they had asked for. He said, "We (Paul and Barnabas) tell you the good news." True, Jesus did not deserve to die, true they killed him and nailed him to a tree, true they buried him in a borrowed grave, "But God" - (there's that wonderful phrase that we find over and over again in Acts) - "But God raised him from the dead!" The Christian faith and hope of the resurrection is a glorious one. It's a divine-shot-in-the-arm (or heart) for depression. The circumstances of life can only push us so far. The devil can only oppress us up to a certain point. We believe in the resurrection and nothing can ultimately defeat us!

We all need encouragement...the sure and depressing word is that we are sinners - all of us - but the "encouraging word" is that Christ died for sinners and there is for us, unworthy as we are, forgiveness of sins. We can be encouraged...we are not alone. God loves us enough to forgive us, lift us up, and embrace us with life for all eternity.

You know I love ya and be encouraged today because God love ya too. -Don