Monday Morning Devotions-December 12, 2022
*My annual gift to you…a Christmas gift that never gets old.
A Gift Suggestion
Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And large numbers of people were brought to the Lord. Acts 11:24
We are now fully immersed in the gift giving season. Counting down the shopping days to Christmas becomes more stressful as the remaining days get shorter and that long gift list doesn't. Often there are names on the list that don't have a gift penciled in next to them. That's because you don't know what to get for those folks.
Some people are hard to shop for because they have…uh, unique tastes. Some are just hard to please. There are the folks on your list who seem to have everything, and you just can't figure out what to get for them. You want to please them. You don't want to just give a gift because you feel obligated. You want them to like it.
There are folks you are close to that you have given many gifts to over the years, and you just can't figure out what to give them this time that will be different. All of these are gift-giving dilemmas. What's a person to do? Well, let me tell you: I don't know! I can't help you with those gift-list problems, but I feel your pain.
What I can pass along to you is a suggestion for a gift you can give anyone at any time and it works especially well during the holiday season when people are rushed, harried, tired, frustrated, even angry. And it doesn't cost a dime. Sounds too good to be true doesn't it.
It is the gift of encouragement. This is a gift that doesn't require a lot of bargain hunting, driving from store to store, using up a lot of gas, fighting the crowds, waiting in long check-out lines, and increasing that ever-growing credit-card balance.
Wait a minute, you say. Jim, you cornball! What's up with that? Are you suggesting that instead of buying a gift, I just say, "Hey Mom, instead of buying you some old boring gift this year, I want to give you something different---an encouraging word. So, here goes. You are really doing a great job as a mother. Keep up the good work. You are the best!" Sure, that's going to go over well!
No, I'm not saying that at all. It would be nice to tell your mother how much you appreciate and love her. That would be encouraging to her. But she deserves a nice gift as well. She's your mom.
"Okay Jim are you saying that I tell my employees that instead of giving them a Christmas bonus, I tell them I'm going to give them the gift of encouragement this year and proceed to tell them what great workers they are and how valuable they are to the success the company has enjoyed?" No…that's not it. They earned that bonus, and they should get it.
Here is what I'm saying. Let the NLT Bible say it for me. "Every group needs an 'encourager' because everyone needs encouragement at one time or another. However, the value of encouragement is often missed because it tends to be private rather than public. In fact, people most need encouragement when they feel most alone."
The above passage came from the bio of Barnabas. Here's what NLT has further to say about him. "Barnabas was drawn to people he could encourage, and he was a great help to those around him. It is delightful that wherever Barnabas encouraged Christians, non-Christians flocked to become believers!"
Actually, the name Barnabas means "Son of Encouragement." Obviously, he was good at this. Encouragement is one of the spiritual gifts. It is one that can be acquired and developed, and a person can become good at it, just like Barnabas was.
Thanks to Barnabas, in a way, we have most of the New Testament. First, of all he is largely responsible for Paul being able to accomplish a lot of his work. Paul, back when he was known as Saul, was a persecutor of Christians, before his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus which changed him from "opponent" to "proponent" of Jesus.
But Paul couldn't just have a conversion experience and go right out and be accepted by those who had known him as a persecutor. He had to have someone pave the way or he wouldn't have had an audience at all. They were all afraid of him. Enter the Son of Encouragement, himself…Barnabas.
Barnabas was well-respected, people liked to be around him. Who wouldn't want to be in the company of someone who found good things to say and was always upbeat and encouraging them to get better?
In Acts 9:26 we read "When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They thought he was only pretending to be a believer!" Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles and told them about his experience on the road to Damascus and convinced them that he was really changed and was now sincere in his desire to take the gospel message everywhere.
Later when Paul and Barnabas went on their first missionary journey they took John Mark, who was a cousin of Barnabas, along as an assistant. Partway into the trip John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. No reason is given.
Later when Barnabas wanted John Mark to join them for another missionary journey Paul said, "No way. He's grounded for violation of team rules," or something like that. So Barnabas suggested that they separate and have two missionary teams instead of one. He would take John Mark with him, and Silas would accompany Paul.
Thus, Barnabas encouraged his cousin not to give up and as a result he not only wrote the Gospel of Mark, but later gained Paul's respect (Colossians 4:10) and helped him in his work (2 Timothy 4:11). So, Barnabas, by using his gift of encouragement played an important role in the development of the early church.
There is no telling what great acts you can inspire when you become an encourager. So, I encourage you during this Christmas Season to give the gift that really does keep on giving…the Gift of Encouragement.
Monday Prayer: Lord, instill the gift of encouragement in each of us so we may make the holidays brighter for all those around us. Amen!