Sunday Scrutinization: Reclaiming the Painting
“When was the last time you were encouraged?” today’s sermon began. I had to think about it. What does that even mean? That I would have been challenged to pursue what I should or need to do? Or is it that someone gave me a compliment for a job well done? I mean, I was encouraged a couple of weeks ago when my best friend told me my writing was getting better. That felt good, but was this in the context the question was asked? No, I didn’t think so. It was very hard to think of a situation where I was truly encouraged to go beyond what I thought I could do. This should be something that happens regularly. I thought of the men in my life, and thought of one or two that can encourage me in the way I believe it was meant to be, but couldn’t think of specific instances right away. But then I thought of my wife. She is my great encourager. Many instances where she keeps me going, and one where she encouraged me/us to move here to West Plains; something I needed to do, something I know I needed and was afraid to do. She knew it was right and encouraged me to it.
He went on to tell us that God painted the Church to be a wonderful piece of art and that we have copied it, covered it with inferior colors and strokes, made it into something He never intended it to be. He says the goal for the church is to get it back to the original way God made it, and part of that is to get back to doing what Barnabas did; encourage others.
Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. ~Acts 11:22-26
The word “encouraged” is the Greek compound word, “parakaleō”. Para, meaning, to come alongside in an intimate way. Kaleō, meaning, to call out or bring people to a goal or truth. So Barnabas came alongside and called them to do the things they needed to do, spoke truth into their life.
Many of us in the Church have come to doing good on one side or the other: coming alongside each other or speaking truth. But, as he said, love without truth is not love, and truth without love is not truth. I have generally fallen on the side of just speaking truth without coming alongside… without love.
This ministry of encouragement is very important for the Church. Why? It matures us, by moving us out of denial. Look at Hebrews 3:13, “but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” We’re told if we exhort, or encourage each other we will not be hardened by sin.
Encouragement also helps us to grow. Ephesians 4:14-15 says, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—”. If we are speaking the truth in love or being spoken to, then that helps us to not be tossed about and helps us grow.
Also, from the Acts reading, it helps spread the gospel. I read a book a month or so ago called Parisectomy, and the thing I remember most of all from this book was regarding this subject. If we wish to speak truth in people’s lives, we must have tried to establish a relationship with them first. The author likens it to a bank. We need to make deposits into other people before we make withdrawals. We need to have a relationship, a relationship of love and care and time with other people before we have any sort of right to speak truth. We, as Christians, forget this. We try to make withdrawals all the time without having made any deposits. That truth is clear when you see on that one sight someone saying, “the nicest people I’ve met were covered in tattoos and piercings, the most judgemental are those who go to church every Sunday.” The world of course, equates being nice with not being judgemental, which is a wrong way of looking at it, but they have every right to see it this way, us Christians trying to tell people the truth without having any relationships with them. This isn’t truth, because it is not spoken in love, it is spoken in judgement.
I have made these mistakes as well. I have thought I was being loving when I told people how wrong they were, and I’ve hurt many people. I have since become very careful about how I speak to people to the point where I don’t anymore. I’ve told you a while back that I have recently realized that I find it hard to trust people and I am trying to get past that, and this sermon today is quite a challenge. I also have revealed that some people have found me unapproachable. Lord, how can I change these things within me? Of course, I can’t change these things, only the Lord can through His work in me and my relationship with Him growing. A challenge to encourage two people this week has been made… is it possible for me? I must throw out my pride that I know truth more than others. I must throw away my pride that I am in control of how people may react to the truth. Most of all, do I know someone well enough to speak and especially know them well enough that I can see they need that truth in their life?
Lord, look down on me and help me to trust people again. Help me to see them as vulnerable as I am. That I can be open enough to be spoken to and to share my life with them. I look forward to an opportunity this week, but that I can see it and take action, for I miss so much being involved in myself. Boy, I sure said “I”, “my” and “self” a lot in these sentences, but God can grow me more… for I praise Him, ever praise Him. That You may reclaim your painting as You intended it to be.