Be an encourager in all relationships; forgive, accept and be there for one another.

 

Acts 11:22

 

You Very Good; You Very Fast

A runner who felt defeated by his mother’s comments was ready to give up one dark day. But along the normal path he ran he met a man who encouraged him.

“Just as I was going to turn around at the two-mile mark and head for home – feeling more discouraged than I could recall in years – I saw an elderly Chinese gentleman walking toward me on the opposite side of the trail. I had seen him walking on other mornings. I had always said, “Good morning,” and he had always smiled and nodded his head. This particular morning, he came over to my side of the trail and stood in my path, forcing me to stop. I was wearing a T-shirt with three Chinese characters on the front. With limited English he pointed to the letters and excitedly said, “You speak?”

I told him I didn’t speak Chinese; and then, very enthusiastically he said, “Every time see you…you very good…you very fast.”

Well, I am neither very good nor very fast, but that day I left with an unexplained bounce in my step. I didn’t turn from the trail where my previous dark mood had intended, but continued for six more miles, and you know, for that morning I was very good and very fast.

 

How are you running today?

“You very good…you very fast.”

 

A chance encounter or an ongoing relationship we need to be encouragers and we need encouragers in our life.

 

A few weeks ago we looked at how to create in harmony with one another. The last two weeks I have shared how I tried to have harmony with my birth mother.  I pray you are working to create harmony in your relationships.  I want to take time today to examine some of the Apostle Paul’s relationships.  I want to look at Mark and Paul’s rocky relationship and Barnabas and Paul’s contentious relationship.

 

We first meet Paul by his Hebrew name Saul in Acts 8.

It was a custom for a Jew born in a Roman city to have dual names.

Acts 13:9  Then Saul, who was also called Paul

As a Pharisee, Saul went by his Jewish name but as he preached the gospel of Jesus to a Gentile (Romans 11:13) world it made sense to use his Roman name, Paul.

 

When Stephen the first Christian is being killed Saul is giving approval of his death.

Acts 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2  Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.

 

The Christians scattered but the apostles remained in Jerusalem.

 

Saul was emboldened to search out more Christians in the name of his God.

Acts 8:3  But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

 

Saul was a fiery Pharisee and when he became a Christian he was a fiery preacher. Being baptized doesn’t change your personality.  Coming to Christ makes you forgiven, justified.  We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) but that doesn’t mean God gives us a new personality.  As a Christian we grow in the Spirit and that smooths off the rough edges of our personality.

 

After Saul became a Christian other Christians were afraid of him.

 

Acts 9:26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27  But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.

 

Barnabas took a chance on Saul and did what he always did – He encouraged. We first meet Barnabas as he is encouraging others with his generosity.

Acts 4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. … 34  There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35  and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36  Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37  sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

 

It is important to clarify this passage in light of the promotion of socialism during this presidential election.

  1. 32 No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.

That is an attitude about what the people owned not a fact that they did not own their own property.

  1. 34 For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales

In socialism you don’t own or you are forced to give what you own to the government.

The early Christians were not socialist or communist they were just generous. They did not trust in their money; they did not hoard their money; they gave as other believers had needs.

 

When the gospel was first spreading to the Gentiles the Jerusalem congregation sent Barnabas to encourage them.

Acts 11:22  News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23  When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. …25  Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26  and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.

 

Barnabas accepted Paul when others were afraid of him and Barnabas went to his home town to get Paul to come and do ministry with him in Antioch.   But the relationship strained when they were headed out for their second missionary trip.

 

Acts 15:36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38  but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40  but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

 

Paul the fiery personality and Barnabas the encourager. Paul was not going to risk Mark deserting them again and Barnabas knowing Mark needed another chance to serve faithfully.  Who was right?  We see at the end of Paul’s life that Mark was faithful and useful and Paul relied upon him while he sat in prison before he was beheaded.

2 Timothy 4:11  Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

 

I don’t know if Paul had talked with Mark before or is this the first Mark knew what Paul thought of him? Mark was encouraged to continue to serve Jesus and others.  Even though Paul had rejected his service early.  Mark continued to be faithful to Jesus.  What a legacy Barnabas left.  Barnabas came along side of Paul and came along side Mark and others to encourage them.  Barnabas knew the power of words.  We need to understand the power of words – negatively and positively.

 

Support and encouraging words go a long way. We were able to drive our gasoline powered cars to worship because of encouragement.

 

In 1896, Henry Ford was introduced to Thomas Edison, as “the man trying to make a car that runs on gasoline.” Edison asked Ford a host of questions and when the talk was over, Edison banged his fist down on the table and said, “Young man, that’s the thing! You have it! Your car is self-contained and carries its own power plant.”

Years later, Ford, reflecting on their first meeting, said in a newspaper interview, “That bang on the table was worth the world to me. No man up to then had given me any encouragement. I had hoped that I was headed in the right direction. Sometimes I knew that I was, sometimes I only wondered, but here, all at once and out of a clear sky, the greatest inventive genius in the world had given me complete approval. The man who knew most about electricity in the world had said that for the purpose, my gas motor was better than any electric motor could be.”

120 years later that is still true.

 

Words are powerful and so are relationships. No matter the struggles in our relationships we must forgive, work through differences and misunderstandings; simply love each other.

 

Relationships are powerful but we must keep human relationships in perspective.

 

Paul Tripp wrote, “You should be thankful for the people whom God places in your life. You should love them dearly. You should treat them with honor and respect. You should do all you can to maintain the unity and peace of your relationship. You should be willing to give generously and serve sacrificially. You should be humble as they speak truth into your life. BUT … you cannot look to people to provide for you what only Christ can provide.

 

There are many, many Christian relationships that are painful and marked by conflict and disappointment because one person, or both people, in those relationships is placing a burden on the other person that no human can bear:

  • No person can be the foundation of your identity.
  • No person can provide the source for your joy.
  • No person can give you a reason to get up in the morning.
  • No person can give you a reason to continue in the midst of difficulty.
  • No person can be the carrier of your hope.
  • No person can give your heart peace and rest.
  • No person can change you from the inside out.
  • No person can alter your past.
  • No person can atone for your wrongs.

AND YET … we have all asked someone, at some point and in some way, to be the fourth member of the Trinity for us!”

 

Human relationship are vital but not as vital as our relationship with Jesus. He is the only one that will not disappoint, He is the only one that we can depend on.  He proved His love by dying on the cross for you and He promised to always be with us and come and take us home one day soon.

 

Jesus’s last words to his disciples:

Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Jesus had promised them and us that He is preparing to return for us.

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 

Jesus wants you to be with Him. Do you want to be with Him?

Our invitation song says I’d rather have Jesus, is that true for you? Would you rather have Jesus than any other relationship?

Jesus thinks, “You very good.” You were worth dying for, He loves you

 

Will you accept His love and live in His love today?

Come as we sing – come believing in Him, come repenting of your sins, come ready to be immersed into Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of God the Holy Spirit.