Encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
His name was Joseph. But he “was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement)” (Acts 4:36). Joseph. Barnabas. I guess that would make him “Joe Encouragement.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be such an encouraging person that your friends simply call you Encouragement?
Courage is the resolve to face a fearful threat. And courage is fueled by hope—a hope in something stronger than what we fear.
Discouragement sets in when our hope leaks. We begin to cower before our fear. When this process happens, and it happens often, we need an infusion of hope. That’s what encouragement is. Barnabas went around giving people hope-infusions, which helped them keep fighting the fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).
We need Barnabas people. We need to be a Barnabas.
A Deluge of Discouragement
We live in a deluge of discouragement. Criticism, contempt, critique and correction. It’s the native language of our fallen world. These things roll easily off the human tongue far more than affirmation and encouragement, because the fallen human heart has an abundance of pride (Matthew 12:34).
We human beings are by sinful nature viciously critical of one another. We’ve even made “critic” a profession. The vast majority of the analyses of people, ideas, organizations, movements and governments we hear, whether in the press, on blogs or at the table next to us, are negative. (Brace yourself for another presidential election cycle.) There are, of course, things that legitimately need critique and correction. But the overabundance of negativity is largely due to the fact that the prideful eye of the fallen human heart is trained to see others’ weaknesses, foibles, mistakes and sins. It looks for them and relishes in them. It even sees ones that aren’t there. Why are we like this?
Ironically, one reason is that we are all looking for hope for ourselves. Courage comes from hope. Discouragement sets in when hope leaks. So we sinful humans are on the lookout for any reason to lighten our own discouragement and the guilt of our own failings and sins. When faith in the gospel of the grace of the God of encouragement (Romans 15:5) is absent or deficient in our hearts, we look to others’ failings and sins to make ourselves feel better.
We should not be surprised that this is the case. What else would we expect from a culture in a world under the governance of the evil one (1 John 5:19)?
And we should not even be surprised when the church falls into a disproportionate amount of discouraging negativity. Our remaining indwelling sin is bent in this way and Christians are under constant assault by spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). Critical discernment is necessary for spiritual survival.