Summary: Often we encourage others, sometimes we need encouragement, but does encouragement come at a cost to the one who encourages?
“An Encouraging Word”
Sermon Notes, Acts 15:22-35 NIV
AC 15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.  With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
AC 15:24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.  So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul--  men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.  It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:  You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
AC 15:30 The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter.  The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.  Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.  After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
What is the cost of encouraging others? After all, if encouragement means to breath strength and courage into someone or help someone to become confident or hopeful, isn’t our own strength sapped in the process? Doesn’t it take a great deal of effort sometimes to encourage others or even humble ourselves in order that others might progress? Isn’t there a cost for being the “wind beneath someone’s wings?”
So many Christian messages focus on how to be encouraged or how to encourage others and so few consider the cost to the one who is the giver of encouragement. Why? Because we assume there isn’t a cost to lifting up others so that they might be a winner at their own life struggles. Perhaps our own hedonistic tendencies fail to consider the person who helped to get us above or beyond our current crisis. Less pessimistically, maybe we just forgotten to thank those who have helped us after we have arrived victorious in our battle. Whatever the reason, those who bow, those who bend, those who step aside, and those who put us before themselves are the true givers of help and encouragement in times of trouble.
Such is the case before today.
It is easy to villianize the believers (converted Pharisees, no doubt) who vocalized their opinion that new gentile converts should behave as Jews in their observance of Old Testament laws. While it is clearly true that their doctrinal position was suspect, nevertheless, their thoughts were every bit as valid for debate as any other in this new order or covenant of God to humanity. After all, only a relatively short period of time has passed since Christ was resurrected and the church established. They were trying to find their way as were all believers and looked to the Jerusalem Council for guidance and hopefully, support, (although they ultimately failed on the essential doctrinal view) for their concerns. On an aside, every church should be willing to consider members views and search the scriptures, which much prayer, to either validate or dismiss the veracity of individual claims or concerns. Well does Isaiah quote God in saying, “come now, let us reason together says the Lord.”