Summary: Our encouragement: 1. Can help overcome suffering (vs. 19). 2. Can be sent to new places (vs. 20-23). 3. Can help people be saved (vs. 23-24). 4. Can help strengthen other Christians (vs. 23&26).
Be an Encourager for God
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Nov. 17, 2013
*Everybody needs encouragement. The night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre, he was carrying: two pairs of glasses, a small velvet eyeglass cleaner, an ivory pocketknife, a large handkerchief with "A. Lincoln" stitched in red, a tiny pencil, a brass sleeve button, a fancy watch fob, and a brown wallet with a Confederate five-dollar bill. But Lincoln also carried 8 newspaper clippings that he had cut out and saved. All of them praised the President who carried so much weight on his shoulders. (1)
*Lincoln carried those positive clippings because he needed encouragement. Everybody does. And God wants us to be those encouragers. Our encouragement can do great things for God.
1. So in today's Scripture, notice first the suffering. Our encouragement can help other people overcome great suffering.
*Verse 19 reminds us that these early Christians had gone through some terrible suffering. There God's Word says that "those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only."
*This was a most difficult time for the church. Stephen the Deacon was one of their best leaders, and he had been cruelly murdered. That alone was a terrible blow to the church. But the suffering did not stop with Stephen's death. In fact, Stephen's murder set off a tsunami of persecution on the other Christians.
*Before he got saved, the Apostle Paul was one of the ringleaders. His original name was Saul, and Acts 8:1-4 tells us that:
1. . . Saul was consenting to his (Stephen's) death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
4. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
*People were being beaten, thrown into jail, even killed, just because they were followers of Jesus Christ. The early Christians had to run for their lives! The church was scattered.
*But as they went, they preached the good news about Jesus, and many people turned to the Lord. That's why in vs. 22 the church in Jerusalem sent a man to help out in Antioch. He had first come on the scene in Acts 4, and his name was Joses. But he was such an encourager that they gave him a nickname: "Barnabas, The Son of encouragement." And his encouragement helped these suffering people.
*Over 60 years ago, R.A. Bosshardt and a man named Hayman were taken prisoner by the Communists in China. They sat on the freezing floor one December day. There was no fire, and only a little rice and vegetables to eat.
*The two Christian men were forbidden by the cruel guards to even speak. Things couldn't have seemed more gloomy and dismal. But the Holy Spirit sent a one word message to R.A. that made a world of difference. That word was "Emmanuel," which means "God with us." It was one of the names given to Jesus, because He truly IS God with all who will trust in Him.
*R.A. longed to pass his encouragement on to Mr. Hayman, so he formed letters on the ground with pieces of straw to spell out "Emmanuel." It was just one word on the cold, hard ground, written in pieces of straw. But that encouraging word turned their freezing cell into a place of great joy. (2)
*Our encouragement can help suffering people too.
2. But also notice the sending in today's Scripture. God sends us out to encourage more people.
*In spite of the crisis (and partly because of the crisis) great things were happening in Antioch. We see this in vs. 20&21:
20. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
*Great things were happening in Antioch. In fact, it was the greatest thing of all: People were believing in Jesus, turning to the Lord and getting saved!
*But encouragement can make a great blessing even better. So in vs. 22-23, the church sent Barnabas to Antioch:
22. 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.
23. 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.