Scripture: Acts 13:13-43
I’m not a runner. I just don’t do it. At least not for fun. If you happen to see me running…you better start running too! Don’t even look back because something serious is going down!
Some people like to run for fun. I don’t get it…but I’m not against it. I know people that do this and I like them. Which would explain why a couple of months ago I was at a local 5k race (I don’t know why runners prefer the metric system). I was standing at the finish line with my latte in hand watching people come down the last stretch and finish the race. Some of them looked comfortable and seemed barely winded. Some of them looked closer to what I think I would look like (if by some miracle I would ever actually get to the finish line). They were struggling…breathing hard and doing everything they could to dash the last 100 yards. The thing I noticed is that a lot of the runners that had already finished and a lot of the spectators who weren’t nursing on steamed milk would stand along the route and cheer on the runners. They would clap for them and yell out encouraging phrases to them such as “You can do it!” (insert Rob Schneider impersonation here) and judging from the responses and testimony of friends that were running, this cheerleading was quite helpful and encouraging. I bet it was nice to hear. The fact is…we all like to hear encouragement! We all need to hear encouragement because sometimes life is pretty challenging!
In the scripture above, Paul and Barnabas sit down in the religious institution of the day and the leaders of said institution ask them to stand up and give the people a word of encouragement. Apparently it’s Open Mic Night at the synagogue and Paul, being a preacher, can’t pass up an opportunity to speak. I think it’s important to note what he said to them. When he has the chance to encourage a large group of people and is allowed to say one thing to them….what does he say?
(Dramatic pause for effect)
He tells them the gospel. He starts by telling them the redemptive story of God’s work among His chosen people and walks all the way through the story to the person of Jesus. Over and over he points to the fact that God is the main character of the story and it is all about Him and His work of salvation. He paints a portrait of a sovereign God who intervenes into His creation to provide forgiveness and freedom to a people captured and enslaved to sin. He points to the death and resurrection of Christ as the means by which people can be reconciled to God. He could have told them anything else. He could have said “Just hang in there”… “You’ve got this”….”You can do it”…but instead of making their own abilities the center of encouragement…he makes much of God’s abilities demonstrated in the work of the gospel.
Encouraging words are great! Much better than listening to negativity…that’s for sure! But if you have a chance…encourage someone today with words that can truly stir the spirit and soul. Encourage them with the gospel. If you need encouragement today…take Paul’s words to heart and remind yourself that God is a powerful God who is always in control of all things and He is working those things for your good. Freedom from sin and it’s effects (shame and guilt) can be had today and forgiveness is waiting in the person of Jesus.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36 ESV)
That’s pretty encouraging!