Sons (and Daughters) of Encouragement
Acts 4 introduces us to a well-known Bible character named Joses. Of course, few today know him by the name Joses, for the apostles changed his name to Barnabas, i.e. Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36, 37). The first time he is mentioned he had sold land to help the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, but his encouraging spirit is also seen in his befriending of Saul (Acts 9:26, 27), his selection by the church at Jerusalem as the best man to go strengthen the young church in Antioch (Acts 11:22, 23), and in his unwillingness to give up on John Mark (Acts 15:36-39).
I hope we can all learn from Barnabas to commit ourselves to being sons and daughters of encouragement. We need to look for opportunities to build others up and encourage them in their service to God. Let’s all make a greater effort to seek and find ways to encourage others. That being said, I want to focus on a few things related to the family that I find especially encouraging.
I don’t have to tell anyone we live a time of throwaway marriages. All you have to do is drive down the road or turn on the television and you will see attorneys advertising inexpensive, quick divorces. It is truly discouraging to see this destructive trend in our society, but more importantly this is something God hates (Mal. 2:16). That being said, it is encouraging to see couples who have not divorced, but continue to love one another with the intent of “till death do us part.” Enduring marriages are not the result of a couple getting “lucky” and never enduring hardships; instead, they are the result of two people having a commitment to overcoming the difficulties of life and the differences two distinct individuals bring to a relationship. They understand that God has made them to be one flesh and though they, like all couples, may have some rough times, they are not going to separate what God has joined together (Matt. 19:3-6). To all who are building these enduring marriages—thank you for your encouragement.
Though Eph. 6:4 admonishes fathers to bring their children up in the training and admonition of the Lord, a large percentage of children do not even have the privilege of growing up in a home where a father is present. And then, in those homes where fathers are found, far too many are so absorbed in their careers or their hobbies that they have little time to actually teach their children. While this is worrisome and displeasing to God, there are fathers who, while not neglecting their work (1 Tim. 5:8), make time for their children. They rarely miss a recital, school, or sporting event. They may spend some time in recreation, but not at the expense of building a relationship with their children. And even more importantly, they make time to read Bible stories to the little ones; they see that lessons are prepared and the family is on time and present for Bible study; they teach their children to participate in the worship and they talk with them about the things they have heard. There are fathers who with firm patience seek to guide their children through the difficulties of adolescence. They realize this is a time when they must back off some and allow more freedoms, but they also know they are still fathers charged with a great responsibility. Though they are encouraging their children to learn how to make their own decisions, they realize they must sometimes exercise veto power and must always be available when needed. You fathers who manifest these concerns for your children are true sons of encouragement in a world that has produced so many discouraging fathers.
Just as many fathers are too focused on their careers, it is becoming increasingly rare to find mothers who appreciate the value of being the kind of woman described in 1 Tim. 5:14 and Titus 2:3-5.
“Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”
“...the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”
While the world may look on the dedicated mother as one who is wasting her talents, I am encouraged to see young women able to appreciate the difference they can make in the lives of their children, their community, and in the Lord’s church by making this kind of commitment to their children. Mothers, please don’t listen to those who would minimize what you are doing and be a discouragement to you. Be strong and know that you are rendering an invaluable service and are an encouragement to many.
All quotes taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Thomas Nelson Publishers.