God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last post from the book of Acts we looked at how important generosity is for anyone who wants to follow Jesus. Material generosity was touched on but we mainly explored another form of generosity. If you’re interested you can check that out here: Generous Toward Each Other: Acts 4:32-33. In today’s post we’ll look at how Jesus wants us to encourage one another.
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.Acts 4:34-37
So among this growing group of disciples, there wasn’t a single needy person because the well off believers sold their assets and laid the proceeds at the apostles’ feet. Then it was distributed to any who had need. And there was this one person named Joseph, he also sold a field that belonged to him and he too brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Joseph was his name but that’s not what the apostles called him. The apostles called him Barnabas which means son of encouragement. They called him that because he was an inspired man who lived his life encouraging others.
When Paul was new to the faith and everyone feared him (because Paul was persecuting the church before he encountered Jesus) Barnabas supported Paul and affirmed Paul’s conversion. He even facilitated connecting Paul with the original disciples. When John Mark and Paul and Barnabas were traveling together sharing the gospel, John Mark bailed part way through. When the next trip came up Barnabas wanted to give John Mark a second chance.
That’s the kind of guy Barnabas was. He was an encourager.
How to Lead Firefighters Into Burning Buildings
In my fire service leadership training we were taught to be encouragers. Rather than identifying weaknesses and catching people doing something wrong and picking people apart, we were taught to identify people’s strengths and to “catch people doing something right.” That’s how to lead effectively. You know what? You can pick people apart and try to lead that way, but in my experience those who adopted that style usually looked behind over their shoulder only to find nobody was following. If you think you’re leading but nobody’s following, then, by definition, you’re not a leader. If you’re having problems with the people around you following your lead, you might want to reflect a bit on your style of communication.
“I’d Go With That”
One time I had a conversation with Pastor Jon about a close friend who was lukewarm in his faith but still identified as a Christian.
“He identifies as a Christian?” Pastor Jon said.
“If it were me, I’d go with that. That’s what I would do Kurt. If he identifies as a Christian, I’d go with that.”
He was telling me to do exactly what we were trained to do at the fire department. He was telling me to do what Barnabas did. He was telling me to build on what positives were already there, rather than focus in on the negatives.
And here’s the thing about the way Jon shared this with me: he did it in an encouraging way! He was gentle and affirming and encouraging in his tone and in everything he said during our conversation.
Jesus, Barnabas, and You
Barnabas was like that. Barnabas didn’t focus on Paul’s past when Paul was “breathing threats and murder” against Jesus followers. Barnabas focused on Paul’s encounter with Jesus, he focused on Paul’s new relationship with Christ and Paul’s desire to serve Jesus. In spite of the fear and cynicism other believers felt toward Paul, Barnabas took him in, and took him around, and introduced him to the apostles and the Christian community. (Acts 9:26-27)
Barnabas didn’t focus on the time when John Mark bailed out of the mission trip. Barnabas focused on John Mark’s desire to serve Christ. (Acts 15:36-41)
Jesus was the same way. When I think about Matthew and Zacchaeus’s lives as tax collectors, I’m taken aback by the way they took advantage of their brothers and sisters. They were in opposition of Israel and Israelites. They were aligned with the Roman government who was occupying the Jewish nation. Both were a part of the system that oppressed the Jews. But Jesus never focused on that.
In spite of Matthew’s questionable past Jesus asked Matthew to follow him as his disciple. And in spite of Zacchaeus’s sins Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner! (Matthew 9:9, Luke 19)
People like to complain. It’s human nature to notice the mistakes, the faults, the flaws, and the sins of others. That’s true for most of us and if you’re an analytical personality like I am even more so.
But that’s absolutely not who Jesus wants us to be. Jesus wants us to be like Jesus. Jesus wants us to catch people doing something right. Jesus wants us to be encouragers. Jesus wants you and he wants me to be a Barnabas.
“Father, please help the old man in us to wither and die and help Jesus to live in us and to flourish inside of us. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and make each one of us someone who loves You well and who loves the people around us well. Make each one of us an encourager like Jesus. Make each one of us a Barnabas.”
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up . . .”1 Thessalonians 5:11
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Now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.