When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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Encouragement Matters

September 17, 2018
Dr. Hal Brady

The National Day of Encouragement occurs every year in the United States on September 12. This special day started in 2007 at Harding University in Searcy, Ark. and is intended as a day dedicated to the uplifting of those around us. The idea, of course, is for Americans to make specific acts of encouragement by words and deeds to others on this specific day, with the hope that this way of living will become a reality in our everyday lives. The point of this National Day of Encouragement is that encouragement matters, and it really does.

Now, the church has no difficulty in remembering the Apostle Paul, but it has a tendency to forget the one who encouraged Paul. I’m talking about Barnabas, one of the greatest witnesses of the early church.

How much do we actually know about Barnabas? He’s introduced first as “Joseph, a Levite, a native of Cyprus.” The fact that he was a Levite means that he was part of the religious establishment and could have been quite narrow in his outlook. But he wasn’t. Rather, he was a man of great openness and graciousness.

Without going into deep biblical detail, Barnabas means “son of encouragement,” and he was known by both word and deed for encouraging others. When people in the town of Antioch began believing in Jesus, the church fathers in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to help them. He helped them both by his spirit of gladness and his encouragement. In reference to Barnabas, the Book of Acts says, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). Encouragement matters.

I am of the opinion that everybody needs a word of encouragement every day. I am also of the opinion that a person’s hopeful words can change the lives of others.

As the noted Harvard psychologist William James observed, “The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

Perhaps no other thing encourages a child more than an honest and sincere compliment. It enables a child to love life, seek achievement, and grow in confidence.

In “The Positive Discipline of Praise” Ruth Hayward relates how she tried to correct her daughter’s poor handwriting. It was a constant struggle between them. During the middle of the girl’s third year in school there was a change in teachers. After the first day the daughter came home excited about the teacher’s saying: “She told me I can write well. I wasn’t scared of her. Everybody said she would find something good about us all.” From that day, her daughter enjoyed school. She became eager to please when she was praised.

There’s a lot of hurting going on in our world, and we never know when a word of encouragement will brighten a person’s day. At the end of our days it won’t matter much how many times we have been “right” in arguments with other people. What will finally matter is whether we encouraged other people. As I mentioned, people around us are tired, lonely, anxious, angry, and hurting. What they need is not an argument but some encouragement.

In the book “Upon This Rock,” Rev. Youngblood says, “Many have the Lord, but my own life with Christ forces me to confess that even when you’ve got the Lord, every now and then you need somebody else. That is not against the Lord. But sometimes you need another mortal. You just never need another piece of flesh and blood talkin’ to you. It doesn’t mean that the Lord is short ... Along with the Lord, we just need somebody else.” And we do!

Addressing the 2018 LaGrange College graduating class, Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, resident Bishop of the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, gave the graduates a significant word of encouragement. She concluded her message with these words, “You, graduating class of 2018, are instruments in God’s hand. I leave you to God’s care. Listen well and go as God leads you. You are God’s finest gift to the world. Go transform it with your giftedness.”

That’s also God’s direction and encouragement to us all. Encouragement matters.

Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).

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