When he was a young boy, Benjamin West attempted to draw a picture of his sister, but he succeeded only in making a mess. His mother saw his creation, kissed him on the head, and remarked, “Why, it’s Sally!” He would later say that it was that kiss that made him an artist—and the great American painter he would become. Encouragement is a powerful thing!
Like a child learning to paint, Paul didn’t have much credibility early on in his ministry, but Barnabas affirmed his calling. It was through Barnabas’s encouragement that the church accepted Saul as a fellow believer (Acts 9:27). Barnabas would also encourage the fledgling church of Antioch, helping it to become one of the most influential in the book of Acts (11:22–23). And it was through Barnabas’s encouragement, as well as Paul’s, that the Jerusalem church embraced the gentile believers as Christians (15:19). So, in many ways, the story of the early church is really a story of encouragement.
The same should apply to our own lives. We might think encouragement is merely saying something nice to someone. But if we think that way, we fail to recognize the lasting power it possesses. It’s one of the means by which God shapes our individual lives as well as the life of the church.
Let’s thank God for the moments we receive encouragement and strive to pass it along to others.
How has encouragement shaped your life story in some way? Who encouraged you, and how did they do it? How will you encourage someone in your life this week?
A little detail mentioned in Acts 15:12—“the whole assembly became silent”—is significant. A “sharp dispute and debate” had arisen (v. 2), with Paul and Barnabas on one side and certain believers on the other. These believers insisted that non-Jewish Christians had to adhere to Jewish law and be circumcised. The text tells us, “After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them” (v. 7). We can imagine how heated that discussion must have been, but Peter outlined a rational defense of the gentiles’ faith (v. 7). He noted how they too had the Holy Spirit, just as the Jewish believers did (v. 8). Peter added, “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we [Jewish believers] are saved, just as they [gentile believers] are” (v. 11). Peter’s calm response to the dispute, along with the testimony of Paul and Barnabas, preserved and enhanced unity in the church.