In spite of hardship

September 11, 2014

It says in Acts 4:36-37: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to truly be so grace-filled and encouraged that ‘there are no needy persons amongst yourselves?’ I can honestly say amidst a family of seven children, and a mother that could not walk or care for any of her children’s physical needs, few of our needs went unmet. How could this be so? Truth be said, we had a mom (and a dad) that essentially sold themselves out and brought all their resources to their children’s and spouse’s feet.

I’m sure you know Barnabas means ‘encouragement.’ How was it possible for a person like Barnabas to sell his field and put this money at the apostles’ feet? My gut says there was selfless leadership going on with this group of believers and that no one was keeping score. Our childhood experiences saw the same selfless leadership. Picture this: early in the morning, a father would quickly get dressed and then he had the insurmountable task every day of dressing his spouse, taking her to the bathroom, and then placing her in a hospital bed in the living room. After this routine, one of the seven children fed mom. Then it was off to the races. Mom was selflessly giving herself away in spite of hardship. Giving herself away included the following type of actions. She would encourage each child as they prepared to go to school. Comments shared included “I love you, I believe in you, and I know you will do well.” No pity party about being an invalid. No feeling sorry about hardships. No fretting about spending the next eight hours in a hospital bed waiting for the children to come home.

I’ve often wondered how we can be so self-absorbed when we really aren’t going through that many hardships compared to others. Do you wonder if you could give yourself away in the same way Barnabas did? Do you wonder if you can give yourself away in the same way Barnabas did? Could the following types of actions allow you to give yourself away? Listening instead of responding; giving instead of receiving; sharing instead of asking; serving instead of being served; learning to do with less instead of always wanting more; encouraging instead of discouraging.

My mother encouraged us every day. Every day she gave herself away. She could have sobbed and sobbed for years but she chose the higher ground. She encouraged me by challenging me to work hard. She encouraged me by challenging me to be humble. She encouraged me by challenging me to serve others. She encouraged me by helping me reach my full potential. She built up each child’s self-esteem with words. The reason why there weren’t many needs around our house is because we learned that we were whole beings. Mom demonstrated encouragement to us because she said as whole beings that our spiritual, emotional, social, intellectual, and physical needs were all tied together. Each day, she said it was our responsibility to give every bit of ourselves to God and others. She daily challenged us to take the focus off ourselves and seek to meet the needs of others. It was true encouragement because if anybody had a reason to feel sorry for one self, and be discouraged, it was her. Have you come to the end of your rope? Are you discouraged or overwhelmed? Take some time today and look around. Acknowledge how fortunate you are and find a way to take your resources and put them at other people’s feet. You do have a choice. God has dominion over your ability to encourage as much as He has dominion over your physical resources and work responsibilities. Ask him to help you give yourself away today. Ask him to help us see he has dominion over every aspect of our life.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for focusing on my petty needs. Challenge me to be a source of encouragement to others. Take my eyes off physical needs and guide me in helping to see colleagues and family members as whole individuals that need my encouragement today. Amen

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