Editor’s Note:We’re doing something a bit unique for CFYC this month. Normally we’re all about women encouraging women, but this month, we decided to shake things up a little. We’ve invited some godly brothers in the faith to give us their two cents. What would these men say to a captive audience of their sisters in Christ if they had the opportunity? What do they think we need to know? Join us this month as we bring you lessons from men of God just for women.
Men are far from perfect. (What’s that? Do I hear a collective AMEN from the female cyber world?) Yes, it is true! We make mistakes and sometimes we are lazy, insensitive, forgetful, inconsiderate, and downright rude. Sometimes we don’t clean up after ourselves, and sometimes we make a mess of our interpersonal relationships. It’s easy to see how you could become angry with us, and be tempted to tell us how the cow ate the cabbage (not sure what that means, but it sounds ugly).
Likewise, your fellow sisters in Christ can often make mistakes, be insensitive, and judge you unfairly. They may gossip about you, or fail to include you in some activity. The church as a whole might not always measure up to what it should be, especially when it comes to meeting your needs or the needs of your family. All of this can lead to hurt, resentment, jealously, or discouragement. Navigating the waters of a relationship can often be frustrating both in the home and in the church, and if we aren’t careful, what can easily develop in our own hearts is potentially dangerous to both us and the relationships we seek to nurture.
At this point, I suppose I should say that in dealing with the behavior of others we should just be forgiving and move on, and based on scripture, I would be right (Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 6:14). However, I’m wondering if maybe we should start with a little introspection. Sometimes, the source of our relationship problems is rooted in ourselves instead of others. Struggling with our own personal issues of acceptance on the one hand, or arrogance on the other, can easily compound the problem. Instead of looking to find fault, as did the Pharisees in regard to Jesus (which, by the way, they “found” in a perfect man), maybe we should focus on fixing ourselves. For many of us, the thing that needs “fixing” is us and how we interact with others. I admit that it’s easy to be a fault-finder, but Instead of merely complaining about how everyone else is so terrible, shouldn’t we do our part in making the world a better place? Instead of finding fault, what if we looked for ways to encourage? I know as a man I need correction and encouragement from my sisters in Christ, and it’s amazing to think about the power women possess to help men reach their potential. I’m so thankful that I have a wife, mother, mother-in-law, and many other godly Christian women who encourage me in so many ways. Instead of seeing my faults, they have spurred me on to do more in helping both them and the church by their positive words and demeanor. However, I know some husbands, sisters in Christ, and lots of children around the brotherhood who need that same encouragement.
Learning (and it is a learned process) to see the good and being an encourager are key components to successfully building healthy relationships. Just think how much better our homes and congregations would be if we were encouragers instead of fault finders! Sin, of course, cannot be ignored, but even when it comes to rebuke, we must encourage (2 Thessalonians 3:12-14; 2 Timothy 4:1-4).
So, what does encouragement look like? How can we overcome anger and discouragement in our relationships? Why not look at the life of a man known for his encouraging character? He is Joseph, who because of his noble deeds was named Barnabas (Acts 4:36). He was a person of goodness and faith, and full of the Holy Spirit. He knew how to connect with people and give encouragement when it was needed the most. His story is found in Acts 9-15, and our lives and relationships would be truly blessed if we were to follow his great example of encouragement. To be an encourager we must:
- Know what it means. Barnabas was known as the son of exhortation. His name itself tells us something about encouragement, for it means comforter or consoler; the same title given to the Holy Spirit (PARAKLETE, meaning to call to one’s side). It is a term often utilized in connection to lawyers who were called to the side of the accused to argue his or her case by extolling their virtues and proclaiming their innocence. To be an encourager, we should seek to comfort others by extolling their virtues, especially in times of trouble or accusation. Do you suppose your husband ever needs that kind of comfort from you? What about friends, the elders, ladies day organizers, your child’s teacher, Vacation Bible School workers, Bible bowl coordinator, or your children? What about your neighbor or coworker? You might be surprised to find out how drastically your life and relationships will change for the better when you decide to comfort others instead of being the one who needs the comfort.
Make it easy for others to be accepted. Believe it or not, the apostle Paul had a hard time fitting in. The brethren were afraid of him. He was an outsider, but Barnabas took it upon himself to help Paul become a trusted disciple among brethren (Acts 9:26-27; 11:25-26). He reached out to Paul when others wouldn’t. Barnabas led the way in befriending Paul, and made it easier for Paul to be accepted at the church both in Jerusalem and Antioch. Indeed, friendship and encouragement should begin with you. If you want to be encouraged, then be an encourager by making it easier for others to be accepted in your circle of friends. How many women at your congregation need to be encouraged? How many of them are on the outside looking in at your circle of friends? No one likes being scorned by a prideful clique. Always remember that Jesus was a friend to sinners. He worked among the poor and suffering, and wasn’t afraid to be seen ministering to the outcast. Let’s do all we can to help encourage others by helping them to feel at ease around us.
- See the good when others may see the bad. No one is perfect. Not even the apostle Paul– for on at least one occasion it appears as though he made an error in judgment (Acts 15:36-40). He and Barnabas argued about the profitably of taking John Mark on the second missionary journey. When Paul lost confidence in John Mark, Barnabas refused to give up on him. Barnabas was even willing to sever his relationship with Paul, and did so, simply because he saw the potential for good in the life of John Mark. Imagine the confidence that must have given John Mark. Sometimes, all a husband, child, or friend may need to complete a task or do something great is for someone like you to believe in them. Encouragers see the potential for others to succeed. When it comes to the John Marks of the world, are you a Paul, or a Barnabas? Are you harsh in your criticism of others, or do you seek to build up your fellow brother and sister in Christ? Likewise ladies, no husband wants to be looked upon with contempt in his own home. If you highlight the flaws in his character he will find every excuse in the world not to be in your presence. In your attempt to correct what you see as the problem, you may actually be driving him away by constantly calling attention to his bad qualities. Bless others and you will be a blessing, but judge and you will be harshly judged (Matt 7:1).
There are many other elements which go along with being an encourager which are revealed in Barnabas and others like him, but perhaps these three can be a great starting point for those who are struggling with overcoming the challenges found in relationships. While we can never completely control the actions and attitudes of others, we can have an enormous impact upon their lives– and consequently our own– by changing our own hearts and how we interact with others. Much of the burden is to be placed squarely upon our own shoulders. As children of God we are to “Bless them which persecute you…rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another…recompense to no man evil…live peaceably with all men…be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14-21). A tall order, but one that clearly delineates the responsibility we have in taking the focus away from ourselves and placing it upon God and upon serving others. The byproduct will be encouragement. We will encourage others and we will be encouraged—it just doesn’t get any better than that, unless of course we are talking about heaven, and that’s the best encouragement of all!
By John Moore
John has been involved in ministry for 27 years, first working with college students on the campus of Texas State University, then with the Southwest School of Bible Studies, and currently with the Dripping Springs church of Christ. He and his wife Carla have been married for 26 years and were blessed with three sons (and now a daughter-in-law!).