Son of Encouragement

Do you see the glass half full or half empty? I’m a half-empty person, myself.

It’s probably my nature, but during the years I was a software developer, that tendency was reinforced. (If you’ve used a computer, you may suspect that programmers are all incurable optimists. Not true: we just aren’t pessimistic enough.) Whether it’s something in my nature or something I learned, I usually focus on what’s broken instead of what works. And a lot of things today are broken.

North Korea is developing nuclear weapons again. People in Iran are protesting a blatant election theft, and their government is shooting them on television.

Last week, unemployment hit a 26-year high of 9.5%. In California, the rate was already two points higher, and San Bernardino county is still worse.

Half of all marriages end in divorce, and two-thirds of second marriages. Sociologist Andrew Cherlin at Johns Hopkins University discovered that a child in the U.S. with married parents is more likely to see his family break up than a child in Sweden whose parents never married.

There’s a lot to be discouraged about today.

But there always has been. The book of Acts in the Bible tells the story of a man whose nickname, Barnabas, means “Son of Encouragement.” In a community facing trouble and persecution, Barnabas stood out, because he could always provide a word of encouragement.

Wouldn’t you like to know someone like Barnabas? I would.

One of the people Barnabas encouraged was a man named Paul. Paul used to persecute Christians, until he met Jesus and became one himself. It wasn’t long after he started to follow Jesus that Paul met Barnabas. Barnabas vouched for Paul with other Christians, when they were still nervous about whether his conversion was genuine. Later, Barnabas and Paul travelled together on missionary journeys.

I think some of Barnabas rubbed off on Paul.

Paul went on the become a leader in the early church, and wrote about a quarter of the New Testament. Something that strikes you when you read Paul’s letters is how often he encourages his readers. Paul wants people to know that, however bad things may seem, God doesn’t hate them. Paul wants to reassure them that God loves us and has already acted in Christ to save us.

When I’m discouraged, I read Paul. Let me encourage you to try it yourself.

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