Life at its best: Focus of encouragement

Sept. 23, 2011 at 4:23 a.m.

By Jim Graff

I've heard it said that what you focus on, you move toward in life. If we focus on our health, we make better decisions about our health; if we focus on our relationships, we make decisions that cause the relationships we have to flourish and grow.

This might be surprising coming from a pastor, but I believe the reason many people don't move forward is because the church is focused on the wrong thing. Let me tell you about a man in the Bible called Barnabas, whose real name was actually Joseph.

The name Baranabas means "Son of Encouragement," and it was given to him by the apostles. They recognized his ability to bring out the best in others through the power of encouragement. Later, we see how his belief in others paid off powerfully in their lives.

In the city of Antioch, Barnabas was one who began to reach out to those non-Jewish believers who had been overlooked. He told them that they could become a great church, and they did. In fact, this very church in Antioch became the center of Christianity in the first century. Another person greatly affected by Barnabas was Saul of Tarsus, who later became Paul the Apostle. The believers knew Paul passionately persecuted the Church and weren't sure they could trust he had changed. It was Barnabas who went to find Paul and bring him back to the Christians in Antioch.

For the whole year, Barnabas stayed by Paul's side. If he hadn't believed in Paul, it's very likely Paul wouldn't have become the most influential Christian in the first century.

One of the most life-changing things we do is encourage the hearts of those around us. I became more aware of this early in my pastorate; we weren't experiencing the change and growth that I had hoped, and I became frustrated by it.

I had an amazing group of about 200 people who loved God and were ready to do whatever it was he had for them to do.

I begin to pray and ask God about how to lead these people into something significant for him. God reminded me of a passage in Luke 14 about who it is he wanted us to focus on and encourage.

This passage says we are to find the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind and bring them to a knowledge of God's ability in their life. Who are these people?

The poor are those who need resources to make their life rich in God; the crippled are those who need healing to be who God created them to be; the lame are those who need strength to walk into God's best; and the blind are those who need to see what God has the power to do in their life.

Do you know anyone who is poor, crippled, lame or blind? Sure, we all do, they are around us every day; and they are waiting for something to change. Let's be a part of God bringing change in the lives of those around us through the power of encouragement.

Jim Graff is the senior pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria, Texas.



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