I was in the vehicle with my friend on my way to the gym.
For the first time.
It is not that I don’t enjoy working out. I just never went to a gym for selfish reasons. “What if someone sees me squat wrong?” “What if the bigger guys look at me weird?”
Yes, ridiculous reasons that sound like they come from a 6-year-old.
To make my anxiety worse, my friend told me we would make a quick stop. To pick up his buddy who could “bench 300”. No big deal.
“Don’t worry,” my friend encouraged me. “He is super nice and will be willing to help you out.”
in the gym
Once we entered into the gym, the first lift was bench press. After my friend and his buddy (I’m just going to call him Buddy, okay?) showed me the proper technique, it was my turn to take a shot at it.
I breathed deep, tried to act confident, and got in position to warm up.
“Okay, so looking good. But make sure to hold the bar right over your chest like this…” Buddy was beside me, realigning the bar.
“Now try it again.”
The three of us took turns, working ourselves up to our max weight. My max weight? 105 pounds.
To the other guys’ credit, they never snickered or laughed. All they did was encourage. When I could not push anymore weight, Buddy let me know that “Everyone has to start somewhere! Great effort.”
In fact, they were so encouraging I did not realize how pitiful 105 pounds was until I got home. “Dad, I lifted 105! It was awesome.”
To be honest, I would have never known better. All because they were willing to come alongside me and encourage me.
See through our past
When it comes to exhortation and encouragement in scripture, no one can top Barnabas.
Here is an example of Barnabas in action. Saul had just converted from a rapid Christian-killer to a Christian himself. But no one was ready to trust him.
Saul proclaimed Jesus with the same intensity he pursued followers of Jesus. Yet the disciples in Jerusalem were still fearful. What if this was a trap? Why would Saul make such a dramatic change?
Only one would take the chance with Saul.
Barnabas is not called “Son of Exhortation” for nothing.
He took this fledgling Christian, brought him to Peter and James, and declared Saul to be genuine. As a result, the rest of the disciples were ready to protect Saul when the Jews sought to kill him (Acts 9:26-30).
All because one individual was willing to see through Saul’s past and encourage him.
Exhort us for more
Seven years later, the Jerusalem church began to hear interesting news. There was a congregation that had started in Antioch.
Who does Jerusalem send to Antioch? Their first pick is MVP Barnabas. Once Barnabas gets to Antioch, Acts 11:23-24a says,
When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
The Lord was adding so many people to the church that Barnabas went searching for help. Guess who his first pick is?
It was an ironic choice to pick Saul. The reason the church in Antioch existed was because of persecution. The persecution that Saul was leading just 7 years ago! (Acts 11:19)
The reason Christians were present in Antioch was because of Saul. Yet Barnabas wanted Saul to join him in exhorting this congregation to faithfulness and steadfastness.
And challenge Saul for more.
Exhortation for us
So what does exhortation look like for us? “Exhortation” comes from two words:
to the side + to call
In other words, it means to come alongside someone and call them to hold fast. To keep on. This is a close-up and personal encouragement. That is what Barnabas did for Saul and Antioch and what my friends did for me.
When I struggled to lift 105 pounds, my friends came alongside me and encouraged me to try harder. To not give up. They didn’t look down at me, ignore me, or mock me.
And that is what we need more of in this community of believers called the church. We need individuals willing to:
- See through others’ past
- Exhort them for more
That’s exhortation. And that’s what I challenge you to. Find those people in your life struggling. Come alongside them and challenge them.
They need it. You need it. I need it. We need it.
The church needs your exhortation.