So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. After spending some time there, they were sent off with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. (Acts 15:30-35)
When the believers in Antioch heard they might have to follow every law of Moses to follow Christ, they were discouraged. The early church recognized that Christians should encourage.
I read a touching story about a woman with a cleft palate. When she was young, no surgeries for cleft palate were available. At a young age, she accepted that no one outside of her family would love her. People made it clear she was difficult to look at. Luckily, she had an elementary school teacher who realized she needed encouragement. It is easy to encourage by telling them you like their clothes, shoes, or that they are doing a good job. We should always give that kind of encouragement because it makes people feel good all day.
But the encouragement that changes people’s lives requires an investment of time. The teacher of the woman with the cleft palate must have thought about the kind of encouragement she needed. This teacher waited for the day of the annual hearing test and whispered, “I wish you were my little girl.” The woman with the cleft palate said those seven words changed her life.
Silas and Judas wanted to encourage the people in Antioch. To do so they traveled three hundred miles, about a two-week trip one way. People don’t often give life-changing encouragement because it takes a lot of time. Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Judas, James, and the Jerusalem church invested time in the people of the Antioch church which resulted in many knowing Jesus, strengthening the new Christians, and enabled them to teach and preach the word of the Lord.
Take time this week to discover areas in which your loved ones need encouragement. Sometimes it only takes seven words to change a person’s life.
Heavenly Father, I praise you for the gift of encouragement. Give me that gift so I can change lives. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen