Child of Encouragement

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“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”  Acts 4:32

Now, Lord, I’m not trying to promote my own thoughts here.  I’m trying to look into Your Word and search for Your truth.  I want to see how real people demonstrated their belief in You.  I want to see how real people were changed by their belief in You.  I want to know what belief really looks like in person.  I want to know what You commend as belief.  And it seems like it’s a lot about me.  But that’s how I have to look at it.  Because until I get what You are trying to show me and until I get it Your way, I’m lost.  And if I only get it a little bit, well, then I’m mostly misguided.  And the last thing I want to do is misguide others.  So, I have to get it.  We each do.  On our own.  I have to get it and You have to give it to me.  It’s how You make Yourself known so that it is all about You and not about me.  But I have to get there somehow.  And You are that somehow.

So what led up to these believers all being of one heart and soul and sharing all their things?  I need to do a little review.  This isn’t long after You, Jesus, were crucified and raised from the dead.  The disciples and apostles were still in Jerusalem.  But now they were changed men.  No one was running and hiding and afraid.  What happened?

Here were Peter and John, sharing from Old Testament Scripture and showing how it spoke of what had happened with and to You, Jesus.  Now they were speaking in the authority of the Holy Spirit.  They were speaking with a new boldness and a new power they did not have before.  Their witness was so powerful, I mean, what they were saying through Your word and what they shared about what You had done on the cross, was so powerful that 5000 men came to believe in You.  And what of their families?  And the religious leaders like Caiaphas, the same guy who said it was “expedient that one should die,” take Peter and John and put them in jail. 

What started the uproar?  What started shaking things up?  Peter and John noticed this beggar outside the Temple gate Beautiful.  Zechariah 9:17 says of You, Lord, “For how great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty!”  Isaiah 33:17, I can’t help but think it is referring to the Lord, “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty…”  “In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people, and for a spirit of judgment to him that sits in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.”  Isaiah 28:5-6

And here is this crippled man, waiting every day outside the Beautiful gate.  I wonder if every day he hoped that the Lord would intervene on his behalf?  I wonder if Peter and John would have given him much thought before they were changed by the power of the resurrection and of the Holy Spirit.  Oh, wait, I know the answer.  They saw a blind man once and wanted to know whose sin caused it.  They weren’t even thinking about his need to be healed.  But now, something has changed.  They see him there, and they feel about him the same way the Beautiful One feels about him.  And they give him the only thing they have of value to give.

I love the fact that Peter and John said they didn’t have any money but they would give what they had.  I can identify with that part of not having money to give most the time.  But I want to give so badly.  And maybe there is something more valuable than giving material things.  Maybe I can give something of eternal value, something of life changing value to others, just like Peter and John.  Well, Peter and John spoke healing in Jesus’ power, in His name, and the man was healed.  And it started such an avalanche of believers that the religious leaders arrested Peter and John.

Now let’s finish a whirl wind tour of the account.  Before the council, Peter testified as the Holy spirit filled him, that they healed this man by the name of Jesus Christ whom the council had crucified and whom God raised from the dead.  Boldly he declared, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  They recognized his boldness and that they had been with Jesus.  Everyone saw the healed man.  What could they say against Peter and Paul?  The evidence was so overwhelming.

So the council told them, “Speak no more to anyone in this name.”  Well, Paul and John’s answer was basically, “Think about that.  Would God say it’s right to listen to you more or to Him more?  We don’t have the power not to speak about what we’ve seen and heard.”  Then followed threats, their release, because due to the people, they couldn’t punish them.  All were glorifying God,  the evidence was right there.   When the company heard the testimony they “lifted their voice to God with one accord” in thanks and praise, seeing God’s sovereignty-  tying in to Scripture like Psalm 2:1,2 “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed…”  “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”  They prayed for boldness to speak even in the midst of opposition while “He continued to stretch out His hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of His holy servant Jesus.”  The Holy Spirit shook the place, they were filled with the Spirit, and continued speaking the word of God with boldness. 

So here they were, all the believers with the apostles, surrounded by power, and great grace over them all, mega grace.  So I see that belief is boldness.  But it’s a boldness that comes from the filling of the Holy Spirit.  It’s boldness that comes from a personal knowledge of the Holy One and it is empowered by the Holy One.  I see that belief gives me an eye and a heart for those around me.  I have an attitude where my lack doesn’t matter because I don’t want others to lack.   I willingly and lovingly and joyously share all that is mine for the good of all my brothers and sisters.  I want to care for them as I want to care for my own body.  They have become my body. 

You know, today, I’ve heard a lot of my brothers and sisters in Christ say that this idea of selling everything and living this way isn’t for us.  They say this was for the believers then.  It’s irresponsible now.  Why?  What ever changed?  Did something change?  Who told these believers to lay ” all they had before the apostles feet to be shared with their brothers and sisters in Christ”?  Or did believing, I mean REALLY believing really change their hearts and their desires and their “want to’s”?  Interesting. 

You, know, Lord,  (and of course You do!), I don’t think I ever realized before who this particular believer was that’s mentioned today as following along and selling all his property.  It’s this believer named Joses.  He was a Levite.  That means he was one of those religious people, one of the Temple worship crowd.  But now he believed and he was totally changed.  As a matter of fact, You say he was so changed that he was given a new name, Barnabas.    His name means “son of consolation.”  And that’s pretty meaningful because it means  Son of encouragement.   Isn’t this the Barnabas who we read about accompanying Paul later?

His name comes from the word “paraklesis” and it has everything to do with exhorting, encouraging, and comforting.  And it has everything to do with coming up alongside another in order to do that.  But another tremendous truth is that the Holy Spirit is called a “paraklete.”  He is first the One who comes alongside us, well, actually as close as inside us.  And He exhorts, encourages, and comforts believers.  So, what if the response to sell all and equip all was not just Barnabas’ idea or the idea of the other believers who where acting this way?  What if their response to act like this was just the response of the Holy Spirit, the Paraklete, who now abided in them?  So how have You, Holy Spirit, changed my responses and shaped them to be like Yours?  Or have I let You?

I’ll be the first to say that everyone shouldn’t sell all their possessions.  But, if the Lord moves in Your heart to give it all for the sake of others, follow His lead.  Read on in Acts about Barnabas’ journey in the Lord from that point.  The Lord used him in His great adventure to draw others to Christ and to encourage even Paul.  See, there’s danger in taking other people’s steps of faith; it led another couple to their death.  I have to forsake and give out of the generosity and love of the Holy Spirit’s moving in me.  If I forsake or give for any other reason, other than this new generosity I’ve been given, it’s a lie.  And God will not allow Himself to be represented by a lie.  But love and generosity is at the heart of God.  God is love.  God loves a cheerful giver.  Why?  Because He gives to all men freely that which is of Himself.  There is no end to the treasure that is Him. 

I wonder if it’s just part of Your lovingkindness, chesed in Hebrew.   That part of You that just bestows all good things even to those who don’t deserve it?  And what if this is just an evidence of Your lovingkindness flowing through me, or what amount of it is flowing through me?  Maybe those who realize how greatly they have been forgiven, can realize the greatness of Your lovingkindness.  And I don’t just mean realize it intellectually.  I mean realize it by actually experiencing it.  Then how could I, after having experienced that lovingkindness, not overflow with it to others?

Lord, I want to be filled with Your lovingkindness, Your generosity, Your Spirit, so that I love and live and give like You.  You, the King of Kings, didn’t even have a house of Your own.  And it wasn’t because You couldn’t have one.  You knew there were more important things.  Us.  And You generously gave up all Your rights, You had no property of Your own, and even laid Your pride aside and gave everything for us, so we could have all of You.  If You held nothing back for me, how could I hold something back from You?  Lord, teach me to live as selflessly and as generously as You.  And make me a child of encouragement.  Lord, I’m excited about this adventure in You no matter what it costs me.  To know You, to be Yours, is worth everything.

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