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by Susan Budensiek
9/01/2017 / Christian Living
I was reading a devotional this morning written by Randall D. Cleveland Sr., and encountered a concept that I had known for many years but he gave it a name – “reachers”. I have believed this for a long time but he had an interesting way to explain it. “You have preachers, but then you have "REACHERS", folk that have BEEN THROUGH what they are PREACHING ABOUT!” He put it in the context of winning the lost to Christ, but my thoughts have always run in the parallel direction of ministering to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are going through very difficult times, probably because it would have been very nice to have someone to encourage and guide us especially in those early days of being brand new Christians with no church home.
We learned a lot in spite of that fact, but the bad thing is that as the years went by, I usually would not say anything about my experiences even when the opportunity arose because of the thoughts that constantly nagged at me, assuming other people thought things like, “She’s bragging about what a good Christian she is because she made it through what she thinks is a hard time,” or “She thinks she knows all the answers.” I was not by nature a talkative person and thought I could just be a “quiet” Christian. More on that later but first…
The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (KJV) “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” That is a nice thought - “comfort” – and we all need it at some time or another in this life, but when I noticed a little note for those verses in the KJV saying that the word for “comfort” was more correctly translated as “encourage” I had to dig some more.
So I looked it up in the CJB and it says, “Praised be God, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, compassionate Father, God of all encouragement and comfort; who encourages us in all our trials, so that we can encourage others in whatever trials they may be undergoing with the encouragement we ourselves have received from God.” I felt a pang of conviction then, but I remembered hearing years ago, that Barnabas was known as “the encourager” in Acts, and had to keep digging.
Ah, Barnabas. His name was really Joseph, but the apostles renamed him “Barnabas.” “Thus Yosef, whom the emissaries called Bar-Nabba (which means "the Exhorter"), a Levi and a native of Cyprus, sold a field which belonged to him and brought the money to the emissaries.” Acts 4:36-37 (CJB) Apparently this Joseph, otherwise known as Barnabas, had a character that the apostles recognized as particularly uplifting, encouraging, etc. depending upon which version you use. The New American Standard says it this way: “Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement),” and who doesn’t like being around someone who is encouraging?
One of the first things we learn as new Christians is that we will all have trials, testings, tribulation and problems of various sorts. Apparently, we had been talking about this fact once when our son was about four years old because he got scolded for something and looked at us, sighed, and said, “I’m just a little tribulation.” (Pretty hard to keep a straight face after that comment!) Even in his child’s mind he got the idea, if not the exact application of the word.
As much as I would prefer no suffering of any kind, I know God knows what He is doing when He ordained difficulties and problems for mankind, so fussing is off my agenda…except when I slip into my whiny, carnal human nature. Then it is repentance time again. Anyway, we do not escape life’s difficulties simply by virtue of being a Christian. “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” 1 Peter 5:9 (NAS) This is where Randall Cleveland took the fork in the road to explain how it is a good thing for the lost to hear from Christians who have had the same problems as they do: “The Lord takes your sufferings and experiences and uses your life experiences to reach the lost. Anyone can talk about healing & deliverance, but if that same individual has suffered sickness and bondage AND GOD DELIVERED THEM....then IT IS A HEARTFELT MESSAGE WHICH REACHES THE HEART....PRICKS THE HEART....CONVICTS THE HEART. THANK GOD FOR YOUR TRIALS...GOD IS SOMEDAY GOING TO USE YOU TO REACH THE MASSES WITH YOUR TESTIMONY! HALLELUJAH!”
Now, back to the fork in the road I often take. We also understand that as Christians we have the extra burden of persecution that people “in the world” do not have, a burden promised to us in 2 Timothy 3:12 (NAS) ”Indeed, all who desire to godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." This passage in Timothy is only one of several scriptures that tell us we will suffer for being Christ’s followers.
It does make sense that a community of believers, whether it be a church or people acquainted through the internet who have a common belief in Jesus Christ, would be expected by God, and should indeed desire, to be a “support system” for each other.
Years ago I was guilty of reading the accounts of the early Christian church in the New Testament and relegating the stories to history, explaining away any obligation on my part to be a contributing part of the community of believers as being the pastors’ and Sunday School teachers’ jobs in modern America. It took a while to sink in and I’m sure that was partly due to my own mindset of not wanting to speak. Eventually, what these scriptures say became so obvious to me that I could no longer brush them off as not relevant to me.
Romans 14:19 (NAS)
“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11(NAS)“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
But the one that really made me uncomfortable was this one: Hebrews 13:16(CJB)“And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Communication is a sacrifice - share with one another – edify and encourage one another. I can say from experience, that hearing first-hand accounts of God working in someone’s life makes a bigger impression than simply hearing scripture quoted. Once aware of the fact of this matter, I no longer have the option of not sharing what I have learned and testimonies of how God worked in my family, as we are told in Acts 17:30 (CJB) “In the past, God overlooked such ignorance; but now he is commanding all people everywhere to turn to him from their sins.” And He graciously spells out exactly what it is when we ignore the right thing - James 4:17 (CJB) “So then, anyone who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it is committing a sin.”
So much for being a “quiet Christian.”
I was raised in church but always felt like I was missing something. Now the Word of God excites me! My curiosity enhances pursuance of discernment. I have often felt discouraged, but not totally defeated knowing that in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
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