And I don't mean the person who says, 'there, there, it's alright' when it obviously isn't. A real encourager is tough enough to face the dirt and pain with you, costly though it may be.
Somebody the church remembers today as an encourager is Barnabas, who worked alongside St Paul in the 1st century AD. You can read more about him in Acts 11: 19 - 30.
About 16 years ago the Vicar who encouraged me to offer for ordained ministry advised keeping a 'Barnabas file'. This is a collection of encouragements received in the form of cards, letters etc. - something to turn to, as my mentor put it,
"when the s*** hits the fan"as it does sometimes and you feel everything you do is useless.
I still keep a Barnabas file in the filing cabinet of my study and occasionally add the odd item. I don't often need to look at it, but just knowing it is there is an encouragement. One of the most precious items in there is an ordination card from a friend who cannot accept the ministry of ordained women in the Church of England. His conscience prevented him attending my ordination but he was still there for me with warm and prayerful encouragement.
Barnabas' encouragement of Paul, John Mark and many others involved willingness to change his mind about tradition, courage in the face of hardship and persecution and generosity in financial giving as well as judgements. He had the vision to see the grace of God at work in people who were different from him and who didn't keep the same rules. The book of Acts records that
"...he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith."You can find another post about Barnabas with a link to a short fun video showing the affects of Barnabas' encouragement in 'What Difference can one person make?'
I hope you know at least one person like Barnabas. Thank God for people like Barnabas, then and now.
Bountiful God, giver of all gifts,
who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas
and gave him grace to encourage others:
help us, by his example,
to be generous in our judgements
and unselfish in our service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Church of England Collect for Barnabas, Apostle.