The character of a Leader: how to grow in hopeful confidence

Hopeful leaders stay optimistic about the future and focused on the best in their people says Brad Lomenick.  He adds that these leaders are consumed with making tomorrow better than today. This is THE task of the Christian leader. So how skilled are you at inspiration, encouragement and hope?

Before reflecting on the Biblical example of hopeful Barnabas, look at this short video introduction on how to grow your character in hope (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eOPTU-YPL0)

Scriptures

[Today’s four short portions from the Book of Acts will give a  holistic view of the life of Barnabas]

Acts 4:36-37

36  Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37  sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 9:26-28

26  And when Paul had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27  But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28  So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.

Acts 11:19-26

19  Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20  But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21  And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22  The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23  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, 24  for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25  So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26  and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Acts 13:1-3

1  Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  2  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  3  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off [on the first mission to the Gentiles].

 

Observation and reflection questions

Note: Today’s four portions of the Book of Acts we highlight the character and motives of the Apostle Barnabas to better understand his ability to see the best in people in every situation, and encourage people with that.

  1. Barnabas was a nickname. How do you thing this leader got the name? (4:36-37)
  2. Looking at the five portions of Acts above, summarize what significant events Barnabas “the encourager” had key involvement in. What does that suggest of the need for and importance of hopeful confidence in uncertain and difficult times?
  3. Hopeful confidence has to do with what the Lord is doing or preparing, i.e. seeing what the future holds, and encouraging others with that. Where do you recognize this in the life of Barnabas in the Texts above?

Personal reflection and Application

As seen in the life of Barnabas, the Lord entrusts hopeful leaders with critical opportunities and people with key potential, because hopeful leaders have trained their perception to discern “with eyes of light” (Matt 6:22-23) what the Lord is doing, and what good he has placed in people. These leaders encourage and direct followers with hopeful confidence in “good plans the Lord has prepared” (Jer 29:13).  Read more on growing in encouragement here.

  1. As a leader…
    • …are you more prone to first note what can/ will go wrong, or what good can / will this lead to? e. are you more directed towards fear or to hope?
    • …are you more prone to first note the flaws or imperfections in people or things, or are you more prone to note the potential in things or people? i.e. are you more inclined to be critical / judgmental or encouraging / uplifting?
    • …is you influence with people more cynical or demotivating, or rather more encouraging and inspirational?
  2. Throughout the day look for good progress or potential you spot in people around you. THANK their kindness and contributions, AFFIRM their abilities and worth, APPLAUD their  efforts and success, and REASSURE your belief in their ability and motives.  Strive to do this in every situation, with every person you meet. Note what that does to them – and you!

Prayer

Thank God for all his goodness in your life!  Pray that God may open your eyes to see what he has placed and is doing in those around you; pray that he may fill you with hope and joy and that it may overflow to encourage everyone you encounter; and pray that he may entrust his words of prophesy to you to speak life into the hearts that are heavy, to strengthen hands that hang low and steady knees that wobble under pressure. (

Ministry of Encouragement 5

The aim of this devotional study is to commit and grow into a lifestyle of encouragement.

Scripture

1 Corinthians 14:1-4

1  Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.  2  For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.  3  On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.  4  The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.

Observations

  1. According to this Scripture, what is the requirement to administer the spiritual gifts? (v1)
  2. What are the benefits of prophesy for the recipient(s)? (v3)
    1. What does that mean in practice?
  3. What would your simple definition of prophesy be?

Application and prayer

  1. Do you need encouragement from God? Ask the Lord to speak encouragement directly to your heart – either through a dream, the Bible, through people or any way He wants.
  2. Consider this description of Judas and Silas: And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.” (Acts 15:32) Do you desire to be remembered as someone who “encourage and strengthen” people?  Ask the Lord to birth that spirit and habit in you! And commit to God to become a minister of encouragement!
  3. Before Isaiah became a prophet, he confessed “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5) and the Lord had to purify his tongue. Ask the Lord to cleanse your tongue of all complaints, criticism and other corrupt speech.
  4. When last have you asked God to give a message of encouragement to someone though you? Ask the Lord to give a word of encouragement to you for someone who needs it today.  Pray in the Spirit or wait on God until he puts someone in mind, then wait and pray and write down your thoughts.  It sometimes helps me to start affirming the person, until I can discern what the Lord says to the person.  Work on your letter until you feel this is what God says, and it is encouraging.  Then pray and send it to the person – don’t delay.

Ministry of Encouragement 4

The aim of this devotional study is to grow in the understanding and practice of encouragement.

Scripture

Galatians 6:1-3

1  Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

2  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

3  For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Observation and reflection

Note: The phrase “bear one another’s burden” is beautifully picturesque in Greek, which could be also translated “stake yourself to another” as one would stake a broken leg, to help it carry the weight and prevent pain and collapse.

With this short text we can reflect on the important phrases and see how it enriches the meaning of the Word for us today.

  1. What do you understand with the phrase “caught in any transgression”? Give some examples.
  2. Who do you think Paul refers to when he writes “you who are spiritual”?
  3. How do you “restore him in a spirit of gentleness”? What will the opposite be?
  4. What Christian attitude / characteristic does Paul implore with the phrase “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted”? Why is this attitude important when supporting a friend in such a need?  What will the opposite be?
  5. What do you think could be included in word “burdens”?
  6. What is “the law of Christ”, and what does it have to do with “bearing another’s burden”? How does this differ from the approach of “the law of Moses”?
  7. Why would Paul insert verse 3? What does it have to do within this context?

 

Application

Chose one of two people in your circle of influence that are either burdened through

  • spiritual weakness to temptation in a certain area, causing hopelessness.
  • situational pressure – be it either studies, family pressure, financial or work pressure.

Think and write a simple plan by which you (and your small group?) can encourage each of them following Scriptural instruction above.  In your plan, consider these truths in Paul’s plan:

  • Nothing is more encouraging than someone who is with you (proximity)
  • As John wrote “love in deed, not just in word” (practicality)
  • One is encouraged by a fellow-struggler walking with you (humility)
  • Encouragement lightens the load, accusation wears you down (gentleness)

When will you put your “burden-bearing” into practice?

Prayer

Pray that God will help you become an encourager that bear the burdens of others and so fulfill  law of love, even as Jesus came to illustrate by becoming man with us.  Then pray for your two friends listed above.

Ministry of Encouragement 3

The aim of this devotional Bible study is to grow in understanding both the importance and application of Biblical encouragement.

Scripture

1 Thessalonians 5:1-14

1  Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  2  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  3  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

4  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  5  For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.  7  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.  8  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  9  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  10  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

11  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing… 14  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

Observation and reflection

Context: Paul wrote this letter to express his thanks and joy about the steadfast faith of this young church, and also to answer questions about Christ’s return and judgment and the future resurrection of those who are alive and those who have already died.

  1. As is always a good practice, briefly summarize the following sections in your own words:
    1. Verses 1-3
    2. Verses 4-10
    3. Verses 11 and 14
  2. In the context of this passage, why did Paul find it necessary to instruct the church to “encourage one another” (verse 11, 14)? [hint: see the coupling word “therefore” connecting the thoughts in verses 9-10 to verse 11]
  3. Various types of people need encouragement: despondent, hopeless, or tired people.
    1. What type of people needed to be encouraged in this congregation? (verse 14)
    2. Why were these people in this state of mind?
    3. With what message would Paul have you speak to these people to encourage them?
  4. In one sentence write down what this passage and context teach you about the ministry of encouragement.

Application

Imagine of your mission team get arrested by Islamic security police in Iran, and after two weeks of interrogation, a short court proceeding leads to the verdict: “Religious terrorism – execution set in one week from today!”   Some young members on your team are really afraid to die…

Or, You and a friend shop at Century City for their engagement ring, and suddenly masked gunmen rob the jeweler you’re in, commanding you fall on the floor. The episode turns into a hostage drama and your friend is shot in the chaos.  Bleeding from her abdomen, you see the fear in her eyes; she knows Jesus but is really afraid of the uncertainty of death…

With this Scripture in mind, how will you encourage and build up your fearful, believing friends as they face immanent death?

Prayer

Spend some time talking to Jesus about His return, your resurrection, Judgment Day and life beyond death.  Bring all your thoughts and fears and questions to Him.  Then affirm all that you know to be true and certain, thanking Him for His Holy Spirit which leads us in all truth.

Ministry of Encouragement 2

The aim of this devotional study is to discover how to encourage a discouraged believer from the Scriptures.

Scripture

Romans 15:1-7

1  We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  2  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  3  For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

4  For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

5  May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  6  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  7  Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Observations

Context: The first few verses of this chapter continue with tension due to matters of moral indifference (food and rituals that have no moral implications, and how different people regard it).

  1. Briefly summarize the following sections in your own words:
    1. Verses 1-3
    2. Verse 4
    3. Verses 5-7
  2. What “Scriptures” were Paul referring to here? (verse 4)
  3. According to Paul, why were the Scriptures written down? (verse 4)
  4. What title does Paul attribute to God? (verse 5)  What does he mean when he says that? And how does that statement link to the previous verse? (verse 4)  [Look until you see the beautiful link between these two verses].

Application

  1. Paul says that the Scriptures were written “for our instruction”; think of one specific Old Testament History account or character (such as a part of David or Abraham’s life) and apply Romans 15:4 to it:
    1. What “instruction” or life lesson can you learn from this specific account? What do you learn about humanity, about God, about faith, prayer or relationships?
    2. What do you learn about “endurance” – patience, faithfulness or perseverance?
    3. In which way does this Biblical account “encourage” you?
    4. In which way does this Biblical account give you greater “hope” – i.e. what is the inherent promise in this story to you?
  2. Think of a person in your life that leans towards discouragement or hopelessness as they go through a difficult time. Which Biblical account is similar in some way from which he/she can learn of God’s faithfulness?  Reflect on that Biblical story and encourage him/her and stir his/her hope!

Prayer

Spend some time praising the “God of endurance and encouragement”, thanking him for strength and encouragement in the past.   Then boldly ask God to encourage you/ a friend and give you strength to endure.

The ministry of Encouragement 1

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the importance and necessity of encouragement.

Scripture

Hebrews 10:19-25

19  Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21  and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

24  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Observation and reflection

Context: The main aim of the letter of Hebrews is to show that Jesus is superior to all and therefore the only qualified savior of the human race, thereby discouraging fearful Christians from turning to various other “mediators” between man and God amidst the rising persecution.  Today’s text is the turning point in the letter to the Hebrews, moving from right thinking (orthodoxy) to right practice (orthopraxis) or the logical consequence from the right thinking.

  1. The author summarizes the main message in his letter at the beginning of his exhortation. Say it in your own words (v19-21).
  2. The author then motivates three responses to this belief about Jesus – what does he motivate the readers to do? (hint: “Let us…”)
  3. What appears to be a main reason why the author encouraged the believers to meet together (in spite of the fear of being exposed as a Christian believer!)? (v23-25)
  4. In light of the context, what would the recipients of this letter “encourage one another” to do?
  5. Why would the author refer to “the Day drawing near” in the context of this letter? (hint: “the Day” refers to the day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead)

Application

Note: The New Testament are full of references of people who started their walk of faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord but because of fear of persecution or love for earthly pleasures turned away from Jesus.  You possibly know of a few people who do not serve God the way they used to, and also a few people who are disillusioned about their faith in God for various reasons.

  1. In a few sentences review your faith in God through Jesus. (hint: What did Jesus come to do for us? Why did he become man and why did he die?)
  2. In a few sentences review your hope in Christ. (hint: What does God eternally promise us in Christ Jesus?)
  3. Having read these verses above, what could you say to someone who is about to “give up one Christianity” or who asks you “what is the point”? How would you encourage them to hold on to faith and hope in Christ?
  4. Having read these verses above, how you motivate someone who is slack on attending Christian fellowship? From these verses, why would you say is it important to “not neglect coming together”?

Prayer

Pray for a friend who is going through a rough time and send him an encouraging message – perhaps a word the Lord drops in your spirit.