STICK WITH ENCOURAGEMENT

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1 SESSION 2 STICK WITH ENCOURAGEMENT The Point Encouragement strengthens relationships. The Bible Meets Life No soldier wants to go into battle alone. No one likes to stand up and be the lone voice in a meeting. We want to know someone has our back or is standing with us. We carry out our responsibilities better when we encourage one another. We all need encouragers in our lives. In turn, we can strengthen our relationships when we offer the same support and encouragement to others. The Passage Acts 9:26-28; 11: SESSION 2

2 WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY? Acts 9:26-28; 11:21-26 And when he 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. 26 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. 27 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 28 The Setting And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 21 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 22 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, 23 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 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. 26 With the exception of God Himself, the early church perhaps knew no greater encourager than Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus. Indeed, he was better known by his nickname, Barnabas, son of encouragement. When Saul, the fiery persecutor of the church, came to Christ, he attempted to join the believers in Jerusalem. He was shunned until Barnabas spoke on his behalf, and when Gentiles began coming to the Lord in great numbers in Antioch, Barnabas encouraged them in their faith. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 113

3 ENGAGE (15 MINUTES) GET INTO THE STUDY ENGAGE: Begin the session with one or more of the Engage Options on the next page. (This is optional. If you d rather skip the Engage Options, just begin with the first discussion question.) SAY: We all need encouragers in our lives. In turn, we can strengthen our relationships when we offer the same support and encouragement to others. DISCUSS: Invite students to discuss the question, When have you crossed paths with a natural encourager? ITEM 12 Leader Pack: Use the Encouragement poster to help introduce the session. THE POINT GUIDE: Call attention to The Point. Explain that this is the key idea to keep in mind throughout the session. Encouragement strengthens relationships. READ: Read and summarize The Bible Meets Life for your group. We ve been encouraged since we were kids to take our vitamins. And so we do. Since the 1940s, Americans have been popping multivitamins in their mouths every day. We know we need these important vitamins and minerals, and even though a healthy diet is likely to give us all we need, half of us go the extra step and buy multivitamins or supplements. A daily dose is good for us. We could use a daily dose of something else, too. Let s call it a spiritual and emotional vitamin: the vitamin of encouragement. We were created to live in relationship with others, and there is a hunger within us for the affirmation of others. We need a healthy supply of encouragement in order to grow as God intends. Just ask any athlete about the benefit he gains when he has the home field advantage. Encouragement bolsters us. Unfortunately, too many of us face a deficiency in this area. Our lives can grow weak without encouragement. And so can our relationships. Barnabas was a natural encourager. His life challenges us to be a source of encouragement to others. We support the other person and strengthen our relationship when we look for ways to offer encouragement. PRAY: Transition into the session by praying for students to become encouragers of each other. 114 SESSION 2

4 Engage Options YY Lead with Action Play a quick game of Popcorn Encouragement. Get a ball, and have the group stand in a circle. Start the game by throwing the ball to a student and saying something encouraging about him or her. Then that student has to do the same for someone else. After the game, say: Encouragement matters. It comes more naturally for some people than others, but all followers of Christ are called to regularly encourage those around us. YY Lead with Atmosphere Cue up the song I am all He says I am, by Cody Carnes and Kari Jobe. Encourage students to listen closely to the lyrics and pray or journal during the song as they feel led. Then say, Sometimes it is easy to forget who we are and the way that Christ sees us. Remembering our identity in Christ will help us to be better encouragers to those around us. OPTION: Strategically arrange the seats in your meeting area in a circle or where students can see each other and can closely interact with each other. They can also sit on the floor in a circle. YY Lead with Media On wingclips.com, search for the video from the movie Coach Carter entitled I ll Do Push Ups. Say: When Timo falls just short of completing his requirements to rejoin the team, his fellow players offer to do push-ups and run sprints for him. Because of his teammates encouragement, he was able to keep going. The team was stronger, and so was Timo. Likewise, when we encourage each other, we become stronger, more unified, and more focused on the work God calls us to do. OPTION: You may consider playing the video A Pep Talk from Kid President to You. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 115

5 IMPART (10 MINUTES) STUDY THE BIBLE The Point: Encouragement strengthens relationships. And when he 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 9: ACTS 9:26-28 SUMMARIZE: Explain the first way Barnabas shows us how to encourage one another. 1. Encourage acceptance. Barnabas first popped up in Scripture as Joseph of Cyprus (Acts 4:36). The apostles had given him the nickname Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement. Apparently, this man had developed a sterling reputation of building others up with loving words, generous acts, and even affirming looks. When people in the early church thought of an encourager, they thought of Barnabas, and the nickname stuck. In Acts 9 God used Barnabas to bring Saul to a place of prominence. The apostles may not have rejected Saul outright, but they certainly kept their distance. Based on his past record, Saul was not the kind of person a Christian would want to be around. Barnabas, however, realized Saul was a changed man. He saw Saul as a man truly changed by the shed blood of Christ. Therefore, Barnabas stuck his neck out and vouched for Saul. He encouraged the apostles and believers to reconsider their skepticism and to take a risk on this guy. The disciples may not have trusted Saul just yet, but they did trust Barnabas; so they opened the door and their hearts to Saul, and soon he became a dominant force in spreading the gospel. DISCUSS: Challenge students to answer and discuss the question, When is the last time someone encouraged you when you were down? 116 SESSION 2

6 Commentary ACTS 9:26-28 [VERSE 26] Having already been baptized as a believer, having preached effectively in Damascus, and having narrowly escaped death because of his ministry, Saul arrived in Jerusalem hoping to be received by the disciples as a fellow believer and servant of Christ. Instead, he found a church that was afraid of him and unwilling to associate with him. Church leaders likely wondered if his efforts to join the Jerusalem church were not a scheme to identify Christians so they might be arrested and punished. Though Saul probably felt that his changed life and bold ministry were evidence of the sincerity of his faith and his desire to fellowship with Jerusalem Christians, they hesitated to take such a risk. [VERSE 27] At this critical moment, Barnabas entered the story to tip the scales of evidence in favor of Saul being received into and trusted by the Jerusalem church. Barnabas is actually a nickname given to Joseph of Cyprus (Acts 4:36). Barnabas literally means son of exhortation or son of encouragement. Barnabas had a gift for building others up. He built up groups of new Christians through his ministries of preaching and teaching, but Barnabas also built up individuals through his gift of personal encouragement a gift that changed the course of Saul s life and ministry. Barnabas seems to have known Saul well enough to vouch for his conversion to Christ and his work in boldly spreading the gospel in Damascus. Both Saul and Barnabas were Hellenists, Jews who grew up outside of Israel, which may have deepened their understanding and appreciation of each other. TIP: Encouragement is very important to maintain in church environments. Have the students identify church people they see that are natural encouragers. [VERSE 28] The phrase coming and going with them (literally going in and out among them ) was used in Acts 1:21 to describe the close fellowship of the circle of apostles. Here, it means that Saul was fully accepted and free to take his place in the circle of the apostles. Barnabas s courageous gift of encouragement gave Saul the opportunity to demonstrate his calling and character and take his place among the leaders of the church. Verse 28 uses a word that is central to the message of the Book of Acts: Saul spoke boldly. This same word was used by the Greeks to describe the freedom of a citizen to speak in a public assembly, similar to an American citizen s constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. A citizen can speak boldly when confident that the state will support and protect that freedom. But Saul s confidence in speaking boldly for Christ did not come from the state. He was attacked by religious and civil government authorities and narrowly escaped death more than once. Saul s strength to speak came from within. He spoke boldly because he had confidence in the mission God had given him. Saul had the inner freedom that comes from knowing that sharing the truth about Jesus is worth the risk of rejection and even persecution. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 117

7 IMPART (10 MINUTES) STUDY THE BIBLE The Point: Encouragement strengthens relationships. 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. ACTS 11: ACTS 11:21-24 SUMMARIZE: Explain the second way Barnabas shows us how to encourage one another. 2. Encourage growth. Barnabas encouraged believers to accept another believer, and he encouraged them to grow spiritually. In Acts 11, Barnabas returned to the stage. This time, he was commissioned by the apostles in Jerusalem to travel 300 miles north to Antioch. Many Jews in Antioch embraced Christianity, and the believers had begun to spread the message to Gentiles as well. As a result, Greeks in the region were coming to faith in Christ. When the apostles got wind of the astonishing harvest, they sent Barnabas to assess the situation and to report what God had done. Examine the beautiful picture Luke, the writer of Acts, painted of Barnabas ministry. Because of persecution, believers had scattered, so that the kingdom of God advanced wherever they went. So as soon as Barnabas saw what God was doing, he was excited and did what he did best he encouraged them. Barnabas surely strengthened these new saints enormously as he drove home the power of perseverance. While his words were welcomed and received with joy, the future would require resolve as challenges came upon the church. To be a Christian was to accept the road of suffering, but it was a journey they could make with joy. Perhaps you are in a season when you are starving for a good word from a friend. Do you have someone who makes you feel refreshed when you re around him or her, who sees your potential and pushes you to grow? If not, begin praying that the Lord would bring that person into your life. Conversely, be that kind of person in someone else s life. Is there a person in your life who seems to be sinking? Are you seeing someone struggling? Be a Barnabas and begin the process of investing in another person. Both of you will be blessed. DISCUSS: Lead students to discuss the question, How do we intentionally grow into the role of an encourager? DO: Direct students to complete the Action Point, Situational Encouragement. Situational Encouragement Make a chart with two columns. On one side put a discouraging situation, and on the other side put a word or phrase that would bring encouragement to the person in that situation. 118 SESSION 2

8 Commentary ACTS 11:21-24 [VERSE 21] A second example of Barnabas gift of encouragement took place in Antioch as a large number of people, Jews and Gentiles, responded to the gospel and following Christ. Antioch, with a population of 500,000, was the third largest city in the Roman Empire at the time. The city was a melting pot of peoples and cultures, including a large Jewish population. Barnabas was a central character in the transformation of Antioch from a mission field into a thriving church that sent missionaries to share Christ with the Gentile world. The Lord s hand is an Old Testament expression used to describe God s power (Isa. 59:1; 66:14). God takes the initiative and works powerfully to lead hearers to repentance and faith in Jesus. Those who believed turned to the Lord. Professing faith in Jesus is always connected to a change of attitude and a change of life direction. Part of the secret of the church s growth in Antioch was that they called people to believe in Jesus and turn to Him in daily discipleship. [VERSE 22] When the report of the Antioch church s growth reached leaders of the church that was at Jerusalem, they wanted to know more about what was happening. They were especially interested in the news that many of the new Christians were Gentiles. As the Book of Acts reveals, the early church struggled with the relationship of Judaism to Christianity, with some believing that a person had to be a practicing Jew in order to be a faithful Christian, while others contended that faith in Christ alone brings salvation. As a result, Barnabas was selected to travel to Antioch to see the growing church firsthand. Barnabas was a Hellenist, a Jew who lived outside of the nation of Israel, so he understood the values and concerns of the Jews in the Antioch church. [VERSE 23] When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he saw God s grace at work in the lives of people. Barnabas was glad when he saw God at work in the Antioch church. An encourager is able to celebrate good things in the lives of others without feeling jealous or threatened. Barnabas encouraged the Christians at Antioch to resolve in their hearts to remain true to the Lord. He understood that the center of the Christian life is an abiding obedient relationship to Jesus. TIP: Give some examples of people in your own life who have been great encouragers to you. [VERSE 24] Verse 24 lists and celebrates qualities of Barnabas life that made him such an effective encourager in Antioch. Barnabas was a good man, a description Luke gave to only one other person, Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50). Barnabas sincerely wanted and worked for what was best for others. He was full of the Holy Spirit. Barnabas was aware of God s presence in his life and recognized God at work in the lives of others. Barnabas was also full of faith. He had complete trust in God to accomplish His will, no matter how difficult the circumstances he faced might become. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 119

9 IMPART (10 MINUTES) STUDY THE BIBLE The Point: Encouragement strengthens relationships. 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 11: ACTS 11:25-26 SUMMARIZE: Explain the final way Barnabas shows us how to encourage one another. 3. Encourage service. Wow, you re really gifted with kids! You made my week with that beautiful song! Your help today really made a difference. Have you ever thought about leading a small group of your own? When you speak, people listen. You make the most delicious desserts. If you charged a fee, I would pay. You have such a great personality. Thanks for making me feel welcomed. Has anyone ever said things like this to you? These little statements may not sound like much, but over time, a plant grows tall through regular watering. The church of Jesus Christ should be the most encouraging place on earth. Good words encourage growth. And they should encourage others to step up and serve. We don t know what Barnabas said to Saul, but as the church in Antioch began to blossom, Barnabas went to fetch Saul from Tarsus. He brought Saul to Antioch to serve, to do what God had gifted him to do. At one time, Barnabas had served as a mentor to Saul, watering him with encouragement and watching him grow up in the faith. Now Saul had developed to the point of being Barnabas s peer in ministry, so that the two became a formidable force for discipleship. Revival was evident as Saul and Barnabas rightly leveraged life-giving words. Saul served because he was encouraged by Barnabas and obedient to the call of God. SAY: But Barnabas did not just encourage Saul s ministry and teaching through his words. He encouraged through his actions: he served alongside Saul. Our own actions and examples can be great encouragements for others to step up and use the gifts and skills God has given them. DISCUSS: Lead students to discuss the question, How can we help promote others gifts in the church? 120 SESSION 2

10 Commentary ACTS 11:25-26 [VERSE 25] Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, who had been sent there several years earlier for his own protection. His effectiveness in debating Jews in Jerusalem had so frustrated them that they plotted to kill him. Friends relocated Saul to Tarsus before that could happen (see Acts 9:30). While Luke doesn t tell us what Saul had done since returning to his home town, Saul later spoke of missionary work he did in Syria and Cilicia during that time (Gal. 1:21). Saul was a wise choice for helping new Christians in Antioch. He was a Hellenist and, as such, understood the ways of the Jews in Antioch. Saul knew the region around Antioch better than any of the Jerusalem apostles. He had gained valuable experience in preaching to unbelievers and could be effective in the Antioch church s evangelistic efforts. TIP: If you have a visitor, write their contact information down so you can call or text them a thank-you after the session. Saul s faithfulness to Christ while in Tarsus prepared him for the next chapter of his service to Christ in Antioch. Barnabas recognized that Saul s gifts were a perfect match for the needs of the Antioch church. [VERSE 26] When Barnabas found Saul and led him to Antioch, he was leading Saul into the great mission of his life sharing Christ with the Gentile world. Barnabas and Saul invested a whole year in teaching new believers. They recognized that Christ calls people not only to salvation, but also to discipleship. Their example challenges us to be intentional about training new believers in the ways of the Christian life and to invest the time needed to prepare new Christians to live and serve effectively. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. Called is an unusual word, meaning, were called after their business. When unbelievers looked at the Antioch church and sought a word to describe them, they invented a term that identified the business of believers as working for Christ. May we give such clear evidence in our day that our life business is working for Jesus! The name Christian was, therefore, invented by unbelievers in Antioch. This name for believers is found only two other times in the New Testament, once in the words of King Agrippa to Paul (see Acts 26:28) and once when Peter used it to remind believers of how some unbelievers looked down on them (see 1 Pet. 4:16). Barnabas s encouragement produced very practical results. The next event described in the Book of Acts (Acts 11:27-30) is the prediction of a famine throughout the Roman world, a disaster that would put many Christians, especially those with few financial resources, in danger of hunger or even starvation. The church at Antioch responded to this need by giving, as each was able, to provide support for hungry Christians in Judea. Barnabas and Saul served as the messengers of this love in action. Christians in Antioch now gave Christian brothers and sisters in need the same gift of encouragement they had received from Barnabas. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 121

11 IMPACT (10 MINUTES) APPLY IT READ: Ask for a volunteer to read aloud a few ways students can take what they have learned and Apply It. TIP: Often times the people that get the least encouragement are parents and guardians of teenagers. Advise your students to make sure their parents or guardians know how much they are appreciated. YY Express thanks. Express thanks to someone who has been an encouragement to you. Be specific regarding how his or her words or actions helped you. YY Evaluate your life. Consider whether people are encouraged by your example or actions. Consider what you might need to change to be an encourager like Barnabas. YY Encourage each other. Share the ways each person in the group lives out one or more of the character traits in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). GUIDE: Lead students to consider which of the three suggested responses to the Bible study most closely applies to them and their current circumstances. ASK: Which of these responses do you personally need to focus on most as you live this session out? Allow time for responses. WRAP UP PRAY: Close in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to make your students aware of opportunities to be an encourager in someone s life this week. ASK: Ask students about last week s Live It Out options. Discuss any responses and encourage students as they choose to apply the Bible to their lives. GUIDE: Encourage students to complete one or both of the Live It Out activities for the week. Let them know you will discuss them next time you meet. For free online training on how to lead a group visit MinistryGrid.com/web/BibleStudiesForLife 122 SESSION 2

12 LEADER LIVE IT OUT To find the One Conversation for all ages, visit Before the session, challenge yourself to grow with your students through this Live It Out. Promote Good Hebrews 10:24 Notes: In a world filled with hatred and negative peer pressure, there is a need for children of God to be promoters of love and good works. It seems like people who are promoting bad life choices are getting more popular, and those who promote good are seen as boring and out of touch with reality. Being a promoter of love and good works may not be the most popular thing to do, but it is always the godly thing to do. Make sure you find yourself on the side of godliness and not popularity. Use your social media network to promote love and good works this week. Capture people in the act of doing something loving or good and post it online. Use the hashtags #Heb10:24 and #encourageothers. ONE CONVERSATION Scripture: Acts 9:26-28; 11:21-26 Topic: Encourage Use these discussion starters to help foster a spiritual conversation with your family. THE BIBLE MEETS LIFE: No soldier wants to go into battle alone. No one likes to stand up and be the lone voice in a meeting. We want to know someone has our back or is standing with us. We carry out our responsibilities better when we encourage one another. We all need encouragers in our lives. In turn, we can strengthen our relationships when we offer the same support and encouragement to others. STUDENTS THE POINT: Encouragement strengthens relationships. Who is the most encouraging person you know? What are some ways you can encourage others? Discuss the following quote: When you encourage others, you in the process are encouraged because you are making a commitment and difference in that person s life. Encouragement really does make a difference. 1 Zig Ziglar 1. Zig Ziglar Quotes, Brainy Quote, [cited 14 September 2014]. Available from the Internet: LIVE IT OUT: Your student has been encouraged to do one or both Live It Out activities in the Personal Study Guide. Here are some suggested ways to help your student: If he or she plans to complete Effective Encouragement: Make a calendar together of ways you can encourage others as a family. Think of ways to encourage your student this week. If he or she plans to complete Promote Good: Join your student in posting messages on social media that inspire others. Pray for your student to influence peers in a way that honors Christ. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 123

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