Tuesday, July 26, 2016


I was not born with a body type that would help me in tryouts for cheerleading in high school! That's an understatement! Oh, how I envied the kids who made it as cheerleaders.

To jump around in synchronized formation waving pompoms and shouting rah-rah slogans to rev up the crowd at sports events and inspire and energize the players on the field—that was the ultimate in my dreams. When my now-mother-of-two granddaughter Kara was in junior high, how proud I was when she became a cheerleader!

Well, I guess God “heard” the dreams of my heart. When I grew up and answered God's call to mission work which led me to many countries and various ministries, among the spiritual gifts God provided to do His work was—believe it or not—the gift of cheerleading!

It is a gift which is integrated with other ministry gifts such as encouragement, exhortation, building people up in the faith, affirming them, praying for them, lifting them up when they are despondent or weak, teaching, comforting, consoling. In the Scriptures it is expressed through both the tangible and spiritual works of mercy. In short, cheerleading is a “Barnabas gift.” Barnabas?

If it had not been for Barnabas, there might not have been an Apostle Paul! Barnabas started out by being the cheerleader for a needy new convert to the fledgling Christian faith. The apostles of Jesus and the early Christian community in Jerusalem didn't trust that fresh convert who was widely known as their enemy “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” and dragging both men and women off to jail. (Acts 9:1,2) “When he was trying to associate with the disciples, they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple” (9:26, 27).

That could have been the end of the story. Period. There would have been no early Christian missionary travels to preach the gospel widely and win converts, defend the faith, and establish new churches. We would be without letters of instruction to the early churches and their leadership, which became a major portion of our New Testament canon.

Enter “Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas [a nickname] by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement).” A man of proven character and reputation in the early Church, he put his own reputation on the line to vouch for that young unlikely convert. “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles” and testified to the veracity of his story of conversion. He bore witness that Paul “was now speaking out boldly in the name of Jesus.” (9:27).

Barnabas obviously had the gift of exhortation and the ability to inspire others in the faith. He didn't stop with merely introducing Paul, but followed him up, taking the chance to call him from Tarsus to join him in encouraging and building up the growing Church at Antioch. That Church in turn sent them together on evangelization mission trips. They made repeated return trips to encourage the new churches. The rest, as they say, is history.

Later we find Barnabas again vouching for and encouraging his young dropout nephew John Mark by giving him a second chance in mission work. The result? God eventually used the mature and seasoned John Mark to write the second Gospel! According to early Christian tradition we find Barnabas again exercising his gift of encouragement to found the Church in Cyprus, his home city. Wherever Barnabas went God used him as a cheerleader!

I love my cheerleading Barnabas gift! I can exercise it in person, by prayer, and through my writing. Thank You, Lord. There is no greater gift that I could desire. All of us who know the Lord have within reach personally and through social media many people who need our gift of cheerleading/encouragement. God networks people together for a reason.

He brings us through certain life experiences so we can encourage and comfort others and build them up in the faith. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6) This is not a flashy gift, but a largely hidden and behind-the-scenes personal ministry with results that reproduce themselves in the lives of others. Only God knows whether there might be a potential Apostle Paul or a John Mark who would not become who God destined them to be without my Barnabas cheerleading—and yours!

And where would I be without those who are cheering me on?

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