For six years I coached the softball teams for two of my daughters. It started out as a way of being involved with the lives of my daughters and, as these things often become, it changed into something entirely different.
The game was often secondary because witnessing girls’ transition into young ladies was a beautiful sight. I still remember my baseball coaches. Some were good and some were still learning the game themselves. I don’t know how I’ll be remembered as a coach but I hope I was able to pass on lessons other than about bats and balls.
During my time as coach, I saw several different styles of coaching. Some were quiet, somewhat aloof, and left the girls to their own devices. Some were strict disciplinarians who emphasized mastery of the fundamentals. Others were extremely vocal and easily lost their tempers at the players, the umpires and other coaches.
The coaches who I felt were most successful with their girls were those who motivated through encouragement. They praised all players in various ways to drive them forward to build on small successes and reach greater achievements. Yes, they addressed problems when necessary and plainly discussed areas of improvement; yet, the girls always seemed to know these coaches were making them better.
Biblically this concept is called edification. The word means “to build up” and is perfectly demonstrated in the actions of the coaches I tried to mimic. As Christians, we are our brother and sister’s keepers and we ought to passionately want them to succeed spiritually. We do so by motivating through encouragement – edification.
Barnabas was this kind of man. We first encounter him in Acts 4:36. His given name was Joses but the apostles called him Barnabas – Son of Encouragement. We see him constantly standing by various Christians throughout the book of Acts for the purpose of building them up and making them better.
He sold his own land and gave the money to the church so others could benefit from his temporal blessings (Acts 4:37). He stood by Saul, who once terrorized the church through persecution, when Saul obeyed the gospel of Christ and embraced Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 9:27). When news of a new congregation in Antioch reached Jerusalem, Barnabas was sent to encourage these new believers (Acts 11:23). He also stood by John Mark who had previously been unable to complete a missionary journey but who now wanted to do this work again (Acts 15:37).
Each life touched by Barnabas was made better because he encouraged people. He stood by them and built them up. I have no doubt there were times in his work where he had to correct someone, but I have a hunch he did it in a way which left the Christian stronger.
We need to edify each other and motivate through encouragement. We do this by pursing those things “which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Romans 15:19). We do this by sharing our gifts and talents with those around us so they can be better (1 Corinthians 12:7). We do it through our speech so that nothing corrupt will come out of our mouth but only “what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). In essence, our spiritual lives are built around constant motivation through encouragement so that “all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:29).
Jeremy Morris, his wife, and children attend the Church of Christ off of Murray Road. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.