On Sunday, Jesus urged us to live by his voice of encouragement – by trusting the picture he has for your life; drawing near to those who need encouragement; stopping to see and give what others need. (Luke 18:35-43; Matthew 20:29-34)
- Jesus uses his encounter with Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, to show us the voices competing for our lives: Discouragement – the voices that deprive us of confidence and dissuade us from what can be; or Encouragement – the voices that inspire and give us help and hope for who we can be.
- The voice of discouragement comes from the Enemy, who tells us that we are a failure; something in our past tells us we have no future; the diagnosis is too serious…just give up and give in… The voice of encouragement comes from Jesus, who opens your eyes to see that we are a precious child of God; nothing can separate us from the power of His love; God can work for good in all things!
- Jesus gives us three Encouragement Eye-Openers. The 1st: Trust the picture Jesus has for your life! Bartimaeus sees again and is transformed from a beggar to a man feasting on the Abundant Life of love, joy, peace…because he had faith that Jesus could open his eyes to the new life that is possible for him, and show him how to get there.
- This is the encouraging truth learned by the homeless man at Urban Ministry whose portrait was painted by an artist. The portrait did not look like his current condition, but the artist encouraged him to see that this is who Jesus saw in him. The man began to trust that this was true..and began to do what it took to become that person. Now he is no longer homeless, his life is full of love, joy, and an exciting future!
- The way this can happen is through Jesus’ 2nd Encouragement Eye-Opener: Come near to Jesus! Bartimaeus began to have hope when Jesus brought him near, and his hope was fulfilled, because that allowed Jesus to see what he wanted, and give him what he needed.
- This is the truth of the story of Teddy Stoddard and Jean thompson, which I offer to move us to draw near to be Jesus for those who are “blind beggars”…or, if we are Bartimaeus, to have the courage to ask someone to come near to know what you want and help you get what you need. (I strongly encourage you to hear the full story on our website and FaceBook!) Teddy Stoddard was a struggling 5th Grader, beaten down by the death of his mother and disinterest of his father, until his teacher, Jean Thompson, took the time to draw near and give Teddy the encouragement and help she learned that he needed…ultimately becoming a doctor, and inviting Ms. Thompson to come to his wedding, to sit where his mother would have sat, “because you are the only family that I have,” filling her with overwhelming joy as she did!
- For that to happen, we must do what Jesus did, his 3rd Encouragement Eye-Opener: Stop…to see…the blind-to-life-as-it-can-be person, that Jesus puts on the roads of our lives! This is the lesson of the man driving too fast in his new Jaguar through a neighborhood, when a rock smashed into his car. He jumped out angrily, but returned to his car humbly, as he found that a boy threw the rock to get help to lift up his wheelchair-bound brother who had fallen onto the road.
- The man never fixed the dent, leaving it there to remind him of its message – “Never go through life so fast that someone needs to throw a rock at you to get you to stop, and take the time, to lift up someone fallen off the road of life as Jesus wants it to be!”
- I “threw rocks” at you (into two buckets) – representing the lives of 14 youth in East Huntersville who need Big Brothers and Sisters…and many more representing people in your life who need to be lifted up. These lives are in the midst of a tug of war between the Enemy’s voice of discouragement and Jesus’ voice of encouragement. Who will win? The answer is up to us…
Connection for the Week: If you need lifting up, ask someone to help you to listen and trust in Jesus’ voice of encouragement and give you what Jesus wants for you; if you know of someone who needs lifting up (perhaps one of the “rocks” I threw), draw near to them, encourage them to see and help them become who Jesus sees in them – and give and receive as you do, the Abundant Life of love, joy, and peace.