Caught hoping. Do you realize how much you hope for throughout the day? You go to bed, hoping that the next day will begin routinely. When we wake up in the morning, we HOPE that our alarm will go off, we HOPE that there will be warm water when we turn on the shower, and we HOPE that people won’t cross the yellow stripes on the highway on our way to wherever we’re going. Hope drives us, propels us, and frames our perspective of the world we live in.

Misplaced hope. We all find hope and assurance in something or someone. The question is, is it misplaced? When relating this to youth culture, it is easy to find extremes on each side. There are those that are on fire for The LORD. Their identity is rooted in their commitment to Christ and involvement in the youth group. On the other hand, there are students that value themselves only in their school/athletic accomplishments and how well liked they are. Now having pride in one’s accomplishments isn’t bad inherently but it can turn into idolatry if that is your primary source of value. Tim Keller identifies idolatry as, “taking some incomplete joy of this world and building your entire life on it.” This “turns the good thing into an absolute that overturns every other allegiance or value.” When people dwell in this area, they are dancing around, trying to find something to make absolute which eventually crumbles. For ministers, our job is to shuffle others toward a more solid foundation.

Acts 9:26 & 27

And when he [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. 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.

The Son of Encouragement. I can’t imagine being anyone in this passage. Paul is a man recently converted from persecuting Christians and now wants to minister alongside them. The disciples that know these stories and perhaps witness them, hear that this persecutor is now on board. Barnabas takes Paul in when no one else will and convinces the others of the change of heart. Paul is the testimony of transformation. Within this transformation, there were many negative voices restricting his conversion and testimony. Barnabas, later called the Son of Encouragement, affirms Paul and gives the disciples hope. Paul, searching for this solid foundation, finds it. When we encourage others like Barnabas, we provide clarity and a pathway to this solid foundation. Even when there are other crumbling falsehoods of joy and naysayers, we should elevate others to find their value in Christ.

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Writing to encourage. This is a picture of our encouragement board. It is quite possibly my favorite part of our youth room (besides the whiteboard, I love a good whiteboard). It’s amazing how uplifting our students are to one another. Right now, there are a lot of notes because our teens have been spectacular about uplifting one another. Sadly, a couple of these have been on here for months. Some students haven’t been around lately and fewer seek hope and encouragement from their classmates. This may be due to lack of involvement or an apathy of engagement (or they could just be lazy; yes, another great option). But what would it look like if the ones on the fringes of youth groups and churches “bought in.” What if they truly went to God and other people for their hope instead of looking within themselves and to their own capabilities?

Getting over it. Personally, I have a hard time writing notes of any kind, but this is an applicable way of encouraging one another. I look to the New Testament and some of my favorite writings are in the form of encouragement letters, so I tell myself to get over it and do the same. Many of the promises about the Kingdom of God may not be as tangible as we’d like. We are, though. As we model encouragement, just like Barnabas affirming Paul and teens writing encouragement notes, we show others their value and where to obtain it. We pick them up when their foundation has crumbled and aid them in putting it back where it belongs: Christ and the family of believers.

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