How To Rub People The Right Way

Title: How To Rub People The Right Way

Bible Book: Acts 4 : 36-37

Author: James Merritt

Subject: Encouragement; Encourager



Many years ago during the colonial era of this country, wealthy ladies were proud of their wide-board oak floors. At least once a week servants would wet-rub and then dry-rub these floors to make them shiny. It was a very simple task involving running a wet mop along the grain of the wood and then a dry mop.

But sometimes a careless worker would mop across the grain and it would produce streaks on the floor. When that happened the lady of the house would scold the servant for "rubbing the floor the wrong way." That is where we get our phrase "to rub someone the wrong way."

Well, I want to tell you how to rub people the right way, and there is one surefire, fail-safe, foolproof, guaranteed way to rub someone the right way. It works any time, any place, on practically anybody, and the way to do it is by encouragement.

There is something you need, I need, we all need, and that is encouragement. Human nature is so quick to tear down rather than to build up. For every word of encouragement we probably hear ten words of discouragement.

I remember a man who used to be in this church. He was a member here for probably close to ten or eleven years. Not long before he left this church he wrote me, without question, the nastiest, most vicious, mean-spirited letter I have ever received in my entire ministry. As I thought back on that letter, it hit me that in the ten or eleven years he was in this church, the only time he went out of his way to really say anything to me of importance, it was in that negative letter. Not one time did he ever utter a word of encouragement.

Far too often we are guilty of taking the time to discourage someone, but never taking the time to encourage someone. I love the old saying, "write your criticisms in dust, your compliments in marble." but so often we do just the opposite. As the old couplet says:

Once I did bad and that I heard ever; Twice I did good, but that I heard never.

You may remember the old familiar folk song, home on the range. You recall the first stanza:

Where the deer and the antelope play;

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, And the skies are not cloudy all day."

It kind of makes you want to move to Montana doesn't it? Yet, even if you could move to Montana you would still face discouragement. There were two buffalo out grazing on the plain, and a cowboy rode up on his horse and looked at those two buffaloes and said, "You are the ugliest critters on planet earth. You stink to high heaven, you've got ugly beady eyes, those humps on your back are grotesque; and if I had a powerful enough buffalo gun I would blow you both to kingdom come right now." Then he turned his horse and rode off. One buffalo looked at the other one and said, "I believe we've just heard a discouraging word."

The truth of the matter is we all have our detractors; we all have our discouragers; and there are times that we all could use a word of encouragement. To some degree or other, all of us are like the guy I heard about who drove on to a used car lot and walked up to a salesman and asked, "Sir, are you the salesman who sold me this car?" The salesman looked him over pretty carefully and said, "Yes, I believe I am." The used car owner said, "Well, I wonder if you would mind telling me about it again; sometimes I get so discouraged!"

We all get discouraged and we need encouragement. I don't know of any place that we need it more than in our homes and in our churches. Don't ever underestimate the importance of the mutual support that we gain from one another when we both give and receive encouragement.

I was reading the other day about the human spine. When the spine is supported by surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons, it can be used as a mighty lever for manipulating the body and lifting incredibly heavy objects. Yet, when that same spine loses the support of those soft tissues around it, it will buckle under a load of just five pounds.

You can take an isolated human spine from a corpse, and put no more than five pounds of pressure on it, and it will totally collapse. Likewise without the encouragement of other people, we will also quickly crumble and break under the loads of criticism that come our way.

Today we are going to study the life of a man who made the encourager's hall of fame. I believe he was everyone's best friend. He may have been the most popular Christian in the early church. By studying his life we can learn how to be an encourager.

I. Be a Person who Brings Blessings to Others

"And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated son of encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus..." (v.36) Now if I had told you we were going to study about a man named Joses, you would have asked "whom?" But if I called him "Barnabas" many of you would know whom I am talking about.

Well, the early church nicknamed Joses Barnabas, because it literally means "son of encouragement." In fact, the Greek word for encouragement is the word Paraclete that is used of the Holy Spirit, and literally means "one called alongside to help." Barnabas was the first "minister of encouragement."

One of those things we see about Barnabas that was so encouraging-ole Barney put his money where his mouth was. "...Having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet." (v.37) The first church contained many poor people, and many times when people would come to Christ they would lose their jobs.

Furthermore, a great revival had broken out on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, and many people had come to know the lord Jesus who lived in other places, but they stayed behind because they wanted to receive instruction; they wanted to be in fellowship with other believers and they wanted to grow in the lord. So their backs were financially against the wall. Well, ole Barney, being the encourager that he was, took a valuable piece of property, sold it, and gave it to the apostles to help meet the needs of the people.

You see, an encourager sees a need, and then says, "I will give what I can, and I will do what I can, to meet that need." But now don't get the idea you have to have money to be an encourager. You may not be rich in money, but every one of us has so much we can give to others as a gift of encouragement.

Sick people don't need money-they need a word of concern.

Lonely people don't need money-they just need a few minutes of time. Hurting people don't need money-they just need a touch on the shoulder. Discouraged people don't need money-they just need a sentence of hope.

Mark twain once said, "I can live two months on one good compliment." Sometimes that is all people need. I believe the greatest coach of any team in any sport was John Wooden who coached the UCLA Bruins to eleven national championships in thirteen years. He understood Mark Twain's statement and had a special way of making sure his players applied it.

Wooden instructed his players that whenever a basket was made, the player who scored was required to smile, wink, nod, or point to the player who passed him the ball. When coach wooden gave these instructions to one team, one of his new players said, "but coach, what if he's not looking?" John wooden said, "I guarantee you he'll look." He was right, because everyone is looking for encouragement and affirmation.

You see, an encourager is a selfless person. He's always trying to think how he can bless somebody else, or help somebody else, or strengthen somebody else. By the way, you see this same trait again in Barnabas over in Antioch. "When he came and had seen the grace of go, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the lord." (Acts. 11:23) then just a few chapters later in that same city we read, "...strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of god.'" (Acts. 14:22)

Antioch was a very wealthy and magnificent city. It was the third greatest city of the world after Rome and Alexandria. It was a very cultured city, but it was also a very wicked city. It was a city filled with idolatry, it was a city of heathenism, and it was a city of deep sexual sin. But the holy spirit of god began to move in that city and many gentiles had come to know Christ.

When reports filtered down to Jerusalem about the revival that was going on in Antioch, the apostles decided they ought to investigate, and they chose Barnabas to go and to see what was going on.

Well Barnabas encouraged these men and women to grow in the faith, and to share the lord. Because of that we read in acts 11:24, "a great many people were added to the lord." Now Barnabas could have become in effect the evangelist-in-chief, and he could have kept this situation all to himself and been the top dog. But because he was such an encourager he realized he couldn't handle the situation at Antioch by himself; he needed someone with greater gifts than he had.

He remembered that young zealous Hebrew scholar who he had met before in Jerusalem, by the name of Paul. He knew about his tremendous education and his great ability to teach and to preach. Furthermore, he had a Greek background and it would be just the answer for what these people needed.

What was more important to Barnabas than notoriety or fame was the welfare of these Christians in Antioch. Furthermore, it allowed him to put the spotlight on Paul and, in effect, launch what would become a worldwide ministry.

Why was Barnabas willing to take second billing? Why was he willing to be number two? Why was he willing to go behind the curtains and put Paul out on the stage? Because he was an encourager who had one desire, and that was to bring blessings to others.

II. Be a Person who Breaks Barriers for Others

"And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple." (9:26) Paul had met Jesus Christ on the Damascus road; it had been three years since he had been saved. He had basically gone underground to grow in the lord, and to let the lord continue this new work in his life.

But now he was back, and what is even worse he was back in Jerusalem. Well word got out very quickly that public enemy number one was back. You see, at that time the church considered Saul of tarsus the most dangerous man in the world. Nobody would speak to him. In Jerusalem he was the most hated and most feared man in all of Israel. The message translates v.26 this way: "back in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn't trust him one bit. Then Barnabas took him under his wing."

In the Greek language the tense of the verbs indicates that Paul tried time after time after time to get into the church and to win the acceptance of his brothers. But they had put a barrier up; they had built a wall that pail could not penetrate.

Everybody else shut the door. James, the brother of Jesus, he wanted nothing to do with Saul. Peter, who had the keys to the kingdom, kept the door locked. John, the apostle of love, said, "I love anybody but Saul." Andrew, who loved normally to introduce people to Jesus, said, "forget it" when it came to Saul.

Then notice v.27, "but Barnabas..." aren't those sweet words? Here comes the consolation kid. Here comes ole Barney to the rescue. Here comes the minister of encouragement.

That is the mark of a real encourager; he will champion the underdog. He will jump on the bandwagon when everybody else is jumping off. He'll walk into your house when the whole world has just walked out.

Do you notice how he did it? "But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the lord on the road, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus." (v.27) He never brought up his past; he never alluded to his mistakes. He didn't say, "look, I know he was a murderer, I know he was a blasphemer, I know he destroyed the church, I know he put many of you in prison."

No, Barnabas was an encourager, and encouragers don't look to the past, they look to the future. Barnabas didn't look at what Paul had done; he looked at what Paul could do. He said in effect, "Don't look at the man for what he was. Look at the man for what he is."

I say that for this reason. If you're not careful you can attempt to encourage people, but do it in such a way that you wind up actually discouraging people. I heard about a little boy after a church service who came up to his pastor and said, "pastor, when I grow up, I'm going to become a doctor and make a lot of money, and when if do I'm going to give you a lot of money too." The pastor said, "Well, son, that's so kind of you and generous, but why are you going to give me a lot of money?" He said, "Because my daddy says you're the poorest preacher we've ever had."

You see, I have noticed something and it's true about all of us. Whenever you hear someone putting himself down, he is usually asking you to help build himself back up. Sometimes we just don't pick up on it. I was talking to Teresa the other day and I was just kind of feeling down and I said, "Teresa, I feel old, flabby, wrinkled, useless, and stupid." She smiled and said, "Don't be silly, you're not old."

May I just take a moment here and encourage all of us to be encouragers. When people come to church they ought to find bridges going up and barriers coming down. We ought to tear down the barrier of racism, and build up the bridge of acceptance. We ought to tear down the barrier of prejudice, and build up the bridge of love. That is what an encourager does.

III. Be a Person who Builds Bridges for Others

"Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, 'let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the lord, and see how they are doing.

Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark."

But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.

Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took mark and sailed to Cyprus; But Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." (Acts 15:36-40)

Now there was a strong disagreement between Paul and Barnabas concerning a young man named John Mark. What had happened was they had gone on a missionary journey and for some reason mark had gotten discouraged; maybe he had gotten homesick, but for whatever reason, he quit and went back home. Because of that Paul basically was washing his hands of him and saying, "He's finished."

Well, ole Barney couldn't do that. Because he didn't focus on mark's problems, he focused on his potential. That is a big difference. Encouragers see potential where other people see problems. Barnabas believed in mark so much that he parted company with Paul in order to take John Mark with him.

I find that very interesting. Barnabas would not quit on Paul, and yet Paul was ready to quit on mark. So many people, I'm afraid, suffer from what I call the "Charlie Brown complex." You know Charlie Brown never could do anything right, but if you read peanuts enough you begin to notice that one of his biggest problems was the fact that Lucy was always around to make sure he couldn't do anything right and remind him of it when he didn't.

I remember one cartoon where Lucy put her hands on her hips after Charlie Brown had made another mistake, and said, "Charlie Brown, you are a foul ball in the line drive of life! You're in the shadow of your own goal post! You are a miscue! You are three putts on the 18th green! You are a 7- 10 split in the 10th frame! You are a dropped rod and reel in the lake of life! You are a missed free throw, a shanked nine iron, and a called third strike! Do you understand? Have I made myself clear?" Have you ever had a Lucy around you? Well I have.

Do you know what John Mark needed? He needed a bridge builder; he needed a word of encouragement. He just needed somebody to believe in him. Charles Schwab, the famous businessman said, "I have yet to find a man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval, than under a spirit of criticism."

Years ago Hollywood put out a movie entitled "stand and deliver." It was the story of Jamie Escalante who was an incredibly successful teacher in a rough high school. In his class were two students named Johnny. One was a bright student and a joy to teach, but the other wasted his talents, bucked authority, and refused to learn anything. Well, at the first PTA meeting for parents, Johnny's mother asked Jamie for a report on her son's progress. Jamie said, "Why, Johnny is a joy to have in my class. I am so glad he is one of my students."

Well, the next day rebellious rambunctious Johnny walked into the classroom with a big smile on his face and a totally different attitude. He ran up to Mr. Escalante and said, "my mother told me what you said about me last night, and I just want you to know I've never had a teacher who wanted me before or even liked me, and I'm going to work harder than I've ever done to be a good student." Indeed he became a model student.

Well, what Johnny did not know was that Mr. Escalante thought that Johnny's mother was the mother of the other Johnny who was his best student. His comments were meant not for that Johnny but the other, but the results were unbelievable. One encouraging word spoken at the right moment, at the right time, for the right person, transformed a young man's life. That is exactly what encouragement does.

Just think about what could have happened if Barnabas had not encouraged Saul of Tarsus; if he had just walked away from him like everybody else. Do you realize from a human perspective we would not have fourteen books in the New Testament today? That the church might have lost its greatest preacher and missionary? What about John Mark? Did you know that he happened to be the Mark that wrote the gospel of Mark? If Barnabas had quit on mark like Paul did, maybe we would never have had that little gospel called mark.

There was a boy whose dad died when he was five years old. This boy dropped out of school after the sixth grade. By the time he was 17 he had lost job after job after job. He married at 18, had a baby at 19, and was separated from his wife at 20.

He became a railroad conductor, but he got fired. He joined the army, but he washed out. He became a farmer and lost his shirt. He applied to law school but got turned down. He became an insurance salesman and couldn't give it away.

Finally, he became a dishwasher and a cook in a two-bit restaurant. One thing he was able to do was to finally persuade his wife to come back to him and together they made a living cooking and washing dishes in this little restaurant. At 65 years of age he retired. He went to the mailbox and got his first social security check that had a grand total of $105. This 65-year-old man was so discouraged he decided to commit suicide.

He went under a shade tree, wrote out his last will and testament, determined to end his life. Well, somehow his wife found out about his scheme and confronted him, and said, "let me tell you one thing you can do, I believe better than anybody I've ever known." He said, "What's that?" She said, "You can cook." He said, "Do you really think so?" She said, "You're fabulous."

Well that gave him an idea. He went down to a local bank and borrowed $87 dollars against his social security check. He went to the supermarket, bought some chicken and some boxes, fried it with a special recipe he had developed on his own, put it in boxes and began going door-to-door in Corbin, Kentucky selling his chicken.

It became so popular he came up with the idea to try to sell it to restaurants. Well, guess what? He was turned down 1,014 times before a man named John Y. Brown tasted his chicken and said, "I'll go into business with you." That man's name was Colonel Harlan Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. What was the secret?

Same man, same recipe, same ability, same chicken. The only difference - a word of encouragement. If you want to rub people the right way, every chance you get brings a blessing to others; break barriers for others; build bridges for others. The amazing thing you will find is, you were encouraged in the process.

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