February 24, 2016
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
(Bill Wolfe is a retired pastor and currently coaches high school girls’ basketball and middle school football.)
A parent of one of our basketball players paid our coaching staff a great compliment last night. He didn’t say it trying to get more game time minutes for his daughter, or because there was a lull in the conversation. He simply walked up to us as our practice was about to start and told us how much he appreciated the three of us as coaches.
Then he went on to say that his level of respect for us had risen even more as he has watched the actions and antics of some of the other coaches we’ve encountered this season. In other words, in his eyes we look even better as he has watched coaches of other teams relate to their players.
We thanked him for his words of encouragement. Although my Junior Varsity girls’ team has been successful in the final outcome of our games most of the time this season, it has been a challenging season in other ways. For example, having fifteen players on the team means the cutting up of the playing time in ways that communicate that each of them is valued. That’s a challenge because it breaks down to less than eleven minutes of playing time for each player, if they all play equally. His words were timely and up lifting.
Each of us as coaches look forward to coming to practice each day, and spending time with our players. We seek to teach, explain, evaluate, analyze, improve player skills and game understanding… and encourage. This season our high school has been dealing with the death of a student known by everyone. In the midst of practice our varsity coach several times has gone to the side with a couple of girls who are struggling with the loss…dealing with the grief. It’s encouraging to have someone listen willingly to your sorrow.
This dad, whose daughter was impacted by the death, understood the extra role that we as coaches have taken on this season. Not counselors, but rather listeners of pain and confusion… and his words, once again encouraged us.
All of us desire encouragement, but encouraging encouragement is a concept that seldom occurs to us. It comes out in the New Testament. Paul wrote to the Christ-followers in Thessalonica and instructed them with the words “Therefore encourage each and build each other up…”, and then he finishes the sentence with the clarifier “…just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Encouragement gets noticed and remembered.
I would like to have met a man named Barnabas, who appears in the Book of Acts. Acts 4:36 tells us that his real name was Joseph, and that he was a Levite from Cyprus, but the apostles referred to him as Barnabas. It was his nickname, kind of like Smiley or Buck. His nickname meant “son of encouragement.” When the apostles, and others, were with him they saw that being encouraging was what defined him. Add he traveled around with the Apostle Paul I’m sure his encouraging words were often the difference between Paul throwing in the towel or persevering.
Encouraging encouragement. The words of a parent made me ponder how I might build some young people up today with just a few brief conversations on what they are doing well.
Lord, let me be a Barnabas in someone’s life today. May I encourage and lift someone up who does not want to be recognized, but who needs to be encouraged.
Northern Front Range, Southeast Colorado & New Mexico Cluster
Ministry & Mission Coach