“Brothers, if there is someone among you who has a word of encouragement for the people, speak up” (Acts 13:15).
Imagine what it might be like to preach to a crowd of strangers without being asked ahead of time. You just show up for church in a distant city, the Bible is read, and as a visitor you are asked to come up front and comment on the text! Then, when you finish, people begin to discuss amongst themselves what you had to say, and it’s all a part of their weekly worship. This is how it was for the Apostle Paul when he showed up in a Jewish synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, far from home. The only stipulation was that he had to offer a word of encouragement, a message of hope. You gotta’ love it. “Sure, you can speak here, stranger, but not if you’re going to rip on us, not if you plan to tear us down.” And do you know what he said to them? “Friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38). I would call that a word of encouragement, wouldn’t you? So they invited him back, and the next week Luke says, “Almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” Little wonder. When people hear Good News, why wouldn’t they come back for more? Why settle for anything less? Father, please help us to speak words of hope and forgiveness to those who need to hear them most today.