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November 29, 2020
Cheerleaders help us make it through the night
In recent days I have realized more than ever the importance of cheerleaders, the people who cheer us on when life is difficult. Some days and nights are tougher than others. So I think most people will agree there are times when we could not make it through the night without our cheerleaders.
In the midst of our annual Thanksgiving season, I have been giving thanks for my cheerleaders. They mean the world to me. When one of them calls, I often say, “It means so much to hear the sound of your voice!” I mean that. A cheerful word of encouragement lifts my spirit.
I began wondering when this cheerleading business began. Did it begin with Adam and Eve? Was one of them the first cheerleader? After they were cast out of the Garden of Eden because of their sin, and began working by the sweat of their brow, did Eve say to Adam, “You can make it Honey; don’t give up!”?
Was it Aaron and Hur who while holding up Moses’ hands were whispering to him, “You can do it, Moses; you can do it!” Mighty Moses knew he could not have secured the victory without the help of those two friends.
Barnabas of course is the great cheerleader of New Testament days. Ask Saint Paul. He knows. When the apostles in Jerusalem did not trust Paul, it was Barnabas who said, “I know this man; he is one of us.” Thus was Paul accepted into the fellowship because a good word spoken by Barnabas.
Barnabas was more than a “Son of Encouragement,” (the meaning of his name). He was a Source of encouragement to Paul and the other disciples at Antioch who were the first to be called Christians. Doctor Luke describes Barnabas as a good man, full of faith and the Holy Spirit, who encouraged new believers to “remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” Amazingly, for 20 centuries, “Barnabas people” have blessed others with life-sustaining encouragement.
Cheerleading for athletic teams began in the United States in 1898 when Johnny Campbell, a University of Minnesota student, grabbed a megaphone and got the crowd to cheer a Minnesota team on to victory. Cheerleading caught on at other schools and today there are millions of cheerleaders at American athletic events.
You can call them cheerleaders, encouragers, balcony people or Barnabas people. But whatever the name, we all need people like that in our lives. My dear friend Billy Gaither, in one of his recent “Pathways” articles, described how his late wife, Carolyn, had encouraged him during their years in pastoral ministry:
“Carolyn was a cheerleader at her high school in Fairhope, Alabama. Although I did not know her then, when she entered my life, she never relinquished her ‘megaphone.’ The right word at the right time was sent from God to me through ‘my cheerleader.’ In fact, it has not stopped! Memory has preserved her cheering word practically every day in the months since her death.”
So Billy offers a word to me and you, and all who are struggling with the issues of life: “Never give up! Keep the faith! You are not alone. God has not forgotten you! God knows you and he knows what you need because God is the ultimate encourager!”
The writer of the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament would agree with Billy. It is God who provides us with that “great cloud of witnesses which surrounds us.” Those witnesses are cheering us on to “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely” so that we may “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
It helps me to think that Jesus is the Head Cheerleader in that cloud of witnesses, constantly reminding us that he is with us and encouraging us not to “grow weary or fainthearted.” Jesus is the One whose Voice I need most to hear when weariness comes upon me.
During recent weeks many of the friends of Jesus who are my cheerleaders have not forgotten me. They have encouraged me with emails, phone calls, cards, flowers, fruit and even a chocolate pie and a pecan pie. The young people of New Walk of Life Church even came over in a bus and sang for Dean. They stood in our front yard while Dean sat in a wheelchair on our front porch. A kind gentleman named Ken Austin was driving the bus. I am a blessed man because of my cheerleaders.
So today I offer two prayers: one a prayer of gratitude to God for my cheerleaders, and the other a prayer asking the Lord to give me the grace to be the cheerleader that my friends need me to be. + + +