Some years ago the Bible Society were working on a translation of John’s gospel into the Karre language, which is spoken in equatorial Africa. They’d reached chapter 14 and were looking for a local word to describe the ‘Paraclete’ – the word which relates to the Holy Spirit and which we often translate in English as ‘Comforter’ or ‘Helper’. It took them a while to find it, but one day as they observed the locals, they saw something and they knew they had found their word.

We are beginning a new post-Easter season and as I’ve been praying I sense the Lord saying to us: ‘BE STRONG, and BE SUPPORTIVE.’

The Lord said just that to Joshua, when it was time for God’s people to cross the River Jordan and enter the Promised Land. Speaking personally to Joshua, God said (a number of times): ‘Be strong and courageous.’ He wanted him to receive and know His strength and courage inside of him, so he could support the people in crossing over into their new future. Joshua needed to be strong to help those around him to be strong. The strength he received from the Lord, supported others. And it’s the same for you & me. You need to be strong – not just for yourself, but to help and support others.

Paul’s famous passage on the armour of God (in Ephesians 6:10) similarly begins ‘Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power’ The Lord wants STRONG DISCIPLES, but remember the armour is not just to strengthen and protect you. It’s to support others too. Soldiers in the Roman army would have linked arms and locked shields and supported each other, to hold each other up in the midst of battle. That is the picture of Ephesians 6; it’s about being STRONG and being SUPPORTIVE together. And that’s a message we need to embrace: BE STRONG, BE SUPPORTIVE

Let me return to the bible translators and tell you how they found their word to translate ‘Paraclete’. They noticed that many locals were employed as porters – people who’d carry loads for others. If one of a line of porters became exhausted from carrying his own load, another would come alongside, bend down and help him up. And that helping person was called a word which means ‘the one who falls down beside us’ to pick us up. That was exactly the word they were looking for. What a wonderful way to describe the Holy Spirit! It’s about One who is STRONG and SUPPORTIVE.

I am especially interested in this idea of a porter. Because that’s my name: Porter. A carrier of burdens. That’s what I’m called to be: STRONG and SUPPORTIVE. And that’s what the Holy Spirit does, because it’s at the heart of who He is. And that’s what the Holy Spirit helps us to be: STRONG and SUPPORTIVE.

So let’s BE STRONG and BE SUPPORTIVE, particularly in this coming season – so together we can even more effectively be serving God’s transformation of the North.