“He encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.” Acts 11:23a (NLT)
Who do you know that needs encouragement? Better yet, who do you know that doesn’t? Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden these days. Some wear it on their sleeve while others hide it in their hearts. Still, we all need encouragement. That’s why encouragers are such attractive people. It’s not that they are so carefree without burdens of their own; they’ve just learned the secret that to be encouraged is to be an encourager! Joseph was such an encourager. You may be better acquainted with him by his nickname, “Barnabas.” It means “Son of Encouragement.” He must have learned it from his dad. Our first insight into his life is found in Acts 4. Dr. Luke tells us that Joseph was from the tribe of Levi, a priestly tribe, and came from the island of Cyprus. He was nicknamed Barnabas by the apostles in Jerusalem because He was such an encourager. He was also a giver! Of his own volition, he sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles to use for the welfare of the infant church that had just launched. What an encouragement those resources must have been to these early church leaders. As a church planter, I personally know the encouragement that financial assistance afforded our ministry and continues to do so. He gave from his resources freely because he had first given his life to Christ. Encouragers are so overwhelmed with gratitude for what Christ has done for them that they can’t help but encourage those around them.
The next time we meet Barnabas, he is risking his reputation and very life to encourage a man named Saul of Tarsus. In fact, he had to go to Tarsus to find Saul. The exponential growth of the New Testament Church had exploded in Antioch among the Gentiles, and so many were coming to the faith that Barnabas realized he needed help to disciple these young believers. He had heard of Saul’s conversion in Damascus, but that was years ago. While others remained skeptical of Saul, Barnabas reached out to him and became the bridge that connected Saul with the apostles in Jerusalem and the Church in Antioch. They would spend a year together there teaching and training these new Christ followers in the Way. In Galatians 2:9 Saul recalls the encounter in his own words, “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.” (NIV)
I like that expression, “… (they) gave me the right hand of fellowship …” Saul whose name would change to Paul, the Apostle, had Barnabas to thank for that connection. Later Barnabas is found encouraging a young believer named John Mark who would go on to write the Gospel of Mark. Think of it. This encourager single-handedly can be credited for most of our New Testament! What if he had lived a self-centered life? What if he had not encouraged Paul or Mark? We may not have the letters of Paul or the Gospel of Mark as we have them today! Although he did not write any of the New Testament, his influence is certainly behind those who did. That’s the power of encouragement. Experience it for yourself on those in your world today. See what a difference it will make in their lives and yours.