By Tim Frank
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Carthage
Have you ever had a nickname? In my high school, one of the boys was nicknamed “Wrong Way” because he chose to run the wrong way with the ball in a football game. Sometimes a nickname lasts for years. For my friend, 40 years later, people cannot remember his given name but still refer to him as “Wrong Way.”
In the passage for today, we meet a man in the early church whose name was Joses. We commonly know him by his nickname Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37). Barnabas means “son of encouragement,” and that is exactly what this man was, an encourager to all. Borrowing from The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, let us consider five ways that Barnabas was an encouragement to others.
First, Barnabas was encouraging as a generous giver. He had a piece of land which he sold; brought the money and gave it to the apostles to use in the work of the church. Giving to meet the needs of others is a direct way to encourage them. Helping those in need by sharing something we have with them is an expression of our love for God and for others (I John 3:16-17; Matthew 25:31-40).
Second, Barnabas was encouraging as he spoke kind and supportive words for another. We read in Acts 8:1-3 that Saul was one of the main persecutors of the early church. As he was on his way to Damascus to imprison the believers (Acts 9:1-2), Jesus appeared to him and he was saved (Acts 9:3-19). Saul went from being a persecutor to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:20-22). Acts 9:26-29 tells how Saul attempted to join with the believers in Jerusalem, but they did not believe he was a disciple.
Barnabas, however, met with him, brought him to the apostles, and declared how he was a changed person. He spoke encouraging and supportive words concerning Saul, and the church welcomed him. There may be people coming to your church whose past reputations color others’ opinions of them. Be like Barnabas and get to know them. Encourage them. Speak a good word in support of them.
Third, Barnabas was sent to meet with new converts to Christianity in Antioch (Acts 11:21-24). Many of these believers were Gentiles, and Barnabas was a good representative, being from the predominately Gentile island of Cyprus. When he saw the grace of God poured out on the believers, he was glad and encouraged them. He interacted with them personally and embraced them as brothers in the Lord. We can encourage others through our personal touch and attention.
Fourth, Barnabas went to Tarsus, enlisted Saul to come to Antioch, and asked him to help teach the new believers (Acts 11:25-26). Asking someone to join in ministry and help is one of the most encouraging things we can do. There is something about having opportunity to serve together that lifts a person’s spirit.
Fifth, Barnabas was an encouragement as he and Saul were called to the first missionary journey (Acts 12:25-13:3). Shared mission activities draw people together and build lasting friendships. Barnabas brought his sister’s son John Mark along as well. Later (Acts 15:36-39), Barnabas would find it necessary to defend John Mark and then join with him for a second missionary journey to the country of Cyprus.
Barnabas is a great example of the encouragement and impact such a person can have in the lives of many. He reached out through his generosity to the needy, his personal touch, his words of affirmation, his acts of service and his shared mission activities. Someone needs your encouragement and love today. Be a “Barnabas.”