A Certain Hope in Uncertain Days: 30 Days of Hope-filled Focus
Day 8: Encouragement and Hope
Acts 11:23-24, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”
ENCOURAGEMENT, noun “The act of giving courage, or confidence of success” (Webster’s Dictionary 1828 Edition).
Barnabas was an encourager. A Jew from Cyprus, his given name was Joseph (Acts 4:36). But the apostles renamed him, “Barnabas” (i.e. “son of encouragement), which served him as an apt description of him and his ministry to others.
He is first mentioned in the Bible in Acts chapter 4. Many Jews were dis-located in Jerusalem. They had traveled there for Pentecost from faraway places. They remained there after their conversion to Christ and needed help with food and shelter. The earthly church responded: “There was not a needy person among them for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:35). Likewise, Barnabas “sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money” (Acts 4:37). Imagine how those early believers must have been encouraged through the loving sacrifice of people like Barnabas. Barnabas would later serve in a “relief effort” to meet the needs of those suffering through “a great famine” (Acts 11:27-30).
Some of those scattered as a result of the great persecution (Cf. Acts 8:1) preached the gospel in Antioch. “A great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas there (Cf. Acts 11:22). And in Antioch Barnabas worked to encourage the new believers “to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23). He needed help in his ministry, so he “went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch” (Acts 11:25-26). Together they spent “a whole year” teaching “a great many people” (Acts 11:26). Together Barnabas and Paul encouraged those believers in the Word of God (Cf. Romans 15:4).
The Christian life is oftentimes compared in Scripture to a race (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-2; Philippians 3:14). There is a need to run the race with endurance. The runner is confronted with many distractions, diversions, and discouragements (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-2). Imagine the scene. Christians running side-by-side all headed to the same goal. But some fall behind and others collapse. Some are weighed down and others entangled. Too often fellow runners pay no heed to their struggling companions. They carelessly run past them, step over them, or even kick them when they are down. But that’s no way for a Christian to behave. God would have us instead to lovingly assist and encourage each other along the way.
God would have us all to be like Barnabas. We all have need of encouragement and God is well-aware of that. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate encourager. He is called the “Helper” (Greek “parakletos,” “one called alongside to help”; Cf. John 14:16). Barnabas’ name, “son of encouragement,” is akin to that given to the Holy Spirit (Cf. Vine’s Expository Dictionary: “it (i.e. paraklesis is akin to parakletos”). Being filled with the Spirit, Barnabas functioned in his ministry as the “Holy Spirit with hands.” By the Spirit Barnabas encouraged others such that they were better off in their walk with Christ as a result of his involvement in their lives.
God exhorts His people to encourage one another. By the Spirit they do (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). There is a good chance you have someone in your life who is even now desperate for some loving word or deed by which they might be encouraged in their walk with Christ. There is plenty of encouragement to be had in Him (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 10:25; 12:1-3). We all, like Barnabas, are called to point a Spirit-led finger in His direction. Pray and look for an opportunity to encourage someone today!