Love and Encouragement (Barnabas)
Bible Reading: Acts 4:34-37, 9:26-27, 11:19-26, 15:36-41; 2 Timothy 4:11
Encouragement noun “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
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 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 as refugees in Jerusalem. Having traveled there for Pentecost from faraway places, they remained after their conversion, and were in need of shelter and food. The early 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 4:36-37). Imagine how those early believers must have been encouraged in Jesus through the example of Barnabas‘ loving sacrifice!
Some of those scattered as a result of the great persecution preached the gospel in Antioch. “A great number who believed turned to the Lord,” so the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas there (Acts 11:21-22). And in Antioch Barnabas worked to encourage the new believers “to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23). Then when Barnabas needed help in his ministry, he “went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch” and together they spent “a whole year” teaching “a great many people” (Acts 11:25-26) and encouraging those believers in the Word. Together with Saul, Barnabas would later serve in a “relief effort” to meet the needs of those suffering through “a great famine” (Acts 11:27-30). Barnabas had a heart to serve others. You’d find him wherever there was a need for an encouraging presence or word or provision. In his love for the brethren he was much used by God!
The Christian life is often compared in Scripture to a race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-2; Philippians 3:14). We are called to run with endurance, knowing that we will face many distractions, disruptions, and discouragements (Hebrews 12:1-2). Imagine the scene. Christians running side-by-side all headed to the same goal. But there are those who are weighed down with earthly concerns or entangled in sin, and some fall behind and others collapse. Too often we can run in the race oblivious to the hardships faced by our struggling companions. We run right past them, step over them, or even in some sad cases kick them when they are down. But that’s no way for a Christian to behave. Instead, we are to be “encouraging one another, and all the more as (we) see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
God would have us all to be like Barnabas. We are all sometimes in 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”; John 14:16). The Greek term translated “helper” and the Greek term translated “Barnabas” are related. Being filled with the Spirit as he was, Barnabas functioned in his ministry as the “Holy Spirit with hands.” Barnabas encouraged others such that they were better off in Christ as a result of his presence and ministry.
God exhorts us to love one another by encouraging one another. By the Spirit we can (Galatians 5:22-23). In love we will (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. There is plenty of encouragement to be had in Him and His Word (Romans 15:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 10:25; 12:1-3). Is your walk with Jesus such that He has the freedom to work through to encourage someone else in your life today? It’s a tremendous privilege to be used by God to encourage, and it’s part of what it means to love like Jesus.
Be an Encourager. The World Has Plenty of Critics Already. – Dave Willis
Lord Jesus. We are so thankful for the sure hope we possess in You! How wonderful the day when You worked to make known to us the good news. Thank You for saving us and setting us on a course to heaven. Along the way we face a lot of challenges and disappointments, and it’s easy for us to grow weary and discouraged. How thankful we are for the indwelling presence of the Spirit, who is always working to remind us that You are our reason for hope. Likewise, You’ve privileged each of us to have a role in encouraging others. Grant us eyes to see and hearts to care. May we be Spirit-led to be used by You that we might find ways to encourage the others you’ve placed in our lives. That we might all be fixing our eyes on You as we run with endurance in the race that is set before us. In Your Name. Amen.