One afternoon a woman was walking through a church cemetery in an English village.
Coming upon a tombstone, she stopped suddenly when she read: “She was a great encourager.” What an epitaph for any of us. Better still, what a gift we can bring to others.
Now, the church has no difficulty in remembering the Apostle Paul, but it has a tendency to forget the one who encouraged Paul. I’m talking about the biblical character, Barnabas, one of the greatest witnesses of the early church.
What does the name Barnabas mean? Barnabas means “Son of encouragement.” And it seems to me that Barnabas has something to say to us in our time as this world so desperately gropes after hope.
Simply stated, Barnabas was a giant of encouragement. I am of the opinion that everybody needs a word of encouragement every day. Most people are having a difficult time in one area of life or another, and it will be helpful for them to know that somebody cares.
So many all around us are tired, anxious, discouraged, lonely, angry or hurt. A word of encouragement can bring healing. I am also of the opinion, by the grace of God, that all of us can be encouragers.
To be sure, it may mean getting beyond “who’s right or wrong,” being extra nice to those who serve us, sending that special email, making that unexpected call or visit, giving the benefit of the doubt to a person of difference, color, gender or religion, or a number of other intentional acts.
Mother Teresa said that “none of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love and we can!” Specifically, what can we learn from Barnabas about being an encourager?
First, Barnabas had compassion for the poor and those in need! At the conclusion of an extra-ordinary church ministry, which consisted of worship, clothes, shoes, food and toys, a committee met to evaluate the effectiveness of that ministry.
In the midst of the discussion, someone asked, “Is there something more that we can do for our guests?” To me, that’s a Barnabas question. What else can we do to assist and encourage the poor and those in need.
Second, Barnabas was willing to play “second fiddle” for the greater interests! For sure, Barnabas was not as conspicuous as some of the other early church leaders. Peter was more aggressive and commanding. John had a personal relationship with Jesus that Barnabas never had.
Paul was definitely the strongest thinker and preacher. However, Barnabas brought to ordinary folks a kind of inspiration which not any of the others could convey. You see, Barnabas was not thinking much of himself or trying to be great.
He simply allowed God to use him whenever the opportunity came to help and encourage someone else. And it was in helping and encouraging others that the spirit of God wrought in him a greatness that he himself never expected.
Third, Barnabas was always gracious and open! He was gracious in his risk of friendship, offering a second chance and other. I saw a good example of a Barnabas kind of graciousness and openness on Facebook the other day.
A retired minister of some notoriety, confessed that he had become despondent lately and had even considered taking his own life. In a brief time, his Facebook friends flooded him with countless messages of encouragement.
Like Barnabas, the encouragement of those friends assisted in bringing that minister through his “dark night of the soul.” I trust you have had one or more persons like Barnabas in your life — some teacher, minister, scoutmaster, coach, friend or relative — who came alongside and believed in you and encouraged you.
I have, and I am very grateful for them. But better than all this, it is my hope that you and I are a kind of Barnabas to someone else. Everybody needs someone to believe in them and pull for them, and by our words and acts we can be be that someone.
Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways. halbradyministries.com