Barnabas is one of the most winsome characters in the entire New Testament. He possessed an old and honored name. He had been named for one of the twelve sons of Jacob – Joseph. However the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas. The same word Jesus used for the comforter which literally means “son of encouragement.” No name was ever as fine as the one given to Joseph for it tells us they type of man that he was. He brought encouragement to other people.
Encouragement in the original language carried the flavor of “to come alongside someone.” Joseph gained the reputation of someone who would come alongside others to encourage or to help them. His gifts of the proceeds of the land sale encouraged the leaders of the early church those who were in need of care in a society which had pushed them to the very limits. We see that his nickname also matched his desire to come alongside a relative who had been branded a failure. He encouraged this younger man John Mark in order to restore him to a place of honor and service. (Acts 15:36-41)
I cannot think of a more appropriate role model in our congregation. When I grow up I’d like to be just like Barnabas! I’d like for it to be said about myself that I was a person who was constantly encouraging and bringing out the best in those around me. A truly godly father has one of the most unique roles in society. He can be an encourager, a mentor, a coach, a disciplinarian, as well as a loving and caring person in the lives of his children and grandchildren.
In Acts 11:24 we read, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” Barnabas encouraged people by his faith. He had a tremendous faith both in God as well as his faith in other people. He had confidence in people who had lost confidence or had gone through a difficult time in their own life. He did not give up on people. He was able to say just the right word to keep someone going when they wanted to give up and quit. He was what he lived. He was a symbol of encouragement, comfort, and consolation to every person he met. He was a deeply spiritual man filled with the Holy Spirit. He also was a person of great integrity and generosity. Godly character is based upon a pure heart. Integrity is still the foundation for generosity in the church. Barnabas was instrumental in bringing Saul into the early church following his conversion on the Damascus road. Would you welcome a former KBG agent to your home if you were a Russian Christian during the seventy year reign of Communism? It was Barnabas who came along Paul and vouched for his authentic faith. Barnabas stood up and verified that Paul truly had been converted and was a genuine follower of Jesus Christ and from that moment there was little or no questioning about the authenticity of his relationship to the Lord.
Barnabas was a wonderful encourager, a builder of people. There is a wonderful benefit of people building; it builds up us as well. Ask yourself: Am I truly sharing the gift of encouragement with those in my family, my workplace, as well as in the church? Jesus Christ calls each one of us to be a people builder and what better time to begin than today?
See you Sunday in church!