Son of encouragement
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Acts 11:24 (NIV)
What a wonderful obituary to be written about someone. His real name was Joseph but we read in Acts chapter 4 verse 36, that the apostles called him, ‘Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”)’. It was a kind of nickname, presumably to represent his nature. But again, what a wonderful testimony to him.
Here was someone who was an encouragement to all he came into contact with, a blessing to others, a pleasure to be around. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, seems to have been a very genuine person and must have been a sheer joy to have as a friend. Why did his life and ministry encapsulate encouragement? Let me suggest a few reasons.
First, he had whole-hearted commitment. He was ready to sacrifice his worldly goods for the sake of the gospel (Acts 4:36-37).
Second, there was his readiness to be welcoming. He introduced Paul to the apostles and reassured them about this former persecutor of the church (Acts 11:22-26).
Third, he had a sense of justice. He accepted Gentile Christians as equal members of the church, demanding from them nothing more than faith in Jesus, with no expectation that they should be circumcised first. (Acts chapters 14-15).
Fourth, he was prepared to stand by people who made mistakes. When Paul refused to take John Mark on a missionary journey, Barnabas was there for him (Acts 15:36-39).
Fifth, he was prepared to play second fiddle. Even though he was the one who supported and introduced Paul to the church and took him on a missionary journey, he didn’t baulk at Paul taking the limelight and being the centre of attention. In Acts we read that the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2), but by verse 42 the order has changed and the pair are described as ‘Paul and Barnabas.’
All in all, Barnabas is a wonderful example for all of us in our calling to love and serve one another. He related the truth of the gospel, not so much in words, but in his relationship with people: how he related to others, how he was ready to accept and forgive, and the way he stood up for people. I pray that he is a model we can try to emulate in our Christian walk, and so let me encourage you to be a son or daughter of encouragement.
Father, you are the God of encouragement. Please place in me a heart and a compassion for others so that I might bring your encouragement to those I come into contact with. Amen
Study by Barry Robinson
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a Minister in Grace Communion International and is Regional Pastor for Southern England.
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