When he [Paul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord… (Acts 9:26-27)
His original name was Joseph, but the disciples renamed him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas blessed the early church by selling some land and giving the proceeds to the apostles. He also made a huge difference for the church when he vouched for Paul with the apostles. With good reason the apostles were tempted to reject Paul; but because of Barnabas’ stature and support, the apostles gave Paul a chance to belong and serve.
If we only think about Barnabas-the-person from long ago, we’re going to lose the encouragement of what Barnabas-the-personality can say to us now.
There are two questions to consider when we think about Barnabas.
First, who have been our Barnabas-persons; that is, who are those who have encouraged us, vouched for us, supported us, even protected us? Without my Barnabas-persons I can’t imagine where I would be.
Second, are we a Barnabas to others? During our life, have we given more encouragement or discouragement along the way?
I’ve sometimes heard people say that they don’t want to give too much encouragement because it might spoil or ruin someone else. I’m not sure if encouragement can actually spoil or ruin someone else; I am, though, sure that withholding it can crush someone else’s heart and spirit.
I encourage us to be a Barnabas. When was the last time we said to our spouse that we’re grateful to be married to them? Or told our children that we’re proud of them? Or praised a co-worker, sent a note of appreciation, or said, “Go for it…You can do it…Great job…I believe in you?”
Without Barnabas, we may never have heard from Paul. Without Paul, just think about what the world would’ve lost.
Without our being a Barnabas to someone else, just think about all that could be lost. And with our being a Barnabas, just ponder and wonder at what could be gained.
- Who have been the Barnabas-persons in your life? Who encouraged you, supported you, vouched for you, protected you, made a place for you?
- Have you ever been a Barnabas for someone else? Deliberately tried to lift them up, get behind them, bring them along? If so, who were they? If not, is it time to start?
- Do an inventory of your relationships. Who right now needs your encouragement? What are you going to do to give it? When are you going to do so?