Be Encouraging

 In Earl McClure, Preaching & Teaching

Pastor and author Warren Wiersbe has written a series of commentaries on the books of the Bible, and all of them begin with the word “Be”; Be Worshipful and Be Exultant on the Psalms, Be Complete on Colossians, Be Victorious on Revelation. His commentary on 2 Corinthians is called Be Encouraged, and I think he could have used that same title, or perhaps Be Encouraging, for a biography of Barnabas. 

Barnabas was a first century Christian most often associated with Paul because Barnabas traveled with Paul on his first missionary journey. Acts 4:36 introduced him by his given name and his nickname: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)”. How does one gain a nickname like that? Was his father’s name Encouragement? Did he grow up in an encouraging environment? Perhaps as the Proverbs personify Wisdom (1:20-33), so the early Christians may have looked upon Barnabas as a personification of Encouragement.

Paul’s first missionary journey, on which Barnabas was his fellow missionary, was his shortest, but it provided many opportunities for Barnabas to live up to his nickname. 

Shortly after the team arrived in Asia Minor John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin who traveled along with Paul and Barnabas as their helper, left the mission and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Barnabas probably said to Paul, “Mark is young and perhaps not yet mature enough for a journey like this. Don’t let it get you down; this is not a judgment by God that our mission will fail. Let’s keep going.” In Pisidian Antioch Paul’s message to the Jews and God-fearers in the synagogue is recorded by Luke in Acts 13:14-41. I think after that sermon the Son of Encouragement said to Paul something like, “Paul, you really hit it out of the park this time. I like how you used the Scriptures and the history of our people to point to the coming of the Messiah Jesus. Keep up the good work.” Then in Lystra Paul healed a man who was lame from birth. At first the people thought that Paul and Barnabas were gods, but then some of the Jews from Antioch arrived in Lystra, stirred up the crowd against Paul, and convinced them to stone Paul. Thinking him to be dead, they drug him outside the city. By God’s grace Paul was alive, got up, and went back into the city (Acts 14:8-20). Undoubtedly, Barnabas had much to say to Paul, encouraging him to continue the mission. “Paul, they wanted to kill you and thought that they had killed you, but God saved you. Don’t you see that with God on your side no one can stand against you? They stoned you because they fear you and your message; this by itself means you are making progress. Shake it off, and let’s get busy doing what God called us to do.” At every turn something happened that could have demoralized the team, but Barnabas kept their spirits up by encouraging and strengthening Paul.

Are you a Barnabas? Are you a Son or Daughter of Encouragement? Paul includes encouraging as a spiritual gift in Romans 12:6-8 and most assuredly Barnabas had this gift. If you have it and know it, you probably already encourage others on a regular basis. If you don’t know your spiritual gifts, I urge you to take a spiritual gifts inventory to assess yourself. Pastor Tori can pass along to you the resources you need to do so. But even if you don’t have the gift of encouraging, that doesn’t mean you can’t be encouraging. A kind word, a phone call, a text, even a smile is all that it takes. Coming out of 2020 with its health, political, economic, and social issues, means there are many people who are struggling. Look for someone to encourage and lift up; your own outlook on life may be uplifted as well. 

Be Encouraging.



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