Have you ever had someone encourage you at a time when you desperately needed it? There is nothing as refreshing as an encouraging word or deed. It is like a fresh drink of water on a hot day. In fact, I believe encouragement is the greatest need in our day. Most all people you meet are carrying some burden. They need a word of encouragement.
• Thousands of people are struggling with disease and need a word of encouragement, a word of hope.
• Recent statistics indicate 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Many married couples need a word of encouragement.
• Children are moving through the stage of uncertainty. They need a word of encouragement that will build their self esteem.
• Our youth are struggling with many issues as they adapt to life’s changes. They need a word of encouragement.
• Many senior adults are seeking hope and a word that their lives matter. They have lost their physical strength, some have lost their mate and many are struggling with illnesses. They need a word of encouragement.
Illustration: Years ago I read a story about a young man named Victor Seribriarkoff. At age 15 he was called a dunce. He left school because he was so discouraged. At age 32 he was given an I.Q. test and reflected a score of 161. (Almost as high as mine. Ha! Ha!) He was elected chairperson of the Mensa Society---for geniuses. His teacher discouraged him when she needed to have encouraged him.
(Proclaim magazine, published by Lifeway of the Southern Baptist Convention. 1987. July-Sept. P. 36)
There are other Victors around. Some are scholastic Victors. Some are sports Victors. Some are self esteem Victors. However, every person alive needs an encourager who sees the God given potential in them and sees the potential of a relationship with God.
Today we meet a man who epitomizes encouragement. His name means, encouragement. The man was Barnabus. We first meet him in Acts 4:36. “There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). Joseph was his given name. However, the apostles gave him the name, Barnabus. I am convinced the apostles gave him this name because of his character.
What was there about Joseph’s character that would prompt the apostles to name him Barnabus---which means "son of encouragement"? I want you to see three character traits in Joseph. These are the traits that won him the nickname of Barnabus.
First, he was a man with a generous spirit. In the text in Acts 4 we are told that Barnabus sold a parcel of land and donated the proceeds to meet the needs of the poor. He did this because of his faith in Jesus Christ. Barnabas was not like a certain Baptist preacher I read about. One day he received a phone call from a woman wanting to arrange a funeral for her beloved dog. She said, “I’ve called several Churches, and none of the churches will do a funeral for my dog. Every church I called laughed at my request." The Baptist preacher said, "Ma’am, I am curious as to why you want this done." She said, "Well, I just loved that dog and I want a funeral for him." "The preacher said, "that’s nice but we don’t do pet funerals. She then said, "I sure loved him, I’d be willing to give $10,000 to any church who would hold the funeral." "Oh," said the preacher, “why didn’t you tell me your dog was a Baptist? Of course we’ll do it."...
People with a generous spirit have a way of lifting the spirits of others. When I moved to Northport I meet a lady who had this gift. When I first moved there I visited this lady. She was in her late 70’s when I first met her. I went to visit one afternoon, thinking I would be an encouragement to her. I have always felt it is important to visit people who are struggling and offer a prayer and a word of encouragement. When I met this lady I felt I was fairly faithful to perform the ministry of encouragement. As I visited this senior adult she recounted her activities of the previous afternoon. She said she had visited 14 people and carried gifts of food to them. As I left her home that afternoon I walked away with a grocery bag full of food. It contained strawberries, pecans, pies, meat and vegetables. She lived in a home that was worth maybe 1/3 of the amount of my home. I felt I should be giving her a bag of food. I went to offer encouragement but went away feeling 10 feet tall. She had a generous spirit.
Generosity is not limited to financial giving. Generosity could be kind words. Generosity could be giving a helping hand. Our “Faith works” ministry represents an act of generosity.
Joke: One member of a local church was a very wealthy man who had never been known for his generosity. The church was involved in a big financial program and they decided to pay this man a visit. When the committee met with him, they said that in view of his considerable resources they were sure that he would like to make a substantial contribution to this program. "I see," he said, "so you have it all figured out have you? In the course of your investigation did you discover that I have a widowed mother who has no other means of support but me?" No, they responded, they did not know that. "Did you know that I have a sister who was left by a drunken husband with five children and no means to provide for them?" No, they said, we did not know that either. "Well, sir, did you know also that I have a brother who was crippled by an automobile accident and can never work another day to support his wife and family?" Embarrassingly, they responded, no sir, we did not know that either. "Well," he thundered triumphantly, "I’ve never given any of them a cent so why should I give anything to you?"
(Contributed to Sermon Central by Dennis Fakes)
Barnabus was known for his generosity. Second, he was known as a man who could be trusted. Three different times, in the scriptures, we find Barnabus being called upon to do jobs that required the trust of others. In Acts 11 we find that a new church was begun in the city of Antioch. The mother church in Jerusalem needed a trustworthy worker to send to Antioch to encourage the new believers. Who did they call? They called Barnabus. In that same chapter the church at Antioch collected an offering to give to the church in Jerusalem, which was going through tough times. They needed someone to transport the offering. Who did they call? They called Barnabus. In Acts 15 we read where a theological debate arose in the church. The church needed some trustworthy individuals to handle the situation. Who did they call? They called Barnabus. Barnabus was an encouragement because his fellow believers knew they could depend on him. He was reliable and trustworthy.
Illustration: I once heard an illustration about trustworthiness that touched my heart. This elderly African American man lost his dog. The man worked in the woods as a timber jack. One day he left his dog to guard his lunch container while he was in the woods working. He commanded the dog to guard the container and not move. A forest fire hit the timber and burned the area where the dog sat watching the lunch container. When the man returned the dog had died in the fire. The elderly man spoke with a tear in his eye. He said “I had to be careful what I commanded him to do because he obeyed every word I spoke.” Such loyalty!
Last week I preached a sermon on being faithful. In that sermon I mentioned that faithfulness is one of the unique qualities that characterize our church family. Faithfulness is a part of your character but also a part of your expectations. We recently printed a statement of our church values. I noticed that faithfulness underlies many of those values. Keep in mind that these values are not my invention. They came from a group of our church members. Listen to some of the statements. Each of these statements reflect the importance of faithfulness.
• We believe every member should minister, witness and be responsible. Be responsbile requires faithfulness.
• We believe the church should provide ministries that meet people’s needs. Meeting needs requires faithfulness.
• We believe church members should be devoted to one another. Devotion requires faithfulness.
• We believe fellowship is vital for development of authentic relationships. Authenticity requires faithfulness.
• We believe the church is a team. A team requires faithfulness.
• We believe the church should be genuine and sincere. Sincerity requires faithfulness
Illustration: When I was in high school playing basketball there was one constant that I always knew I could count on. That constant was my daddy. Every time we played basketball there was a group of men that would pull up a chair and sit at the end of the court. I always knew that my daddy would be sitting in that group. There were some things in my life that were constants. I knew my daddy would be sitting on that court. I knew my daddy would be in church on Sunday. I knew my daddy would be there if I needed him. I knew my daddy would be home at night. I knew my daddy would pay his bills. I knew my daddy would take care of me.
Lastly, Barnabus was a man who saw the good in other people and encouraged them. Two different times, in scripture, we find him standing beside other people when they needed a friend. The first time is at the conversion of the apostle Paul. Paul, as many of you know, was a bitter man before his conversion. He had persecuted many believers because of their faith. When he accepted Christ there were many who were skeptical (Acts 9:27) of his conversion. Barnabus stood up for him. Barnabus stood beside him when he needed a friend.
Another time when Barnabus displayed this quality was with a young man named John Mark. John Mark had started off well in the Christian life. He was growing. He was going on mission trips. He was supporting his spiritual leaders. There was one occasion (Acts 15:36-41) when John Mark stumbled. He had been with Paul and Barnabus on a missionary journey and turned back. We do not know what happened. He may have gotten home sick. He may have gotten tired of the trials of travel. He may have experienced doubts. Later on he changed his mind and decided to make another missionary journey. Paul did not want to take him. Paul was apprehensive. Not Barnabus! He was willing to give Mark a second chance. This disagreement caused a short term separation between Paul and Barnabus, who had been missionary companions. Barnabus saw the good in John Mark.
Illustration: The year was 1947 and the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, signed a young man for the team at $600 a month and a bonus of $3,500. The young man was Jackie Robinson. He experienced his share of rejection when he set out to break the color barrier in the all-white domain of major league baseball.
Several team members petitioned against Robinson’s joining the team. As Jackie ran the bases opposing players tried to spike him. He received death threats. In spite of opposition Jackie Robinson won Rookie of the Year and led the Dodgers to the 1947 World Series. Jackie Robinson became the first black athlete introduced into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. Branch Rickey stood beside Jackie Robinson during that time.
Barnabus was a great encourager but he learned it from the master encourager, Jesus Christ. When you study the life of Jesus you see him encouraging people physically, emotionally and mentally. His encouragement yielded eternal results. People walked away being made whole.
• He saw the good in the woman who was an adulteress. (Jn. 8)
• He saw the good in Zacchaeus, the little man that everyone loved to hate.(Lk. 19)
• He saw the good in Matthew, the man that all Jewish people saw as a traitor because he collected taxes for the Romans.
Jesus was the master encourager. Barnabus reflected that spirit. He was generous. He was dependable. He saw the good in other people. May we reflect these qualities in our daily walk with Christ.