Summary: Barnabas' name means, "Son of Encouragement". What can we learn about his encouraging ways and how can we put them into practice?
BE A BARNABITE
INTRODUCTION: The devil once advertised his tools for sale at public auction. When the prospective buyers assembled, there was one oddly shaped tool, which was labeled "Not for sale." Asked to explain why this was, the devil answered, "I can spare my other tools, but I cannot spare this one. It is the most useful implement that I have. It is called Discouragement, and with it, I can work my way into hearts otherwise inaccessible. When I get this tool into a person's heart, the way is open to plant anything there I may desire." We can all be subject to discouragement. There are many things in life that cause us to experience the draining of courage. Sometimes it's a crisis, sometimes it's simply tiredness or sickness, or sometimes it's the cutting words or actions of another person. There is a story about a pastor leaving a church. At his farewell dinner, he tried to encourage one of the pillar members, "Don't be so sad. The next pastor might be better than me." She replied, "That's what they said last time, but it keeps getting worse." When our courage has been depleted, encouragement is the replenishment of courage. It represents the putting back what has been taken or that which has leaked out of us. The OT word for encouragement means to strengthen. To encourage is to inspire, to lift someone’s spirits, to instill hope. Let’s take a look at someone who did just that.
Barnabas actually means "Son of Encouragement" (son of exhortation-the giving of earnest encouragement. Son of consolation-comfort, solace, relief, support). It wasn’t just a name it was his character. His name matched his most outstanding characteristic. What if our name matched our most outstanding characteristic? That might be embarrassing.
1) What do we know about Barnabas?
• He was generous (Acts 4:36-37). He used his resources to bless and encourage those in need. One of the ways we encourage others is by being generous.
• He looked at the positive characteristics of people (Acts 9:26-28). Barnabas focused on the changes that had taken place in Saul. He was able to persuade the Apostles to believe in how he was presenting Saul. Barnabas was able to see what people had become, not what they were. If we are going to be encouraging we need to be able to focus on people’s positive characteristics. We focus on how they have changed and what they have become, not on who they were before.
• He was focused on discipleship (Acts 11:22-26). Barnabas had a heart for the new Christians. He wanted to teach them and inspire them to stick with it; to persevere. If we are going to be encouragers we need to help fellow believers to stay true to the Lord. We will encourage them to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.
• He encouraged people to repent (Acts 14:11-15). Barnabas was offended at sin. He could’ve been swept up in the honor placed on him but he knew it was wrong. He wanted to discourage that and encourage them to turn from their worthless things and turn to the one and only God. To be an encourager we need to discourage wrong behavior and encourage right behavior. Discourage sin and encourage holiness. In the book, “Who’s Who in the NT” under the section about Barnabas it finishes with, “It may be said that without the sympathy and encouragement of Barnabas, the vital contributions of Paul and Mark to the Christian faith and the NT might never have been made.” Encouragement goes a long way in accomplishing the work of God.
2) So how do we do it? What are some practical ways that we can be 'Barnabites'?
• Be a comforter. The NT word for encouragement means to COMFORT. Being an encourager means we sympathize and empathize and look for that kind word that will cheer them up. We acknowledge the sorrow, anxiety and fear that people have as real, and encourage them despite those fears. We comfort them where they’re at and then, when the time is right, we encourage them and help them to find the strength to move forward. Many times a word of strength or comfort has kept a person on their feet. We can encourage people in such a way and to such a degree that they are willing to go back out into life and deal with the ongoing storm or be able to allow God to pick up the pieces of the wreckage and bring good from the storm. Proverbs 12:25, "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." Another definition of encourage is to cheer on or up. I like that. If I'm encouraging you, I'm either cheering you on or cheering you up. This is a story from someone who had a personal encounter with Babe Ruth. In trying to obtain an autograph from Babe Ruth, I couldn't have selected a more inappropriate time. It was a balmy evening in May 1935. Earlier that day, the great home-run slugger had struck out three times while playing for the Boston Braves against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The fans had booed him unmercifully. I went to the Babe's hotel in Pittsburgh that night and phoned him from the lobby. "I collect autographs," I told him. "Are you sure you want my autograph?" he grunted. I assured him I most definitely did. So the Babe gave me his room number and invited me up. When I entered the room I was saddened to see the "king of swat" wearing an old blue robe, lying on the couch, the picture of dejection. He was then 40 years old, and his career was just about over. He signed his autograph beneath his picture in my book, then looked up and said, "I feel terrible. Not only did the fans boo me, but some idiot spat on me. I guess the cheap blankety-blank was mad because he paid to see me hit a home run." I tried to console the big slugger by saying, "Forget today. Tomorrow's another day. I have enough confidence in you that tomorrow you'll be the hero of the game." "Do you really mean that, kid?" he said, sitting up. When I said that I did, he went on, "Well, I'll be, I'm going to autograph this baseball, too. It was used in batting practice." I went home that evening thinking about the Babe and hoping that my prediction would come true. The next afternoon I anxiously tuned in the game. Babe Ruth was making a comeback. He hit three home runs, his second being the only ball ever hit over the right field grandstand at Forbes' Field. He was the hero once again. Those three homers (numbers 712, 713, and 714) turned out to be the last in Babe Ruth's illustrious career. He retired from baseball just eight days later.” Prov. 25:11, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” A timely word of encouragement can make all the difference.