Summary: I suspect all of us can identify a Barnabas or two in our past who gave us a second chance. Maybe it was a parent or a relative or a teacher or a church leader or a close friend. Christianity means second chances.
God wants to come to His world, but He wants to come to it through man. This is the mystery of our existence. He wants to come to this world through you.
Proverbs 15:23 says, “A man has joy by an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word.”
I enjoyed a Charles Schulz cartoon that showed Snoopy sliding along the frozen pond on his little bare paws. He’s having a great time, sliding from one end of the pond to the other. Lucy walks up and slides onto the pond with her skates on, and Snoopy doing a little twirl, slides up next to her. She says to him, “That’s not skating, that’s sliding.” And he just stands there and looks up at her as she goes on with her lecture, “You don’t have any skates on.” Skating is when you have skates on. You’re not skating at all, you’re just sliding!” Snoopy just walks off with his little feet to the side and says, “How could I have been so stupid. And I thought I was having fun.”
As a recently retired man was sitting on his porch down in Kentucky, his Social Security check was delivered. He went to the mailbox to retrieve it and thought to himself, “Is this all my life is going to be from this time on? Just sitting on the porch waiting for my next Social Security check to arrive?” It was a discouraging thought.
So he took a legal pad and began to write down all the gifts, all the blessings, all the talents, and everything that he had going for him. He listed them all, even the small things. For example, he included the fact that he was the only person in the world who knew his Mother’s recipe for fried chicken in which she used eleven herbs and spices.
He went down to the local restaurant, asked if he could get a job cooking their chicken. Very soon, the chicken became the most popular thing on the menu. He opened his own restaurant in Kentucky. Then he opened a string of restaurants and eventually sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise to a national organization for millions of dollars. He became their public representative and continued in that role until his death.
It was advertised that the devil was going to put up his tools for sale. On the date of the sale the tools were placed for public inspection, each being marked with its sale price. Many tools were on display, including hatred, envy, jealousy, doubt, lying, pride and so on. Laid apart from the rest of the pile was a harmless-looking tool, well worn and priced very high.
“The name of that tool?” asked one of the purchasers. “Oh,” replied the devil, “That’s discouragement.” “Why have you priced it so high?”
“Because it’s more useful to me than the others. I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with that one, when I cannot get near him with other tools. Now once I get inside, I can make him do what I choose. It’s a badly worn tool because I use it on most everyone since few people know it belongs to me.”
The devil’s price for discouragement was so high, he never sold it. It’s still his major tool, and he uses it on God’s people everyday.
When I say that a number of you also know Joe, or at least about him, you may not recognize him by that name. Joseph was the name that his parents gave him but most people recognize him by the nickname that the leaders of the early church gave him. They didn’t call him Joe, they called him Barnabas. The term Barnabas was derived from two words or phrases: “bar” was like a personal pronoun meaning “son of…” and “nabas” referred to prophetic exhortation that encouraged or built people up. So Barnabas literally meant “son of encouragement”, and it was a nickname which stuck for Joe throughout a large chunk of his life.
To call someone the “son of something” in Jewish culture was a way of describing their character – as if they were the offspring or outcome of a particular behavior. For instance, the disciples of Jesus, James and John, where from the Zebedee family but their nickname was “sons of thunder” – presumably because of their personality. Barnabas, or “son of encouragement”, was a way of describing or capturing the personality of a person who was extremely encouraging to be around. To be known as Barnabas was a huge compliment. It represented a reputation of incredible honor. People thought well of you. When your name was mentioned the muscles in the faces of people formed into a smile, rather than a grimace. To be known as Barnabas was to have an extremely positive reputation. People looked forward to spending time with you.