Summary: Part of a sermon series on Galatians
In 1896, Henry Ford, who eventually invented the car, attended a company event where Thomas Edison (the great inventor of the light bulb) was the guest of honour. His friend introduced him to Edison as "the man trying to make a car that runs on gasoline."
Edison asked young Henry Ford a host of questions and when the talk was over, Edison banged his fist down on the table and said, "Young man, that's the thing! You have it! Your car is self contained and carries its own power plant."
Years later, Ford, reflecting on their first meeting, said in a newspaper interview, "That bang on the table was worth the world to me. No man up to then had given me any encouragement. I had hoped that I was headed in the right direction. Sometimes I knew that I was, sometimes I only wondered, but here, all at once and out of a clear sky, the greatest inventive genius in the world had given me complete approval. The man who knew most about electricity in the world had said that for the purpose, my gas motor was better than any electric motor could be."
Thomas Edison was an encourager who made all the difference to Henry Ford and it resulted in something magnificent which we all take for granted today. Barnabas was exactly the same for Paul.
His real name was Joseph (Acts 4:36), but he was renamed like Peter, Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement”. Encouragement means to put courage into someone. The courage not to give up, to see the potential in someone or something, to battle against the odds and win. Every group needs an encourager. We need an encourager. Someone who will walk alongside us, helping us along.
Barnabas was drawn to people that he could encourage and he was a great help to those around him. And when Barnabas encouraged Christians, non-Christians flocked to become Christians.
Barnabas’ actions were crucial for the Church. In a way we can thank him for most of the New Testament. God used his relationship with Paul at one point and with Mark at another to keep these two men going when either might have failed. Barnabas did wonders with encouraging words.
As we saw in the Thursday group when Paul arrived in the Church following his conversion the local Christians were understandably reluctant to welcome him. They thought the story of a conversion was a trap to arrest more of them. Only Barnabas was willing to risk his life to meet with Paul and convince the others that their former enemy was a true believer. We can only wonder what might have happened to Paul without Barnabas.
As Barnabas’ life shows, we are rarely in situations where people don’t need a word of encouragement rather than a hard word. Our tendency is often to criticise instead of help. It may be important at times to point out someone’s shortcomings but before we have the right to do this, we must build that person up through encouragement. Are you prepared to do that from today? Will you encourage an encourager or a minister or a brother rather than seek to bring them down? Have you given thanks for those people and encouraged those who walk with you? How important encouragement is!