Summary: Barnabas’ reputation was so significant they gave him a positive nick-name

How Important is a Reputation

Unedited transcript of sermon delivered at Windsor Park Baptist Church

550 East Coast Rd, Mairangi Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, E-mail:

Sunday 8/4/2001,  Brian Winslade, All rights reserved

A group of frogs were travelling through the woods when two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit and when they saw how deep it was they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead. The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump out of the pit with all their might. The other frogs kept telling them : “STOP – it’s no use, you’re as good as dead.”

Finally one of the frogs took heed of what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died. The other frog however continued to jump as hard as he could.

Once again the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. “What’s the point of going on”, they cried out to him. In response the frog in the pit jumped even harder and harder and finally made it out.

When he got out of the pit the other frogs said to him “Didn’t you hear us? We were shouting at you – Give up – you’re as good as dead” In response the frog said to them “Oh is that what you were saying. I’m profoundly deaf. I thought you were shouting out encouragement to me all the time!”

We’re picking up the theme again (that we introduced a few weeks back) of encouragement, and in particular we are looking at a character in the New Testament who had a reputation of being a great encouragement to other people. The name his parents gave him was Joseph but the leaders of the early church gave him another name. They nicknamed him Barnabas which meant literally “son of encouragement”.

Barnabas was a blessing to be around. He was known as someone who took an interest in people and was prepared to give people a second chance even when they had messed up in the past.

We’ve noted previously (Acts 9) it was Barnabas who saw potential in Saul after his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. Other people wanted to write Saul off because of his violent persecution and cruelty to Christians in the past. They were somewhat suspicious of Saul’s conversion experience and questioned whether it was genuine or just a fake conversion so that he could get access to the inside of the church.

In contrast to popular opinion Barnabas saw what others couldn’t / wouldn’t see. He looked at Saul with the eyes of God and saw potential. We might want to say that Barnabas’ God was big enough to be able to turn around the most violent non-Christian. He believed in what Saul could become. And what a mighty man of God Saul was to become in the future. We know him today as the Apostle Paul and the author of a large chunk of the New Testament.

To be a Barnabas is to have eyes of perception that see what others cannot see – particularly when it comes to potential.

Another example of this was in Acts 15 where Barnabas stood up for his cousin John Mark. Mark had been part of Barnabas’ and Paul’s travelling ministry team but at one point had abandoned them. When the going got tough Mark got going! He let them down, whimped out. As far as Paul was concerned that was it. Mark was no longer of any value to the cause. However, Barnabas saw potential beyond the failure. He was willing to give someone who had messed up a second chance. This aspect of Barnabas’ character actually cost him his partnership with Paul. They may have reconciled some time later but over the issue of John Mark Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. There is no record of them ministering together at any later stage. However, what there is evidence of is John Mark being later accepted by Paul. Paul writes about him in some of his later letters as being a faithful member of his ministry team – and all because Barnabas was willing to give a failure a second chance.

To be a Barnabas is to be willing to go out on a limb for someone in whom you see potential. People have probably done that for us; who are we doing it for today? At work, at home, at school, within the church, are there people of immense potential that we are willing to mentor and believe in and defend in front of others – whose natural inclination might be to write them off? That’s the example of Barnabas – the son of encouragement. The God of the Christians believes in broken people, and as we become more like Jesus we begin to see people as God sees them.

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