Summary: God's desire is that every Christian be an encouraging person... Barnabas is a good example of a good example.
Title: Making a Rarity Commonplace
Text: Hebrews 10:23-25
Thesis: God desire is that every Christian be an encouraging person.
When I grew up we often gave our friends nicknames… Bob Hutchins was “Hutch.” Robert Sanden was “Ralph.” His older brother was “Yogi.” Tom Lindgren was “Bear.” Mostly nicknames were terms of endearment, even nicknames like “Slim” and “Fats” and “Toad” were not intended to be mean-spirited.
You wonder about some nicknames like “Snoopdog.” They say his mother thought he looked like a little beagle puppy when he was a boy so he became “Snoopdog.” Bruce Springstein is nicknamed “The Boss” because of the business-like way he does conducts his business. I don’t know and I don’t think I want to know how “Whoopi” Goldberg got her nickname. One of my favorite classic rock characters is guitarist Eric Clapton. Eric is nicknamed “Slowhand.” I understand Justin Bieber has several nicknames… the latest seems most fitting, “Little Swaggy.”
The main character in our texts today is a man called “Barnabas.” Names do have meaning. My name is an English name that means “mountain.” Bonnie’s name is a Scottish name meaning “pretty.” So it seems, sometimes we look like our names.
Barnabas pops up in Acts 4:36-37 in a text describing how the early Christians lived in a close community and shared with each other so that everyone had enough. In the context of how generously they shared with each other the bible writer cites Barnabas as a model of generosity. It says, “For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” He was from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles [to be distributed among the needy]. Barnabas means, “Son of Encouragement.”
I titled the message today, “Making a Rarity Commonplace,” because I think encouragement is too rare and needs to become commonplace, especially among followers of Christ. So how do we become encouraging people?
It seems generosity is one characteristic of an encouraging person. If you would like to be an encourager:
I. Be Giving
“He sold a field and brought the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” Acts 4:32-37
Very rarely does someone give without strings attached.
I read a meditation this week that went like this, “Oh, please love me less but leave me free, I am a prisoner of your love; because you love me you want to determine my life, you want to shape my happiness.” (Meditations on Theme by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh) Loving generosity can be manipulative and controlling and it can be given with strings attached or expectations. Barnabas was one of those “no strings attached” people.
What kind of person sells a piece of land and brings the proceeds of the sale and donates all the money to be distributed among those in need (without making sure they are truly in need)?
We served the Lund Covenant church from 1974 – 1984. At that time we celebrated Communion on the first Sunday of every month after which we received an offering for the Samaritan Fund. It was always very generously supported. Once a month the group entrusted with the distribution of the Benevolent Fund, met for lunch to determine how the money would be disbursed. Their philosophy was, God gave it to us to give away so let’s see who needs it. It was not restricted to church members… it was given to be of help to anyone who could use some help. If we knew of a man who was in Valley Hope, an alcohol and drug treatment center in Norton, KS, we sent his wife a card and a check to help her with whatever she needed and to give her some gas money to get back and forth to see her husband. If a family had a child hospitalized at Children’s in Denver we sent them a card and a check to help them with travel and lodging. And so on…
Generosity encourages. Stinginess… not so much.
A second quality of an encouraging person is being a welcoming person. If you would like to be an encourager:
II. Be Welcoming
“When Saul (Paul) arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles…” Acts 9:26-27
Following the Day of Pentecost the early church began to flourish, even in the face of very virulent resistance. It was a period of intense persecution. There were arrests and jailings. There was martyrdom. And there was Saul, a high ranking Jewish leader who was, as the bible says, “Uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest and secured authority to travel around arresting Christians and to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.” Acts 9:1-2