By Dr. Bill Patterson
In my 20s I decided I didn’t want to be a grumpy old man when I reached my senior years. I wanted to be a person of encouragement, a person not wrapped up in self but in God and others. Then it hit me: grumpy old men usually get their start as grumpy young men. I needed to work at being a God-yielded, encouraging young man because what I did that day and the next would set the pattern for my later years. I didn’t want to end up like King Saul, full of bitterness, envy, and despair. I wanted to end up like Barnabas, a man who gave of his time, energy, and resources to build up others.
A Biblical Encourager
LeRoy Eims served as a campus minister at the University of Pittsburgh. During his first year on the job a number of students came to know the Lord. Eims often checked on their Bible study, Scripture memory, and Christian growth. Some began to avoid him and gave him the name, “Old Mr. Check-up.”
Eims wrote, “I soon learned it was hard to help a person grow in Christ if he was avoiding me, so I changed and became known as ‘Mr. Encouragement.’ The more I encouraged, the more things changed. The new converts grew and we had great fellowship.”
Can you think of times when an encouraging word or act helped shape your life? Someone loved you, spoke kindly to you, gave you a chance, or put an arm around your shoulder and it changed you. Their encouragement became the cure for your grief, your discouragement, or your loneliness. You can be that encourager for others in need.
Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus (Acts 4:36). His name means, “Son of Encouragement.” The apostles gave him a name that matched his character, and it stuck.
Ways to Encourage Others
We can learn a great deal about encouragement from Barnabas. He encouraged others through his giving. The first time Luke mentions Barnabas in the book of Acts, he records how Barnabas sold a field and gave the money to the church in Jerusalem for the needs of others (Acts 4:37). Later Barnabas accompanied Paul to Jerusalem with the Antioch Christians’ offering for the poor. Do you know some Christians or churches in need? Can you encourage them by giving?
Greater than giving his money, Barnabas gave of himself. The name Barnabas (uios parakleseos) literally means, “son called alongside.” Whenever there was a need, the early church could count on Barnabas to be there. We see it when he welcomed Saul, the Christian persecutor, after his Damascus Road experience. Other Christians were skeptical of Saul’s conversion, but Barnabas wrapped an arm around his shoulder, took him to the apostles, and vouched for him (9:26-28).
Do you know a new Christian you can encourage by sticking up for him or her? Could you sit with someone in church and introduce him to other members?
Have you ever opened your car door, sat in the driver’s seat, inserted the key, but heard nothing? The battery had died and no cranking sound emerged. You needed a person with a live battery and jumper cables to give your car a boost. When we encourage others, we become their battery charger.
Learning by Example
Barnabas encouraged others by recognizing their potential. The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas as a missionary to Antioch. The work was so successful that he needed help. Barnabas made the 80-mile journey to Tarsus to persuade Saul (by then known as Paul) to join him.
That kicked the apostle Paul’s ministry into high gear. Later he and Paul went on a missionary journey from Antioch. Barnabas led the group at first and took his nephew John Mark along. Although John Mark quit during his first missionary journey, Barnabas didn’t give up on John Mark and carried him along on another mission trip. By then John Mark was “up and running” for the Lord.
Some people seem especially gifted at seeing something of promise in others. All of us can practice this, however. If you teach a Sunday school class, is there another promising teacher you can use as an assistant or a substitute? Can you teach others to witness by taking them with you when you share the gospel? Can you take someone under your wing and help her achieve her potential in the Lord? Why not pause right now to ask the Lord to show you someone for whom you can be a Barnabas.
More Lessons from Barnabas
Barnabas also encouraged others by giving his time. Often people need our presence more than they need our money. Barnabas went to Antioch when there was a great need. He preached the gospel there and led many to Christ. When the church at Antioch prayed, they felt led to set aside Barnabas and Paul for mission work.
Barnabas continued to give his time and energy. He stretched beyond his cultural background to reach out to others for Christ. Is there a person of another geographical or cultural background to whom you can witness, or with whom you can spend time and encourage in the faith?
Barnabas planted churches in Jerusalem, Antioch, and all over Asia Minor. His name is synonymous with encouraging others for Christ. Perhaps the greatest way we can encourage others is to plant churches, witness, and nurture others in the Lord.
If you felt God leading you to plant a church, would you? If you felt him lead you to go on a mission journey or to give three years of your life to help a new group of believers, would you?
Barnabas never regretted giving his time, his presence, his witness, his money, or his encouragement. You and I will be glad we gave our time and resources to encourage others, too.
A Ministry of Encouragement
When God begins a work, he usually starts with a human instrument. Could you begin a ministry of encouragement in your church? Choose a group of like-minded people and begin to meet with them. Seek God’s help as you consider how you can become sons and daughters of encouragement.
What about writing a letter or sending a card to those who visit your worship services? Studies show that within the first three months of moving into a new area, a family will be much more open to an invitation to worship. Develop a group of people who have a “new member” consciousness to reach out to new people with a welcome basket of goodies and an invitation to church.
How many families move to a new area, attend church a time or two, then drop out because no one took the time to help them bridge the friendship gap? People aren’t looking for a friendly church. They are looking for a friend in church. You can be a son or daughter of encouragement to them through a phone call, a friendly visit, a word of welcome, a listening ear, or a smile. You might offer to meet with them to discuss how to do the things necessary for life in a new neighborhood (water, trash collection, schools, groceries, governmental services, and so on). You may be used of the Lord to raise up a person who becomes like Paul for our day.
A couple I know sat in a different area of the sanctuary each week. They chose their seat by standing in the back to observe the congregation. If a visiting family sat in one area, they would sit nearby and invite them to lunch after the services. With that kind of unexpected encouragement, many guests became active members.
If we have money in our pockets, we can encourage those in need of food or clothing. If we have any love in our hearts, we can fortify those in need of acceptance. If we have time on our hands, we can strengthen those in need of Christian growth. In a thousand ways we can inspire, cheer, comfort, and give help and hope. Like Barnabas, we can be sons and daughters of encouragement.
Dr. Bill Patterson is a freelance writer in Henderson, Kentucky.
More Encouragement from God’s Word
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had” (Romans 15:4, 5).
“Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6).
“Encourage and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15).
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).
“God did this so that . . . we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged” (Hebrews 6:18).
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24, 25).