The Son of Encouragement
Acts 4:36 – There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”).
Good ol’ Barnabas. What a guy. Pastor Matt Chandler frequently describes him as, “the human golden retriever.” I mean really, though, you must love people really well to be known as the “Son of Encouragement.” Quite a title. Maybe he even liked it: “I’ll take it! Better than Joseph,” he thought (apologies to any Joe’s out there).
But Barnabas is a bit of an obscure character in Scripture. He’s not commonly thought of when we talk about the apostles or the early church fathers. Somehow, I think that’s really fitting for him. He was the type of person who constantly pointed at others to celebrate their gifts and attributes, perhaps deflecting attention from himself. I think Barnabas really lived out the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease,” (John 3:30). Barnie had no problem letting others, including Christ, shine. He also gave folks second chances (Acts 15:36-41), a pretty Christ-like quality (when done wisely of course).
I think we could all use a Barnabas in our lives. Better yet, I wonder if we all couldn’t be more like Barnabas in the lives of others.
What a way to bless someone, by calling out the good things you see in them. This can be as easy as expressing something that you genuinely like about someone, be it their hair, their input, or the behavior of their kids. But it can go beyond that too.
I’ve found it easy to pray a blessing over someone by simply calling out what you see the Lord doing in them:
“Lord God, thank you for the way that you have uniquely gifted Jessica. I pray that you increase that in her, Jesus.”
“Father, thank you for blessing Jared. I see him stepping out more and more in faith and I just pray an increase in his faith, and that you would honor him as he walks by faith.”
“Holy Spirit, thank you for expressing yourself through Jamal’s gift of administering healing to others. Please increase that within him and through him.”
These are examples of simple prayers that honor and encourage someone in their spiritual journey by calling out the gifts (charisms; grace) of God within them and asking God to continue to bless them in that way to increase his grace in that area.
It doesn’t have to always be a formal prayer, and we aren’t meant to only encourage people of faith. I wonder how much more attractive following Jesus would be if those who claimed to do so were marked as a people of gratitude through gracious and genuine gifts of encouragement. The word ‘encourage’ simply means to ‘put courage in.’ Who can you put courage into today? Who around you needs a dose of encouragement? Who is playing a ‘background’ role that is certainly deserving of some honor, praise, and affection for a change? Now, don’t embarrass them; it doesn’t have to be loud, or even known. Slip a note, send a text (or even better, a letter!), or an email at work. Tell your kids, parents, friends that you love them. Express your gratitude for someone in your life today.
Barnabas is featured only a few times in Scripture, and all but once in the book of Acts. But he will always be remembered for his acts of love through encouragement. As you go and imitate Barnabas (Jospeh) who is imitating Jesus, let you also be known as a good man (or woman) full of the Holy Spirit and faith, same as him (Acts 11:24).
If you were encouraged by Barnabas today and would like to follow his story in Scripture, see Acts 4:36-37; 9:26-27; 11:19-30; 13:1-14; 13:42-15:41; Colossians 4:10.
The LORD bless you today, that you would bear one hundredfold fruit in the unique way that he has gifted and placed you for the sake of others. Amen.