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05/20/2016 10:29AM ● Published by Jennifer Gonzalez

by: Dr. Bill Korver


            Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Some people brighten a room when they enter it, others when they leave it!”  Some people are “Debbie Downers,” or Ebenezer Scrooges of the organization or ministry.  When confronted about their negativity, they often reply, “I’m not negative, I’m just a realist,” or something of that sort.  The world has more than enough of those types of people.  What is often lacking in an organization or ministry is the man or woman who lifts the spirits of those around them. There is such a man, whose life is described in some detail in the New Testament book of Acts, whose life is a model to aspire to.  Who was he and what did he do?

            The first time our subject appears in the Bible, is in Acts 4:36, “And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement).” His birth name was Joseph, but no one knew him by that name.  If you’d asked around Jerusalem for this Joseph, folks would have given you a blank stare.  On the other hand, if you asked for Barnabas, they knew him.

            Evidently encouragement was a key element in his social and spiritual interactions with others.  Interestingly, Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, changed her name to Marah, “bitter,” and Jacob’s name means “deceiver.”  Jesus call Simon, Peter (“rock”) and the apostles, called Joseph, Barnabas, “son of encouragement”.  If others were to give you a nickname, what might it be?  Based upon how you interact with others, would one of their top logical choices be “encourager?”

            How did Joseph, a.k.a. “Barnabas”, get the nickname and how did he encourage others?  He did so in a variety of ways, they include, but are not limited to, the following.

            He encouraged others materially. Acts 4:37, the verse immediately after the one where his nickname is revealed, gives the first glimpse into his life, “And who (Barnabas) owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” 

            Nothing is said about the size of the tract of land he sold nor the sale price. The reader is merely told that Barnabas gave the proceeds of the sale in their entirety to the apostle to use to meet the needs of others (see Acts 4:32, 34).  Imagine being one of the apostles, trying to oversee the many physical needs of those under your care.  How this gift must have been an encouragement to the leaders of the early church!  Conversely, imagine being one of the many poor and needy Christians in Jerusalem, how this gift must have refreshed their spirits!  Statistics tell us that in the United States, the greater one’s personal income, the less people give.  In fact, those who earn over $100,000 annually give less than 3% away annually.  No matter what your income, are you noted by generosity? Do your gifts of money and other resources refresh others regularly?  May it always be said of we who follow Jesus Christ that we are a generous bunch.

     He encouraged the “misfit.” By misfit, I mean the person who, for whatever reason just doesn’t seem to fit in.  It could be he is merely odd.  Maybe she is a bit socially awkward.  Perhaps she’s the new gal in the group.  The guy who doesn’t know the protocol, the unwritten rules in a particular situation. Lots of things can lead to a person being overlooked, intentionally or not. Saul, who later become the apostle Paul, was such a misfit for a time.  As Saul, his hatred for those who believed in Jesus knew no bounds.  He sought to imprison, persecute and put to death those who followed the teachings of Jesus.  His life was radically changed as he encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.  As he attempted to fellowship with other believers, he was met with stiff resistance.  Acts 9:26 says of Saul, “And when he had come to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.”

            Apparently when Paul came to Jerusalem, the believers there thought Paul was only “playing the part” to draw them out so he could persecute them as he had so violently done to others.  Who can fault their cool reception?  While not displaying the love of Christ, we can understand the cold shoulder he received.  What happened next is incredible.  Here are Luke’s words in the next verse in the book of Acts, “But Barnabas took hold of him (Paul) and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he (Paul) had seen the Lord on the road (9:27).”  When the verse says, “took hold of him,” it pictures Barnabas putting his arm around Paul’s shoulder, as one would do with a dear friend, and introducing him to the group as a dear brother in Christ.  The result?  “And he (Paul) was with them moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord (9:28).” 

            Because of Barnabas, Paul, who was considered an outsider, a threat, was now on the inside of the circle, fellowshipping and ministering with others of faith!  What a great act of encouragement that must have been for Paul. It would not be a stretch to say that a significant reason for Paul’s ministry is attributable to the encouragement he received from Barnabas.

            No doubt you know someone who is a loner, who is excluded from the “in” group.  Perhaps they are excluded for fairly good reasons, but the fact remains they are alone.  Will you choose to be the Barnabas in their life or turn a blind eye and a deaf ear?                

            If others were to describe you, would they use “son of encouragement,” “daughter of encouragement,” or would they tend to use terms like “Debbie Downer” or “Scrooge?”  I’d like my legacy nickname to be Barnabas. I challenge you to life for the same goal, that when others think you they think of you as an encourager.  

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