On my study week this past week I spent the majority of my time pouring into the character of Barnabas seen in the pages of the New Testament. According to Acts 4, his given name was Joseph. However, based on the amazing nature he had as an encourager of those around him, the Apostles gave him the nickname, Barnabas, which means "Son of Encouragement." From studying the life of Barnabas this week I found no less than 6 earmarks of an encourager. We will examine each of these in detail come May here at Gaylord E-Free, but for now let me just list them:
The GOODNESS of an Encourager - An Encourager is filled with the Holy Spirit resulting in goodness. In Acts 11:24, Barnabas is described as a good man who was filled with the Holy Spirit. Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23) that comes from being controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
The GRACE of an Encourager - An encourager has genuine empathy toward outsiders. After the martyrdom of Stephen, Jewish believers were being scattered abroad and some made their way to Antioch where they shared Christ with Greeks who became believers. When news of this reached the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas to investigate. When Barnabas arrived and saw the evidence of God's grace in the lives of these Greeks, he rejoiced and encouraged them in their faith. Many Jews would have been unwelcoming of Gentiles becoming believers but Barnabas had a genuine empathy toward outsiders (Acts 11:19-23).
The GOAL of an Encourager - An encourager's heart is to see people persevere in their faith. Barnabas' greatest encouragement to these new Greek believers was for them to have a resolute heart in remaining true to the Lord (Acts 11:23). The long term impact was that these believers were the first to be called "Christians."
The GLORY of an Encourager - An encourager is humble. Barnabas had no problem playing second fiddle. As you read about the ministry partnership of Barnabas and Paul, from Acts 11 through the first part of Acts 13 Barnabas is always mentioned first. But from the ending of Acts 13 and on, Paul gets the first spot in the naming of the duo and becomes the more prominent of the two. An encourager doesn't care if they get the recognition. They are selfless.
The GIVING of an Encourager - An encourager is free from materialism. When we first meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36, he sells a track of land and brings all of the profit to the Apostles to be used in ministry. Later in Acts 11:29-30, Barnabas and Paul are entrusted with an offering of money to be taken and given to hurting believers in Judea. It is hard to be an encourager if your focus and motive is materialism.
The GUTS of an Encourager - An encourager is willing to take risks on behalf of others. The leaders in Jerusalem were too scared of the newly converted Saul of Tarsus to allow him into their fold, it was Barnabas that had the guts to take the risk on Saul (Acts 9). When Paul wanted nothing to do with John Mark because he had failed them earlier on their missionary journey, it was Barnabas who had the guts to stand up for John Mark and give him a second chance (Acts 15). And how important was this? Keep this in mind - these two men that Barnabas took risks on ended up writing one-third of the New Testament!