Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Heart of an Encourager

Barnabas is the person in the Bible who is most known for his encouragement of others.  His real name was Joseph but his nature as an encourager of others resulted in the Apostles giving him the surname, "Barnabas," because it literally means "Son of Encouragement."

When you study the nature of Barnabas you see the nature of an encourager because encouragement isn't something you do as much as it is something you are.  One of the aspects of Barnabas that made him such an effective encourager is that he was not in it for the glory.  He wasn't seeking any credit.

In Acts 11, Barnabas brings Saul (who would later be renamed Paul) to Antioch to help him in ministering to the growing number of Greek Christians.  As this ministry duo is first mentioned in the book of Acts it is always in a particular order.  Barnabas comes first.  In the Bible, whenever there is a list of people the order in the list is important.  Whichever name is mentioned first is the more prominent person on the list.  So this duo begins as "Barnabas and Saul."  Barnabas is the more prominent person of the two.

But later in Acts 13, Barnabas and Paul have an encounter with Elymas the magician.  From this time forward the order of the names change.  Up until now it has always been "Barnabas and Saul."  But from this point on it is now seen as "Paul and Barnabas."  Paul becomes the more prominent one.  Barnabas moves to the back seat when it comes to the spotlight of ministry.  But no where do we see any hint that this bothered Barnabas at all.  Why?  Because an encourager isn't looking for the glory.  An encourager doesn't need any credit.

Perhaps my favorite poem ever written came from the pen of Ruth Harms Calkin.  I hesitate to even call it a poem because it doesn't rhyme.  Now, I took enough literature classes to know that poetry doesn't always have to rhyme but in my mind, it should.  Yet, this poem is very convicting.  It shows the heart of Barnabas.  It shows the nature of an encourager.  It's simply entitled "I Wonder:"

You know, Lord, how I serve You
With great emotional fervor
in the limelight
You know how eagerly I speak for You
at a women’s club.
You know how I shine when I promote
a fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm
at a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder,
If You pointed to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled old woman,
Day after day,
Month after month,
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew.

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