Barnabas the Encourager

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6pm Team Service at SMAS
(10-6-12)

Barnabas wasn’t his real name that was Joseph. Barnabas was a nickname meaning Son of Encouragement. He was a Levite – the Jewish Tribe who served in the temple. His family moved to Cyprus so he obviously didn’t serve in the temple.

I wonder if you had a nickname like Barnabas, what would it be? What would you like it to be?

There were many leaders in the early church, but few were as humble and influential as Barnabas. Acts 11:24 uses a whole verse to describe his character and the effects of his ministry: “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”

How I wish that would describe my life. Linda was a good woman: full of the Holy Spirit, and full of faith too. And because of how she lived her life, many people found God. Barnabas is a good role model for us.

He sailed across the sea from Cyprus and went to Jerusalem. God was with him there – Barnabas found out about Jesus and joined the church. He wanted everyone to know about Jesus, so he sold a field he owned and gave all the money to the church leaders in Jerusalem.

When Paul was a new convert he also went to Jerusalem and tried to contact the believers there, but he was known as Christian hater. He was the one who stood watching & giving approval of Stephen’s stoning not long ago. What if he was just pretending to be a believer in Christ? What if he was really just trying to find them and arrest them? Not surprisingly the disciples were all afraid of him! Barnabas saw what was happening and comes along side him. He took him with him to the apostles. He becomes Saul’s advocate and they accepted him.

I wonder how we would have felt – the same as the disciples? Barclay writes, ‘Barnabas insisted on believing the best of others. When others suspected Saul of being a spy, Barnabas insisted on believing that he was genuine. The world is largely divided into those who think best of others and those who think the worst’.

Which of those are we? Do you/I see the best in people, their positive points, their gifts, abilities, and potential? Or do we see their faults and find ourselves always criticising people when they make mistakes?

Barclay continues, ‘as Paul himself said, “Love thinks no evil.” No one believed in men as Jesus did and it should be enough for the disciple that he be as his Lord’.

Jesus believes in people! And so must we if we call ourselves followers of Jesus. Barnabas, like Jesus didn’t hold people’s past against them. Of course he knew about Saul and why the others were scared of him, but he also knew the dramatic change in Saul’s life. He knew Saul couldn’t change his past. But he also knew Saul had left his past behind and was walking a new path. If God forgives repentant sinners, then so must we.

The apostles in Jerusalem heard good things were happening in Antioch and they sent Barnabas, the man with, according to Barclay, the biggest heart in the church’ to help them get their church started. Barnabas believed he needed Paul's help and went to find Paul in Tarsus. The two of them preached in the city for a whole year. The Holy Spirit directed their work and Barnabas was pleased with what he found and guess what he did . . . he encouraged them!

He encouraged them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. It was in Antioch that believers first became known as Christians. Whilst there someone from the church in Jerusalem came to tell them there’d been a famine and they needed help. Barnabas and Paul encouraged everyone in the Antioch church to give money to help.

Later a controversy was taking place in the church headquarters in Jerusalem. Situated in a very Jewish city, but, as the disciples had begun working further away from Jerusalem, non-Jewish converts were becoming common. Some of the formerly Jewish Christians thought these should become Jews before they could become Christians. Barnabas said, “NO! Why should they? The old days are gone.” Fortunately they sided with Barnabas’ argument. If they hadn’t, things would be very different for all of us Gentiles and our own Christian faith!

Another bit of controversy arose when Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement. Paul was reluctant to take John Mark with them on a missionary journey, but Barnabas, always ready to encourage, wanted to give the young man a second chance and he took Mark under his wing. After being trained by Barnabas, Mark was of great assistance to Paul.

When was the last time you encouraged a Christian brother or sister to persevere in the faith? The church (and the world) needs more encouragers! Every one of us will testify to what a word of encouragement does to our spirits. It gives us a boost and help keeps us going.

It’s doesn’t take much to give a word of encouragement, or write a short note/card. A little action that goes a long way!

I want to encourage encouragement. Suppose the music was particularly and lifted your spirits – tell those responsible.

Maybe you’ve noticed that someone hasn’t been here in a while, perhaps you could contact them? Maybe you’ve been praying for someone? Let them know – perhaps drop a little note saying so. We can all be a Barnabas by sending little notes of encouragement. It’s actually quite an easy thing to do – Hannah here does it for me!

Barnabas lived his whole life standing up for others. The world needs more of his kind. Martin Niemoeller was a German anti-Nazi pastor, and has become famous for these words: “They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

The Christian life isn’t easy to live on our own. We need people who stand beside us to support and help us to succeed. That’s why God created the church. There are no Lone Rangers in the family of God. We really do need each other. We are a community, a family of faith, and when we all work together, we can accomplish great things for Christ

So, what can we learn from Barnabas? We need to remember that Evangelism isn’t about us, about how we feel or about our comfort. It’s about the Good News that God has for people who don’t know God’s love. It’s Good News! That means it’s encouraging news. And if anything, what we learn from Barnabas is that we can ALL be Sons and Daughters of encouragement.

It’s said that the Christian faith is caught, not taught. So being a Barnabas can be about living an inviting lifestyle. Here’s a true story:

“My husband is a tractor-trailer driver and he dreads runs to New York City. His greatest fear was realized one day when his rig broke down on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. At 4:30pm after he’d been waiting for assistance for over an hour, a police car stopped and the officer called a tow truck for my husband. More hours passed. Then at 8:30 a young man stopped his car and walked over to the truck. He handed my husband a white bag with the familiar golden arches and said, 'I saw you here about 4 o'clock, and I saw that you were still here when I went by again a half-hour ago. I thought you might be hungry by now.' With that he gave my husband the bag and drove away. The tow truck got there a little before 10pm.”

That’s being a Barnabas, an encourager. And when we live like that, it changes lives. There are so many people whose outlook on life is negative: wounded or alienated they think no one cares, not even God. There are people who are confused or anxious and don’t know where to turn. We have the Good News of a God who is loving and forgiving. The Good News of a Saviour who can give meaning and purpose to our life. We have the Good News. But how will others hear it if we don’t share it and be encouragers?

Christians owe a lot to Barnabas: Paul, who went on to write 14 epistles. Mark, who later wrote his Gospel. This means we owe almost half of the New Testament to Barnabas, even if he didn’t write a single thing! Such is the power of encouragement. The church of God needs many more encouragers like Barnabas. Could you be a Barnabas to others today?