Acts 11:25-26 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Barnabas certainly lived up to his name! Actually, his name was Joseph, but the apostles had nicknamed him “Son of Encouragement” because of his personality, and that was the name he went by for the rest of his life. (Acts 4:36-37) I find it very unsurprising that he’s my wife’s favorite character in the Bible. He was obviously well respected in the church at Jerusalem, since they chose him to go check things out at Antioch (verse 22). He had been a witness to the transformation of Saul, from a fire-breathing persecutor to a staunch defender of the faith, and with the new situation of many Gentiles coming to faith, he saw that Saul’s strong grounding in the Old Testament was just what they needed to keep the new believers from being led astray by wild ideas and philosophies. It took a good bit of effort, and frankly courage, for Barnabas to go to Tarsus to fetch Saul, but Barnabas was obviously committed enough to the Lord to do whatever he felt the Lord was telling him to do, and frankly, the whole world has been changed as a result. Saul of course went on to be called Paul and to write half the New Testament, shaping the Church in countless ways. Not so many people remember Barnabas today, but without him, we wouldn’t have Paul. I’m reminded of the story of the essentially unknown evangelist in North Carolina who had a service in which there was just one convert: a very disappointing result to be sure. However, that one convert turned out to be Billy Graham, and the whole world was impacted, with millions brought to salvation. We aren’t good judges of ourselves, even, because God often brings about results that we never dream of. Barnabas was humble enough to recognize God’s gifts in others and work to bring those out. We need more like him!
Encouraging is one of the specific gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8, and I have a feeling Paul was thinking of Barnabas when he wrote that. It is a gift my wife has far more than I do, and it is one I covet for myself. My major gift (out of that list) is teaching, and as a teacher I tend to feel (though it’s not entirely logical) that just giving people correct information should change them. I have learned the hard way that’s seldom true! At the same time, I know that we need to have the foundation straight and strong for what is built on it to be valid and secure, so teachers are necessary in the Church as well. It’s just that teachers seldom make very good evangelists, whereas many if not most successful evangelists are strongly gifted as encouragers. Like Barnabas, I need to recognize the gifts in others and teach and equip them to make full use of those gifts for the sake of the Body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Father, thank You for this strong reminder. Thank You for how You are growing and shaping me even now, teaching me to coach and encourage rather than dictate. Thank You for the ministry I could do by telephone last night. May I continue to grow to be the servant that You desire, so that I may in turn help others to grow as You intend for them, for the sake of the Body of Christ and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!