From Pauses for Pentecost
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”)….
Recently, I have noticed how many of our conversations are riddled with discouragement: discouragement about the political future of our country, about the work we do each day, about our closest relationships, and – most painfully – about our journey with God. Few things have more power to rob us to joy and happiness than being discouraged. This realization gets me thinking: As Easter people empowered by the Spirit, one of the most important ministries we are called to exercise today is the ministry of encouragement.
One of the unsung heroes of the early church is Barnabas. Joseph is his real name, but as the apostles watch him interact with people, they rename him Barnabas, which means “son of consolation” or “son of comfort.” Elsewhere in the book of Acts, Luke describes him as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith,” and by his witness “a great number of people were brought to the Lord,” (Acts 11:24). As we entrust our lives to the Lord, his Spirit enables us to encourage people around us. Certainly this is the case with Barnabas. Hopefully, it can be true for us as well.
How did Barnabas exercise the ministry of encouragement? A quick glance at the times Luke mentions him in Acts gives us helpful clues. First, when he brings the newly converted Paul to the fearful and suspicious leadership of the church in Jerusalem, he acts as mediator. (See Acts 9:27.) Bridging gaps and bringing healing between conflicting parties can be a huge source of encouragement for those involved. Second, he constantly affirms followers of Christ who live faithfully and stand firm in their faith, and he expresses appreciation for them. (See Acts 11:23.) Third, he goes against Paul’s advice and gives a young, impetuous John Mark a second chance. (See Acts 15:38-39.) Can you think of someone you can bless today through encouragements and affirmation?
Seek to put into practice, both thoughtfully and intentionally, the ministry of encouragement wherever you are today.