Sharing the Word: The Gift of Encouragement
By HARRY MARTINEZ
There are individuals who are an encouragement in life. It is truly a blessing to have such acquaintances as friends. In the Scriptures there is a man whose very name means encouragement or consolation. He is Barnabas and appears early in the ministry of Paul.
We first hear of him in Dr. Luke’s writing of the book of Acts … “And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement)” (Acts 4:36). While his heritage was important to mention, for later he would return to Cyprus and evangelize his countrymen, God the Holy Spirit focuses on the inner character of this believer. Barnabas was sensitive to the plight of the believers who were under great persecution.
We read that in that he … “owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:37). He saw a need, responded to the leading of God the Holy Spirit and provided assistance as he was able. The money was not the issue; what was important was his willing to help meet a need, to come along suffering brethren and offer encouragement in the manner which he could.
We can learn much from Barnabas, for later he encourages the early church to accept Paul as a fellow worker. Paul prior to his conversion had been the greatest persecutor of the Church. Now he had come to believe in Christ as His Savior by means of faith in Him.
When Paul came to the congregation in Jerusalem, none of the apostles would permit him to be a part of that fellowship. It was Barnabas who intervened on behalf of this ostracized brother … “But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27). Much later in Paul’s ministry it was Barnabas who extended the hand of forgiveness to John Mark.
Mark had forsaken Paul on his first missionary journey and Paul wrote him off. When a second journey was being planned, Paul refused to consider Mark as a member for the team. Barnabas defended John Mark and it led to Paul choosing Silas. Barnabas parted company with Paul and took Mark on a missionary trip to Cyprus. But the impact of Barnabas’ character did not end there.
God continued to keep the example of Barnabas in the thinking of Paul, for we know that toward the end of Paul’s life, he requested that Mark come to see him. That word of encouragement spoken years earlier by Barnabas finally had caused a change in Paul’s attitude. We too can profit from Barnabas and his service for the Lord.
A word of comfort, of encouragement, of friendship when used by the Holy Spirit, has extended value, often unseen, but very real. Who can place a value on the apostles accepting Paul into their ranks? Who can know the value of Barnabas and Mark as they preached the gospel of the saving work of Christ on the Cross? Who can understand the value of the love of Christ shared with a person who is hurting in their soul? You and I can be that encouragement to others as we respond to the leading of the Spirit in our lives.