The Son of Encouragement
Encouragement is something we all need, and it's something we can all give. Encouragement is like a peanut butter sandwich—the more you spread it around, the better things stick together.
Said Bear Bryant, one of the greatest college football coaches ever, when he was pushed to explain his philosophy of coaching: “There’s just three things I ever say to my players: ‘If anything goes bad, then I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it.” That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you. I can do that better than anybody.”
Everyone loves to be around encouraging people. My older brother is one of those people. Whenever I’m around him I feel like I’m doing a good job but I want to try even harder. My mom was an encouraging person too.
Some people make you feel like you’re never good enough.
In the Bible there was a man named Joseph who did so much encouraging that he earned himself the nickname "the son of encouragement."
In Acts 4 we read of him. Acts 4:36 says...
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
In contrast with Ananias and Saphira who held back part of the money they made on the sale of their land and then lied about it, Barnabas’s gift must have been a great encouragement.
Levite’s weren’t allowed to own land so maybe what he sold was land back in a Cyprus.
Luke in Acts 11:24 says he had been sent to Antioch to encourage the church there. Acts 11:23–24 (CSB):
23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord.
Barnabas was a good man but he wasn’t perfect. In Galatians 2:13 we see him going along with Peter’s hypocrisy and not eating with the gentiles. Galatians 2:12–13 (CSB):
Peter withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. 13 Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
Even Barnabas, who was usually so faithful, was led astray. Perhaps he got so wrapped up in trying to encourage Peter that he forgot about the gospel.
Our encouragement does make a difference. And Barnabas made a difference in many people's lives even though he wasn’t perfect. In fact, if it wasn't for the encouragement of Barnabas, Paul, himself, may not have become so prominent.
Turn to Acts 9:26-27...
26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple. 27 Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that the Lord had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.
That was just the kind of encouragement Saul needed.
28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. (Acts 9:26-28, NIV).
So God used Barnabas’ gift of encouragement. In fact, an encouraging person can be one of the most effective tools in preaching the gospel. Maybe that’s why Jesus sent the disciples out two by two: one to preach and the other to be the encourager. Barnabas doesn’t get the recognition Paul does but he had a critical role in the spreading of the gospel.
Christ brought a great number of people to himself through the encouraging attitude of Barnabas and He can do the same thing with us. When we encourage others we can have a powerful effect on people's lives.
Many of us can probably think of instances where a timely, kind word made the difference in whether we succeeded or not. Encouragement has done things from helping us pursue our dreams to getting our lives headed in the right spiritual direction.
These words are recorded of Katherine Luther, the wife of Martin Luther...
One day when skies loomed the blackest,
This greatest and bravest of men, Lost heart and in an oversad spirit, Refused to take courage again,
Neither eating or drinking nor speaking, To anxious wife, children or friends,
Till Katherine dons widow garments, And deepest of mourning pretends.
Surprised, Luther asked why she sorrowed.
“Dear Doctor,” his Katie replied, “I have cause for the saddest of weeping, For God in His heaven has died!”
Her gentle rebuke did not fail him, He laughingly kissed his wise spouse, Took courage, and banished his sorrow, And joy again reigned in the house.
Not much is said of Katherine Luther but she had a very important role to play encouraging her husband. And all of us need people who won’t give up on us. And all of us can be that encouraging person who won’t give up.
The Apostle Paul wanted to give up on Mark but Barnabas wouldn’t have it. Let's read in Acts 15:37...
Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus.
Mark was Barnabas’ cousin (Col 4:10) and was an assistant to both Barnabas and Paul (Acts 13:5). We don’t know why but Mark had made a mistake and didn’t finish the task he was given.
But Barnabas didn't think one mistake in life should disqualify him for ministry. And because of Barnabas' encouragement, Mark went on to be instrumental in the spread of the Gospel!
A few years after Paul and Barnabas' argument, Paul is even quoted as relying on Mark once again to assist him in preaching the gospel. In 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul compliments Mark by saying...
11 Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.
Why the change in Paul? Most likely it had everything to do with Barnabas who stuck by Mark, mentoring and encouraging him.
There are many different ways to encourage someone. The Bible has a checklist of things we can do to encourage one another. It's found in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 To be good encouragers I think we should notice what it says...
1 Thessalonians 5:12–18 (CSB): Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
It is God’s will for you to encourage others and now you know what you can do. If we did only one of these things we would be a great encouragement to one another!
Give recognition to those that labor
Be at peace among yourselves
Warn those who are idle
Comfort the discouraged
Help the weak
Don’t try to get even
Pursue what is in the best interests of others
Keep a positive attitude
But God doesn’t just want us to encourage each other, He wants to encourage us. God practices what He preaches. Like Barnabas did for Mark, God has given us a second chance.
And even more than that, he has given us an inheritance that will never be taken away! Let's read about it in 1 Peter 1:3...
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you, (1 Peter 1:3-5, NIV).
God has given those who have faith in Jesus a second chance. So be encouraged and be encouraging. God’s not dead, he’s surely alive and he won’t give up on you.
Be encouraged that our inheritance is ready to be revealed! It's kept in heaven for us! And it’s an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade!