The Encourager

"Barnabas...when he came, and had seen the grace of God,...exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith...then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul." Acts 11:22-25 KJV

"He's such a nice guy." This insipid phrase has become the mission statement for Settlers Anonymous. Pastor Search Committees, Deacon Selection Teams, Elder Boards, and brides in search of husbands have all fallen for this foggy mist of a lost soul, posing as a man of God. Stop it!

Correct me if I am wrong. The Bible never uses "Nice Guy" to describe a man, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, conformed to His image, by the Holy Spirit, and transformed into a man of God.

Mose was called a friend of God, but he was not a nice guy. He had anger issues. David was a man after God's own heart, but he was not a nice guy. He had fidelity issues. Elijah was a mighty man of God, but he dealt with depression. Peter, well, enough said there. Sorry Peter. He was force of nature, but not a nice guy. James and John were called "The Sons of Thunder", but never a couple of nice guys. Get the picture?

Saul was still marked by mayhem, and murder, when Barnabas found him and brought him to Antioch. Nice guys may indeed finish last, but one thing is for certain, they are not who you think of when you look at the faces of the men, God used to shape, serve and sacrifice their lives for the story of redemption.

Barnabas, his Hebrew name meant son of consolation, son of exhortation, or son of comfort. Very rarely does a name indicate a man's mission in life, but in this case, the name fit the man. Barnabas was The Encourager. If he had not reached out to Saul, there very well might never have been a Paul, and a great deal of the New Testament. Encouragement goes a long way.

I recently received a note from a friend, thanking me for sending a thank you note to her husband. She said, "His love language is words of affirmation." I was reminded that it never hurts to speak, or write a word of encouragement to those, whose lives we touch. What enriches others, will not leave us in poverty. If you have the opportunity, invest in others. Barnabas did. The world is a richer place for it, and Heaven is full of people who were changed as a result of his life of encouragement.

Note to self: You never know how far a word of encouragement may go to turn one person's life around. God can use one person to change the world. Change the world, one person at a time. Be an encourager, not a discourager. The world is full of the latter, but encouragement still matters.

Very little is known of Barnabas, but what is known about him describes him as The Encourager. He didn't make a name for himself. He made a difference. His character matched his name. The name is not always matched by character.

Barnabas was a Cypriot Jewish convert, and a landowner. Acts records when the Jerusalem Church was in need, he sold his land and gave the money to them. Generosity is always encouraging. When the recently converted Saul needed an introduction to the apostles in Jerusalem, he brought Saul to them, and vouched for him. Encouraging indeed.

When the work in Antioch prospered, and he was in need of help, Barnabas encouraged Saul to join him and worked with him a year in that city, giving Saul much needed gravitas and street creds among the people. They later conducted missionary journeys to other cities, and saw great response to their message among the Gentiles. When they were called to Jerusalem to defend what they were doing, Barnabas stood with Saul, as an advocate for Gentile believers to be welcomed into the Christian community. Thanks, Barnabas!

When Paul emerged as the dominant voice in their working relationship, Barnabas accepted that role, and continued to encourage Paul, not resent him. When Paul sought to discipline a young evangelist, by leaving him behind. Barnabas could do nothing less than be himself. He separated himself from Paul, and invested himself in the young man. It was in his Spiritual DNA.

Note to self: Encourage others. Investing encouragement in others will not impoverish you. It will enrich you in ways you cannot imagine. Don't even think about it. Do it.

I want to be like Barnabas, when I grow up. Encouragement is the by-product of a changed life. Praying for someone is the most encouraging thing you can do for them. Talking about them can be the most discouraging. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!