by Stewart Brown
It is possible to be an encouragement to the people that you meet. In the first century church, one man so embodied the characteristics of intentional encouragement that he was given a new name – Barnabas, which means ‘son of encouragement.’ Imagine being known as a person who so personifies an encouraging spirit that your friends would give you a new name. That indicates the character of Barnabas. He was a man who truly lived out his intimate relationship with Jesus the Savior who is Himself the perfect encourager. How did Barnabas become such an encourager? No one forced him to live and act that way. There are two obvious reasons:
1.Barnabas deliberately nurtured a growing intimate faith relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
2.He worshipped and served God out of a community of Jesus’ disciples who continuously encouraged one another as they were empowered by the Holy Spirit.
All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all. There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need. (Acts 4:32-33, NLT)
Then the Bible says that Barnabas was one of those who chose to sell some land and give all the money received from that sale to help others in need (Acts 4:36-37). Some may be wary of this as mandated socialism, but that is simply not true. Here is a situation where individuals responded to God’s redemptive call on their lives and lived in harmony with and sacrificial service to others. Motivated by the in-dwelling Holy Spirit of God, they contributed to the kind of encouraging culture that transforms lives, marriages, churches, and work communities. Beware of any so-called ‘church’ or religious organization that forces or pressures you to do good works for the sole purpose of getting more converts. In the real churches of God, God and the Bible are the only and final authority and not the organization itself.
ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF AN ENCOURAGING BARNABAS
It is the purpose of God that each of us should grow into Christ-likeness so that we possess and demonstrate the character traits that describe the person of Barnabas in the first century church.
Generous. Barnabas did more than give generously to others. He was a generous man. His very heart expressed generosity. He was not only willing to give to help those in need – he was will to give beyond what others expected. He was willing to pay a price, to give up something he valued, for the sake of others. He could have kept some of the money from his land sale, but he chose to give it all. That does not mean that you have to give away everything you have. God wants us to recognize that all good things come from Him, and so we should want to honor Him in the way we use them – to meet our needs and to bless others.
Barnabas was called “a good man” (Acts 11:24, NLT). The word for good (agathos) refers to the character of someone. Barnabas was good because he possessed the inner character of God. He demonstrated the character and attitude of God – seeing life and people from the perspective of God because he trusted the Lord to guide his life, form his heart, and inform his thoughts. He was a good man because the good God occupied his heart.
He was mature in a spiritual sense because he was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:24, NLT). He invited the Holy Spirit to direct his life and develop the qualities of Christ in him. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to enter and reside in each genuine follower of Jesus so as to make him or her like Christ in their character. This includes developing the fruit of the Spirit, which are the personal qualities like the Lord Jesus:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
This is why Barnabas always sought to encourage other Christians “to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23). If you will passionately pursue these qualities of Jesus for your life, you will be well on your way to living as a Barnabas encourager, positively impacting others with lasting spiritual results. Isn’t this what life is really all about?
Barnabas was a man full of faith. In his daily living, he really did place his total trust in the hands of God. He had great confidence that God would transform the lives of all who put their trust in Christ. He was a very discerning person who sought to understand others and rejoiced when he saw the evidence of God at work in them. It took much to discourage Barnabas, whose unswerving faith in new followers of Jesus spurred them on towards spiritual maturity.
When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God [in the], he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. (Acts 11:23)
Person of Integrity.
The Bible contrasts Barnabas, who lived openly and gave sacrificially, with Ananias and Sapphira, who tried to achieve the wonderful reputation of Barnabas. But they were envious of him and pretended that they were as generous as Barnabas. Their pretense misled the others in their church. They were confronted by the Apostle Peter, who reminded them that lying to the people of God also meant that they were lying to God. Barnabas was so different – he lived with transparency and complete honesty. What he revealed in public, he lived the same in private (Acts 4:36,5:11).
Warm-hearted and empathetic.
Barnabas expressed love, even for those who were unwanted by others. Saul, who was later re-named Paul, had acquired a bad reputation for persecuting Christians and trying to destroy the early church. After Saul was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus, he became a passionate believer and follower of Christ. But after the church leaders wanted nothing to do with Saul, Barnabas took time to understand and affirm him. Against the wishes of perhaps all the others in the group, Barnabas defended Saul and convinced them of the transformation that had taken place in his life. More than anyone else, Barnabas saw the truth about Saul and his potential.
When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:26¬27)
Dare to be a Barnabas – a gracious follower of Jesus who always seeks to understand the hearts of others and is willing to believe in their God-given potential. This does not mean that you should accept sin and wrong attitudes in others. It does mean that you care enough to lovingly and firmly confront them for their own good and for the glory of God. Barnabas illustrated this when he confronted even the Apos¬tle Paul over Mark, who had deserted their missionary team (Acts 15:37-39). Paul was really angry over Mark’s desertion, but Barnabas saw through Mark’s outward action and was convinced of his potential. When you believe strongly in what a person can become, you treat them according to what they can be instead of what they have done in the past.
A Frontline Ministry
Seek to understand the culture and personality of your church so that you can be truly helpful in welcoming new¬comers and assisting them in feeling at home there. Know your own identity (who you are in Christ) so that your responses can be clear, confident, and helpful to all who enter each week.
Welcoming others in a church or group context requires answers to three basic questions.
1. WHO AM I?
I am a representative of God and for my church. “We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you” (2 Corinthians 5:20, NLT).
I am a partner in our church family. “Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. My job was to plant the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God, not we, who made it grow. The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose. Yet they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. We work together as partners who belong to God” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9, NLT). “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other-each with the attitude of Christ Jesus to¬ward the other. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6, NLT).
I am a friend, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:2, NLT). “When God’s people are in need, be the one to help them out And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night” (Romans 12:13, NLT).
Character requirements: a humble spirit (Ephesians 4:2; Romans 12:16), a willing attitude (Romans 12:13), and a servant mindset (Mark 10:43-45).
2. WHY AM I DOING THIS?
I believe that God has called me to this ministry.
“Lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called of God” (Ephesians 4: 1, NLT). “He was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23). “Let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25).
I have a passion to share the mind of Christ with others. “Be humble, thinking of others as better than your¬self. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4, NL T). See also Philippians 2:5.
I am committed to communicate the mission of our church. (~s each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts [members] grow, so that the whole body [church] is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16).
3. WHAT Is MY ROLE?
Be spiritually prepared (Bible study, prayer, worship, and witness).
Confess any known sin in my life to God.
I seek to be flexible, loving, and sensitive to the needs of those who enter our church (Romans 12:9-10).
I strive to earn the respect of our church so that in my role as a leader, I can truly help grow our church (Philippians 2:29).
As people enter, I silently pray for visitors and members even as I welcome them.
It’s not about me. It’s about God. If it’s about God, it must be about others (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Source: Brown, Stewart; ‘Majesty in Motion’ p140-145, 199-201; Word Alive Press; Winnipeg, MB, 2009