There are many people in the Bible we can’t be like. They cast a Himalayan shadow over us. Their shoes are just too big to fill. You put them on and you trip.
Take just a single example. I read about Paul and his exploits and think, “I can sooner play golf like Tiger Woods in his heyday than be as faithful to Jesus as Paul.” Paul dwarfs me the way a ninety-foot wave dwarfs a canoe.
But when I read about the man named Barnabas I feel differently. He’s nicknamed “the Son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36) and he encourages me. He encourages me because he’s known for something any Christian—even I!—can do.
That’s encourage others.
Barnabas encourages me to be an encourager. And I can do that. So can you. Each of us can engage in Barnabas living. So I want to spend the next two posts encouraging you to be an encourager. First we’ll look at the practice of encouraging others. Then, we’ll look at the reasons why we should engage in a Barnabas lifestyle.
We begin with a close look at the practice of encouraging others. Here are five encouraging thoughts about being an encourager.
1. Encouraging others isn’t something we’re unfamiliar with. We’ve all sung solos in its choir. We’ve each dined at its Thanksgiving feast. Anytime you say or do something that puts wind in another’s drooping sails or causes a smile to evict the unwelcome tenant of a frown or rescues someone from drowning in a sea of sadness, you’ve been a Barnabas. We’ve all told others, and been told by others, “I appreciate you”; “I couldn’t have done it without you”; “Good job!” The call here is to take this to another level. To the level of being a full-time encourager.
2. The way to become a full-time encourager is by cultivating the habit of encouraging others. The World Series is known as The October Classic. Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson is known as “Mr. October.” Why? Because time and time again, in Series’ game after game, Jackson stepped to the plate and hit a dinger. He got his nickname from repeatedly doing what he did.
Barnabas got his “Son of encouragement” nickname by making a habit of saying things that lifted others. You become a full-time encourager the same way. Nike nails it. “Just do it.” Just start encouraging everyone you’re with. Your spouse. Your siblings. Your boss. Your colleagues. Your teammates. The waitress taking your order, the teller at the bank, the military person passing you in the mall. The great Will Rogers said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Paraphrase him with “I’m never around anyone I don’t want to encourage” and you’re on your way to becoming a Barnabas.
3. A practical way to begin encouraging others is to look for things to encourage in everyone you meet. I stroll around a crime scene. Shocked. A detective strolls around the same scene and finds clues. The difference? He was looking for what he found. You usually find what you’re looking for. Especially if you’re looking for something to encourage.
Barnabas is sent by the Jerusalem church to the newborn congregation in Antioch. He comes and “sees the grace of God.” (Acts 11:19-26). Why? Remember, you usually find what you’re looking for. Look for something to complain about in others and you’ll find it as surely as a DA finds something to attack in a defense’s case. Look for something to encourage and you’ll find it as surely as a grandmother finds something good in everything her grandchildren do. So, the way to be an encourager is by looking for the positive, the commendable, the praiseworthy in everyone you’re with.
So, the way to be an encourager is by looking for the positive, the commendable, the praiseworthy in everyone you’re with.
4. Why should you become a Barnabas? Because encouragers help God’s church be what he wants it to be. Satan isn’t too concerned with churches bent on making you feel as badly as you can feel. The more of them he can find the better. They bother him about as much as a slight breeze hinders a bullet from hitting the target. But if he finds a church where sinners are encouraged with the truth that no matter how great their sins they can find forgiveness with Jesus and saints assured that no matter how great their trials Jesus will help them face them and work them to their good—well, Satan trembles before these churches the way a coward does before a battle where he’s sure to die. And the only way to be that kind of church is for its members to be Barnabas men and women.
5. One more thing, maybe the best thought of all: being an encourager doesn’t require any special training. You don’t read here that Barnabas went to seminary to learn how to be an encourager. Ditto with you. You don’t need a medical degree to write an encouragement prescription. You don’t need to go to pharmacology school to be able to dispense medicine that cheers people up. Just being a Christian gives you a license to practice the healing art of lifting peoples’ spirits. And being a Christian equips you for the job.
If you believe what you say you believe, you have in your beliefs something that can lift a broken kite and make it soar. Put me around a man or woman who really believes that God is our Father, in control of everything; that Jesus loves us and will help us face whatever we face; that the Holy Spirit lives in us to enable us to be more than conquerors—put me around that kind of Christian and you’ve put me around a Barnabas.
Being a Christian gives you a license to practice the healing art of lifting peoples’ spirits. And being a Christian equips you for the job.
That kind of Christian will speak a kind word, make a thoughtful phone call, or write a sweet note.
That kind of Christian will be a Barnabas.
I want to be that kind of Christian.