Just as Ananias proved to be a source of encouragement to Saul in Damascus, welcoming him into God’s family, so too Barnabas lives up to his nickname (‘son of encouragement’) when Saul faces suspicion in Jerusalem. (Acts 9:26-27) Barnabas has already been introduced to us (as Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, who sold a field and gave the money from this to the apostles (Acts 4:35-37)) and will feature prominently in the later missionary journeys as a companion to Paul initially and later as one to John Mark whose cause he defends (see Acts 13-15).
Encouragement was clearly a feature of Barnabas’s life and is something that is immeasurably precious but often overlooked because it is rarely ‘flashy’ or spectacular. With Saul, Barnabas’s endorsement of the vision he had experienced and explanation of his fearless preaching helped to overcome the apprehension and fear which still resided in some people’s hearts. He was willing to speak up on Saul’s behalf and was proactive in involving him in fellowship. Later, we see how he is prepared to give John Mark the benefit of the doubt (Acts 15:37-40), again demonstrating a willingness to see the best in someone. Such encouragement is very important (for we all make mistakes).
Encouraging is listed as one of the gifts needed in the body of Christ by Paul (Rom 12:8) and is something which can be practised on a daily basis. If we are not sure what to say or how to encourage, Paul reminds us that encouragement is provided in Scripture (Rom 15:4) and that God gives both endurance and encouragement to us! (Rom 15:5) Let’s work at encouraging others and building them up, for each one of us blossoms in the environment of encouragement – conversely, we wither and die when all we face are criticism and rejection. It doesn’t matter who we are: every single one of us needs encouragement and every single one of us can give it.