Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
– Acts 11:19-26
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
– 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17
“His name was Joses…but you know him by his nickname, Barnabas. Bits and pieces of his story erupt throughout the Book of Acts. You meet him first in Acts 4, when he was unselfishly sacrificing for the benefit of others less fortunate than himself. In Acts 11, you find that he was said to be filled with the Holy Spirit and faith, bringing encouragement to other believers. He dealt with the wrongdoing of two misguided Christians in Acts 15 and he stood up for Paul when no one else would. Barnabas gave Paul his first missionary break – he could have taken the Antioch assignment himself, but encouraged Paul and then accompanied him.
“Encouragement may sound like a small thing. It’s subtle and it is powerful. When you encourage, you motivate someone else. Everyone needs doses of encouragement from early childhood through one’s senior years. It helps to keep one’s emotional gas tank from running on empty.”
– Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
God is the greatest encourager, as seen in the 2 Thessalonians Scripture above. Those of us who ‘turn our radio on’, as the old Gospel Song encourages, get encouragement from the Holy Spirit all the time. Sometimes when we get blue and despondent, it might be that we have created too much worldly noise to hear His voice.
When it comes to encouragement, I think of my Facebook posts, reporting my wife’s health status to all my friends and her friends on Facebook. To a select few, I messaged, but to the general public (friends), I sent a few updates. The comments poured in from two different continents, since some of my wife’s relatives are in the Netherlands. Of course, including the updates on the blog site, that could be six continents. There were the usual offered prayers. Just knowing that people around the world are praying for you is encouragement enough. But then there were the well-wishers, hoping everything came out alright, which it did. (At least, we are praying that the A-Fib will be corrected.) But then there were the “You got this!” or the “You are strong. You can do it.” There were other types of encouragement, reminiscent of cheerleading.
My wife complains about being in a cheerleading role. She wants to do more, but Barnabas was very influential in the spreading of Christianity in the first century, as a cheerleader.
In Acts 9, Saul (who later becomes Paul) escapes Jerusalem and goes to Tarsus. The Hellenistic Jews (Jews using the Greek language) wanted to kill Saul. After all, Saul had been killing the followers of Jesus. Now, he was a turncoat. No one knows what Saul did in Tarsus. He might have preached, thinking that he was far enough away from those who meant him harm, but he might have simply been doing business, not spreading the Gospel at all. Many people who have a zeal for spreading the Gospel have their derailments. It is not easy work, but if you have the zeal, you will get your trolley back on the tracks.
But along comes Barnabas to Antioch. Barnabas first encourages the people in Antioch. Then Barnabas goes to Saul. The Scripture above says that Barnabas simply found Saul and brought him back to Antioch. How much of an understatement was that sentence?
Could this have been part of the conversation?
Barnabas: Saul, come with me and preach in Antioch. The fields are ripe for the harvest.
Saul: Are you kidding? When I preached in Jerusalem, they plotted to kill me. No way!
Yet, Saul went along with Barnabas. Was it the encouragement of Barnabas, or did God whisper to Saul that he needed to get moving? The next conversation between Saul and Barnabas is not recorded either – the one where they decide to answer God’s call to start the Saul and Barnabas Road Show. No, that is not what it was called. It was the Jesus Road Show. Saul and Barnabas may have traveled the road, but they were never on the playbill. They were often persecuted, but Jesus was the focus of their message.
If Barnabas had not encouraged Saul to leave his comfort in Tarsus, would any of the road show results have happened? Would any of Saul’s letters have been published? Some would say that God would raise others to take their place, but many will say that it was all part of God’s plan, orchestrated by a sovereign God, to place the burden upon Barnabas’ heart to be an encourager and for Saul to be persuaded.
Do you need encouragement today? God is ready and willing to give you your needs. You may be suffering a trial, but God is by your side. You are not suffering alone, and you would be surprised as to how many people are praying for you right now.
Do you need to encourage someone else? Our pastor said in a sermon quite some time ago that we need to encourage one another. There is too much sarcasm in this world. I am definitely guilty. I often go for the joke, which might involve sarcasm at times. But the pastor’s point was that our words need to lift up, not put down. Our words are powerful. Who knows? You might just be encouraging the next Saul of Tarsus.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.