A story is told of someone who lived in America over a hundred or so years ago, who suggested to a troubled teenager who had been refused admission to a youth club to go to listen to a preacher named Mordecai Ham. As a result, the boy gave his life to Jesus. The boy’s name was Billy Graham – and the rest, as they say, is history!
Very few people have heard of Albert McMakin the person who persuaded Billy Graham as a teenager to go to that service, but what an impact the result of that simple word of encouragement has had on the world in terms of evangelism through the decades since. We never know what effect that just the kind word, helping hand or ‘cup of water’ can have in encouraging someone.
In Acts, we read of someone whose name was Joses, but who was given the name Barnabas by the apostles. The name means ‘son of encouragement’ and he was given it because of what he did to encourage and support the growth of the early church.
When Saul (who later became Paul) returned to Jerusalem, some time after his conversion, the church there was suspicious of him. This was understandable as he had previously carried out terrible atrocities against the believers there. It was Barnabas who befriended Saul, got to know him and was able to persuade the apostles that Saul’s conversion was genuine and encouraged them to receive him into their fellowship.
Later, controversy broke out amongst the Jewish believers when non-Jews (Gentiles) were being added to the church in Antioch, and Barnabas was sent to report on the situation. He was pleased to see that God was indeed adding to the church there, and he was able to encourage them to stay true to the Lord (Acts11:33). He then travelled to Tarsus to find Saul and brought him back to Antioch, where they both remained for a year, teaching and encouraging the believers there. After this, Barnabas became a companion to Saul on a number of his missionary journeys.
We read very little about Barnabas, but, from what we can, we understand he was a good man of faith, full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:24) and a great encourager. The lesson for us is that we don’t have to be a great speaker, teacher, intercessor, or worship leader to bless and help others. However, we are all called to the ministry of encouragement, ‘So encourage each other to build each other up, just as you are already doing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
The illustration of Barnabas shows that, however insignificant and inadequate we may feel we are, as our walk and relationship with God deepens, we are able to reach out to others in a way which can bring about restored friendships and encouragement. This can ultimately release others into their God-given destiny.
‘Anxious hearts are very heavy, but a word of encouragement does wonders!’ (Proverbs 12:25).
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that You are the source of all encouragement. Please help me to be sensitive to the needs of others and to be able to give them encouragement by a simple word or action in a way that You will receive the glory. Amen.
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