Today’s reading is on Barnabas in Acts 11, 13, and 14.
One of the most supportive practices in marriage my wife and I maintain is the constant encouragement we provide each other. From helping each other manage the day-to-day routines when they wear us down, or from pushing each other to pursue our loftier aspirations and goals, the encouragement she has provided me has been invaluable in getting through tough times. Providing encouragement for her as well offers an interesting opportunity to build up people around us, not only in our own rapport, but in the experiences and paths they may encounter that lead them closer to God.
Enter Barnabas, member of the church in Jerusalem, moved when he heard the Lord’s word. According to Acts 11:24, Barnabas was “a g good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” He was evidently adept at speaking and filling others with spiritual direction, as evidenced by how it’s further told after preaching to the church in Antioch, “a great number of people were brought to the Lord” after he spoke. In fact, Barnabas’s name itself, depending on the translation of the original Hebrew text, could mean “son of encouragement,” “son of exhortation”, or “son of consolation” – it’s clear this man had a talent for building up others.
So why is Barnabas so notable? It’s through his help we see Paul grow into the great missionary role he fills. It’s back in Acts 9 that Barnabas introduces Saul to the apostles after his revelation when no one else wanted anything to do with him. In Acts 13 they’re originally called by the Holy Spirit to serve as missionaries, we see Barnabas as the prophet and teacher originally mentioned, but quickly see Paul taking charge and growing into a great teacher in his own right. In Paul’s journey to spreading the word to countless people and eventually prison where the Epistles that would be included in the Bible were written, we see Barnabas helping all along the way, helping Paul along his path to his calling.
The importance of a good teacher can not be overstated – I’m sure some people reading this might be teachers, and to you I say thank you for your work. In Barnabas’s journeys across Israel, we see the power of spiritual teachers and encouragers, those who help others along their spiritual paths. Clearly, the importance of this spiritual assistance was not lost on Paul, who wrote about this very thing multiple times in his letters to the churches. In Colossians 3:16, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” In Titus 2:7, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” And in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, he says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”
Being encouraging and kind to others is simply the decent thing to do. But beyond that, building up and helping others learn and grow in their faith in the Lord does magnitudes for the Kingdom. Your sharing in spiritual wisdom and teaching empowers not only your fellow believers, but brings God joy from the gratitude and servitude your actions show. Building up others and strengthening their connection with the Lord reaps lifelong effects, bringing them ever closer to God. And when they grow closer to God, their lives with be more full of joy and peace that would ever be possible otherwise. So in all times, look to how you can advise and build up your brothers and sisters in Christ in order to further God’s glory.