This morning I want to begin by telling you the story of a man named Joseph. Joseph was a Jewish Christian who lived in the first century. While he wasn’t extremely rich, he was a landowner.
He lived in a time and place in which many of the early Christians were being greatly persecuted. So, one of the things Joseph did to help them was to sell his land and give the money he made to the group of believers in Jerusalem. However, not only were those early Christians being stripped of their finances, their very lives were being threatened for following Jesus. Therefore, Joseph traveled the land to build up those believers and persuaded them to keep on keeping on in their commitment to Christ.
He was much loved… and even though you’ve probably never heard of Joseph’s name, the early church knew him well. He was highly regarded among them.
In fact, he was so highly regarded that the leaders of the early church assigned him the job of teaming up with a new convert to the faith… a fellow who was stirring up a bunch of trouble. You see, this new convert had been a great persecutor of the early church, but now, seemingly out of nowhere, he was a disciple of Jesus. It seems the folks in the early church found it difficult to trust him, as you can imagine.
What he needed desperately was for someone greatly loved and trusted to come along side him and help him build bridges to the rest of the early church. And that’s exactly what Joseph did. In fact, Joseph did such a good job that he was eventually eclipsed by the mighty work that God did in and through the life of this new disciple. This new disciple of Jesus became one of the most influential missionaries and theologians the Church, in any age, had ever seen.
Now, I’m betting some of you have figured out who that “new convert” was. It was Saul of Tarsus who, of course, became the Apostle Paul.
But maybe some of you aren’t quite sure who Joseph was. Well, I bet you know him by his nickname: Barnabas. The name Barnabas meant, “Son of Encouragement,” and that’s exactly who Barnabas was. He was a great encourager.
One of the main definitions of “encourage” is… “to come along side of.” That’s exactly what Barnabas did.
He came along side the early church when they needed money. He sold his land and gave the profits to the early church in Jerusalem.
He came along side the persecuted believers and lifted their spirits with the message of the Gospel and by reminding them of the hope they had in God.
He came along side Paul when he was distrusted and disliked by so many folks… and he helped build bridges between Paul and the early churches.
Barnabas was a great encourager. And, as our Scripture reminds us this morning, that’s our call as well. Even though there appears to be a particular gift of encouragement that some folks have, all of us are called to a ministry of encouragement.
Let me ask you a question…
Can you think of anything quite as meaningful and as powerful as a well-timed word of encouragement from a family member or close friend? Encouraging and comforting words are like a balm. They’re healing. Listen to how the book of Proverbs describes encouraging words…
Proverbs 15:23 – A man finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!
Proverbs 25:11 – A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is that your experience? Can you relate to that?
Let me ask you a few more questions…
Who is that person in your life… that person you want to hear from more than anyone else… when you’re scared or discouraged or depressed or hurting? When your world is crumbling all around you, who is that one person you know will have a word of encouragement for you? What is it that they do or say that makes them that person for you?
Now here’s a harder question for you…
Who in your life would say that you are that person for them? Are you an encourager? Do you seek to build folks up with your words and presence… or tear them down? James puts it this way in James 3:9-10…
James 3:9-10 – With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be
Indeed… it shouldn’t be. But sadly, it all too often is. Do y’all know what I’m talking about?
Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.
Grace and Truth,