Names are important. Let’s look at a man who was nicknamed, “Barnabas.” His name means “Encourager,” “Son of Consolation.” His real name was Joses, or Joseph. Some people are encouragers — some are discouragers.
Ever meet a discourager? Like a drink of water to a drowning man, they can brighten up a room by leaving it. Discouragement is a dark room where the negatives of fear and failure are developed. Bill Glass is an evangelist. He was speaking in a prison to an audience of over 1,000 prisoners. He asked them this question, “How many of you were told by your parents that one day you would end up in prison?” Almost every one of them lifted his hand. Some encouragement! It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
God has cornered the market — all encouragement comes from God. So all discouragement comes from the devil. God is the God of all consolation, and encouragement (2 Corinthians 1:3). You’re never more like God than when you are encouraging people, and never more like the devil than when you’re discouraging people. We all need a Barnabas — somebody who will encourage us. Let’s look at five instances in the life of Barnabas who encouraged people as a master mentor.
1. FIND A NEEDY PERSON, ENRICH HIM — ENCOURAGE THEM IN THEIR FINANCES
This was a time of great persecution. These early Christians had their goods confiscated. Many of them were hiding in secret caves, or put to death. Barnabas was a wealthy man — he was a landowner (Acts 4:36-37). He sold his land, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and said, “Use this for someone who needs help.” He knew the difference between ownership and stewardship. Levites weren’t supposed to own land. They were supported by freewill offerings of the Lord’s people. He was a burden-bearer, a load-lifter. He saw a need, and he met it. There may be someone you know who’s struggling right now financially. You could help them.
“But Pastor, if I give them what I have, then I may not have enough left when I need it for myself.” Friend, it’s not what you keep in the barn that multiplies — it’s what you sow that multiplies. God says, “Give and it shall be given you.” He took the resources God gave him, and he used it for those who were hurting. No money? You can give love, or help. For those who are ill, homebound, single moms — do some yard work, help them with housework or grocery shopping; service their car; rotate their tires. Be a good role model for a child. Be a tutor. Take a small boy fishing. Visit an elderly shut-in. retired executive, businessman — you can give wisdom. Live next door to a newlywed couple? They don’t even know how to set up a budget. Do someone’s income taxes for them. There is so much we have to give to others. Barney means “Son of Encouragement — Son of Refreshment.” When people are around you, are they refreshed?
2. FIND A LONELY PERSON, INCLUDE HIM — ENCOURAGE THEM IN THEIR FRIENDSHIPS
Three years had passed since Saul’s conversion. Nobody knew where he had gone. The Church had heard rumors he was saved, but had vanished. They had enjoyed a rest from persecution. Now Saul was back. Worse yet, back in Jerusalem. Worse still, he was seeking to join the fellowship of the church. Everyone was frightened. He was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin — they didn’t trust him. “. . . but Barnabas took him. . .” (Acts 9:26-27). Barnabas moved in to this lonely man; he reached out and took him in.
There are lonely people who desperately need your love — who desperately need you to include them. That new convert has lost most of his former friends. A friend is someone who comes in when everyone else has gone out. We need to be careful. A Bible fellowship or house group can become a “Sacred Society for Snubbing Sinners.” A psychiatrist said: “70% of today’s population suffers from chronic loneliness.” The Apostle Paul never forgot what Barnabas did for him. Paul knew what it was like to be received because he knew what it was like to be rejected. He wrote “Wherefore receive you one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). Barnabas was a load-lifter. A Friend-finder. Do you have a sacrificial friend (not based on cost)? A selfless friend (not based on condition)? A steadfast friend (not based on comfort)?
(Click thumbnail to view larger image. Then use your browser’s Back button to return to this page.) Mentors lift the lonely and misunderstood just as Barnabas sponsored Paul.
3. FIND A MISUNDERSTOOD PERSON, AFFIRM HIM — ENCOURAGE THEM IN THEIR FEAR
Our scene shifts to Antioch. People are coming to Christ! Revival fires are breaking out everywhere (Acts 11:20-24). The heads of the Jerusalem church send Barnabas to investigate: is it wild fire or genuine fire? Barnabas arrives, sees the unusual work of the Spirit and an explosion of Greek and Roman converts! Babes in Christ starting out need your affirmation and mentoring with the Word of God. Barnabas risked possible reaction from the Jerusalem authorities by immediately asking Saul to come and together they taught the church there for a year. They were called “Christians” first there, because of the two men‘s constant emphasis on the person of Christ.
There are three kinds of leaders: Risk-takers, Care-takers, and Under-takers. Do you know someone who’s getting ready to start something that needs encouragement? They want to write a book, advance their education, start a business. Trying to have a baby, or want to adopt. Affirm them. There’s fear. A mentor comes alongside and says, “Hey, I believe in you. I believe in the grace of God I see in you and through you.” Barnabas: Burden-bearer, Friend-finder, and Bridge-builder.
4. FIND A POTENTIAL PERSON, DEVELOP HIM — ENCOURAGE THEM IN THEIR FAITH
Barnabas saw the new church in Antioch and said, “We need someone to help disciple (see Acts 11:25-26). Who do I ask? Peter? Too impulsive. Maybe James? Too rigid. John? No, too emotional. Philip? Too busy. I know: Paul!” A bold move! “I need a man to enlarge the church, encourage the Christians, and evangelize the city.” Barnabas was bringing in a man bigger than he was. Bigger in talent and genius; bigger in grasp of truth; bigger in breadth of vision; bigger in boldness of action. Spurgeon, the great pastor and preacher, said, “It takes more grace than I can tell to play the second fiddle well.”
Barney wasn’t interested in starting a cult called “Barney’s Boys.” A mentor sees potential and gives time and love to develop others. Barnabas never wrote a book in the Bible, but over half of the New Testament as we know it was written by the guys he encouraged through mentoring: Paul and Mark. Not everyone is a great leader, but you can be a great encourager. A Burden-bearer. A Friend-finder and Bridge-builder. And a Disciple-developer!
5. FIND A FAILING PERSON, RESTORE HIM — ENCOURAGE THEM IN THEIR FAILURE
Later Paul’s the leader on a new mission trip. Barnabas is a follower. Paul and Barnabas disagreed on taking Mark on a new ministry (see Acts 15:36-41). Paul was thinking, “This is not a nursery school. John Mark’s a quitter, a momma’s boy. He quit once, he’ll quit again.” So Barnabas took John Mark — found this failure, this quitter, and put his arm around him. Paul took Silas.
Who was right? Paul was — logically. Barnabas was — lovingly! Failure is not final if you have a mentor. Be a Failure-fixer. Years later, Paul is under a death sentence and writes, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). Someone Paul didn’t trust later became profitable because of the mentoring of Barnabas. Mark is still profitable, enriching us with his action-packed Gospel. And much of his narrative is quoted by Matthew and Luke.
Editor: Let’s think together about the two giants in ministry, the “first team” in Acts? Wouldn’t we agree it is Peter and then Paul, who dominate this book? Then how do we raise up Peter’s and Paul’s in our churches? Through the mentoring of a potential mentor: an Andrew and a Barnabas! They find the world changers. There is an Andrew, a Barnabas (male or female) in your church NOW. They are like budding flowers which need a bit more sun and rain to blossom to maturity. As they grow, God will use them to find and train the world-changers. The first team is really Andrew and Barnabas. Will you be God’s mentor this year to seek out, through prayer and encouragement, a first team guy or gal?
Ken Whitten, our family friend, is senior Pastor of Exciting Idlewild Baptist in Tampa, FL. He has held many offices of honor with Southern Baptists in Florida. He was recently President of the Pastor’s Conference, SBC, and serves on the Board of International Mission Board.