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Encouraged And Encouraging

Acts 11:22-26
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. (NIVUK)

As the church grew, the leaders in Jerusalem wanted to safeguard the gospel from corruption, and prevent the new congregations from falling into the hands of false teachers. At the same time, so many new and unexpected things were happening, the apostles needed to learn what God was doing. So when they heard about the rapid church growth in Antioch, they sent Barnabas to find out what was happening.

Barnabas was originally a Jew from Cyprus. His real name was Joseph and he was a Levite (Acts 4:36). He was the cousin of John Mark who lived in Jerusalem (Colossians 4:10) with his mother, Mary, who hosted an early house church (Acts 12:12). Barnabas was a nickname meaning ‘son of encouragement’ because he was such a positive example to the church (Acts 4:36). He loved encouraging people, sharing the gospel and pastoring the new believers.

Saul of Tarsus had been converted, but many believers were afraid of him so Barnabas introduced him to the apostles (Acts 9:27) before they advised that he went back to his home city as Jerusalem was too dangerous (Acts 9:29-30). A little time had passed and now Barnabas realised that Saul could be very useful in evangelising the Gentiles in Antioch as well as teaching the church. So he took Saul from Tarsus to Antioch and shared a fruitful teaching ministry with him. As the church grew the believers, previously known as 'people of the way' (Acts 9:2), were called Christians.

The 'secret' of Barnabas' ministry was to see what God was doing, to encourage people that it was of God, and to embolden them to join in - helping to build His kingdom. He was able to mobilise people because he was a man of godly character, with competent teaching skills, and the kind of charisma which is genuinely motivated and warmly positive towards people. They wanted to be led by a person like that. He was encouraged by what God was doing so he encouraged others to keep on working with God. The gift of encouragement is so much needed today. Not flattery or manipulation, false promises or unkind management – but real, authentic, from-the-heart encouragement. A person who sees that God is at work and is able to mobilise others to join in whole-heartedly. If you are not yet that kind of person, pray that you might become like that: your discerning encouragement may unlock many fruitful ministries.

Lord of the Church. Thank You for the people who have encouraged me to come to know You and to keep walking with You. I am so sorry for the times when I have not encouraged Your people or been eager that my friends and colleagues might find Jesus. Please help me to practise encouraging people – change my heart so that I may be able to do that. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams