Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
We have the world’s largest dress-up collection.
But after my daughters choose their perfect outfits, they find themselves missing a piece in most of their fairy-tale games.
They can play Sleeping Beauty, but there’s no prince to wake her up.
They can play Cinderella, but there’s not much point in going to a ball if you have no dance partner.
They can play Snow White, but once she eats the poisoned apple, she’s a goner without a prince to rescue her.
With three girls in the family, we’ve got the princess roles pretty well covered, but we’re always missing the prince. My oldest daughter always suggests what seems like the perfect solution, “Mom, if you just had a boy than he could play with us.”
Never mind that he won’t pop out of the womb and instantly be ready to ride over the hill and wake sleeping princesses. Or that even if they waited until he was five years old, he might prefer playing Legos to wearing tights and a feather cap and dancing at balls.
My girls are missing a role.
It’s made me think about the roles we are sometimes missing in our own lives and ministries. Maybe we all could do some recruiting for some open positions in our circle of friends.
Job posting #1: Barnabas
- Must be willing to believe in you when no one else does.
- Must always “have your back” and stand up for you against opposition.
- Must know exactly the right encouraging words to say when you need it most.
- Must be willing to work alongside you and give you friendship and practical help in whatever God calls you to do.
All applications will be considered. Deadline for applying is as soon as you can! Equal opportunity employer.
Have you ever had one of those days when you just needed someone to put their arms around you and say, “You’re great. You’re beautiful. I believe in you. What you do matters. Don’t quit. I’m with you all the way.”?
You need a Barnabas.
We all do, I suppose.
It’s hard for any of us to be strong and confident on the tough days when our hair doesn’t look right in the mirror and the ten outfits we try on make us look frumpy. Oh, and of course a runway model stands next to us in line just to accentuate our plainness.
We tend all day to needs that seem so vital to the little people at our feet, but don’t ever seem to make it on the news.
We pour ourselves daily into ministries that don’t make a bestseller list or pack arenas and at times seem to make so little difference, no one would care if you quit.
We make ourselves vulnerable and put ourselves out there in obedience to God’s call and others come trampling all over our dreams with massive steel-toed boots of apathy or even outright opposition.
Yes, we surely need a Barnabas.
Paul certainly did.
Paul didn’t start out as a massively famous and successful missionary who penned the bulk of the New Testament. He began as a devout Jewish man named Saul who was famous for his brutal persecution of the early church.
When he encountered the resurrected Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and dramatically converted to Christianity, the disciples didn’t welcome him into the Christian fold with welcome arms either.
They were terrified of him, “not believing that he was a real disciple” (Acts 9:26).
The church thought Saul was a faker with a capital “F.” Everyone except Barnabas, that is.
Luke writes, “But Barnabas took him (Saul) and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord” (Acts 9:27).
This was Barnabas’s great spiritual gift, encouraging others in their faith and bolstering their ministry. In fact, his real name was Joseph, but the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas, “which means ‘son of encouragement'” (Acts 4:36).
It makes sense then that Barnabas would believe in Saul when no one else did.
He wasn’t just a source of encouragement for Saul. In the early days of the church, the Gospel message was spreading, but only to Jews at first. When some people crossed the line and started telling Gentiles about Jesus, the church leaders weren’t too sure that this was acceptable.
So, who did they send to visit with the Greek believers in Antioch?
Barnabas, of course. Just like he did with Saul, he put aside prejudice and “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” (Acts 11:23-24).
Barnabas was forever encouraging others, telling them “Don’t quit. Don’t give up. I see God at work in you.”
Even when others counted people out, he had the faith to see what God was doing in their lives. Not only that, he put himself on the line in order to give the ministry of others a boost.
He didn’t just affirm God’s call on Saul’s life, he said, “I’ll come alongside and join you in your work. I’ll travel with you. I’ll endure hardship and persecution because I believe in the call God has placed on your heart.”
Without Barnabas, would we have Paul? Would the Gospel have spread to Gentiles everywhere? Would Paul’s New Testament epistles be written?
Maybe not. It took someone with the gift of encouragement to help Saul reach the full potential of the Paul we know.
We all need a Barnabas.
And we all need to be a Barnabas for others. Someone today needs you to be a Barnabas for them. How will you be the encouragement they need?
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.