Vol. 4, No. 12
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There are words in every language which are considered beautiful because of the concepts they represent. In our language, the word encouragement is a beautiful word because of the concept which it represents. If one were to consult a modern American dictionary for a definition of this word, he would find a definition, or definitions, very similar to this: "Encouragement is that which gives courage, hope, or confidence." This is a very short definition, but it says a great deal, especially when it is applied to the living of the Christian life.
Neither Satan nor the world make it easy for one to live a life dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, if Satan can devise a way to get us to become discouraged with living the Christian life he has gone a great way in getting us to give up on and walk out on the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not know what caused Demas to forsake the apostle Paul and go to Thessalonica, but it may have been that Satan was able to discourage him through the trials and persecutions which were endured by the apostle Paul and those who worked with him in ancient times.
When we see one faltering or languishing in living for Christ due to the discouragements of this life, we should immediately go to that person with words and deeds which will help them to experience a resurgence of courage, hope and confidence in the living of the Christian life. It seems to this writer that one of the great privileges of preaching is to do that in such a way as to be an encourager of the brethren. We say that because there is not a person anywhere in the kingdom of Christ who does not need to be encouraged from time to time. And in especially hard times, we will need more reinforcement for our faith, hope and courage than usual.
If one were to look for a personification of encouragement, he would have to look no further than Acts 4:36-37 in which we find a part of the story of a man named Barnabas. This man became a great co-worker of the apostle Paul, and was, as a matter of fact, the man who vouched for Paul before the apostles at Jerusalem. Further, after he had gone back to Tarsus, Barnabas brought him back to Antioch from which these men moved forth to carry the Gospel to the Greek and Latin speaking sections of the Roman world.
Of this great man the Scriptures say,
"And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet" (Act 4:36-37).
This man did such an excellent job of giving courage, hope and confidence to other people that the apostles decided to change his name from Joses to Barnabas! God has not made us privy to all the ways in which Barnabas served as an encourager of the brethren, but he has mentioned one very important way. This great Christian man, who was by birth a Jew and a citizen of the Tribe of Levi, was also a native of a small island country that is known to this day as Cyprus. What the circumstances were which made it possible for him to be born on this island, and why some of the Levites had gotten so far away from the Temple in Jerusalem, we do not know. Perhaps his ancestors had gone there during the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes. But what is really important is to note that he was a property owner on that island. Without any coercion on the part of the apostles or anyone else, and because he realized there were Christians in Jerusalem who were in need physically, Barnabas sold his land and brought the money to the apostles to be distributed among those in need. What a liberal and encouraging man!
We do not know what else Barnabas might have owned because the Bible does not tell us, but there is no implication that he was a very wealthy man. Perhaps this little bit of land on Cyprus was all that Barnabas had for his retirement home! But whatever the circumstances were, he became an encouragement to so many people when he voluntarily sold that land to help provide the daily necessities for the Christians in Jerusalem. This would have been a great source of courage, hope and confidence to the people who were most directly affected by the generous donation of this man of God. They would become encouraged by the fact that God, in his divine providence, was going to care for them though things did not always go smoothly! Think of the hope it would give them for the future! It would also give them the courage to share with others in need what little they might have had at that time. This one Bible example lights a beacon on the way that we too may become "encouragers" like Joses who was renamed Barnabas. Let each of us ask himself, "What kind of encourager am I?" Let us strive to be a Barnabas!