Who is your Barnabas?
I want to introduce you to one of my newest Bible heroes from 2017. He isn’t from 2017; I just took note of him for the first time this year. I came to learn about Barnabas as a supporting actor while studying Paul’s great accounts in Acts.
We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37:
“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”
Right away, we get a glimpse of his character in these 2 verses. His birth name is, in fact, Joseph but his friends found a more fitting nickname for him based on who he was. There were probably a LOT of apostles named Joseph so nicknames were nicer than calling him Joseph #82. And so we are introduced to Barnabas. This is quite a unique and memorable name which the Bible explains means “son of encouragement.” I also found that another meaning, in Hebrew, is “son of comfort.”
Immediately we see that Barnabas is a faith and works kind of guy as he generously and freely gave of his possessions to further the Kingdom of God in verse 37. It only gets better from here. Let’s look at Acts 9:27:
“But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul (soon to be Paul, see Acts 13:9) on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.”
Here is a little background on this verse. Paul, at least 3 years prior, had met God on the road to Damascus and was converted from his previous life of condoning the death of Christians to being a full-fledged, all-in warrior for Christ. Even though he had spent years boldly proclaiming the Gospel in Damascus, his reputation from his past life still lingered, causing some believers to find him untrustworthy.
“But Barnabas…” Praise God for people like Barnabas. Because he was willing to look beyond Paul’s horrendous past and see the new miracle at hand, he was able to convince his friends that this guy deserved a chance. Oh how I want to be more like Barnabas. Our society teaches us that we deserve to take revenge; it is our right to hold a grudge. But when God intervenes, may we be willing to set aside those feelings of entitlement and instead, be humbled. If we do, we may get to be a part of our greatest adventure yet! Think of what the New Testament would look like without Paul. Ok, no thank you. I don’t like that version at all! Barnabas was able to see the potential in Paul and knew he had to take a stand, even at his own expense. He was someone his friends obviously held in high esteem. To gain their trust, he had to have a reliable reputation himself; a proven track record of sorts that gave his opinion credibility. This is how the little decisions we make on a daily basis do affect our lives. When we think people may not notice our actions, remember Barnabas. Your life matters everyday!
Barnabas’ boldness opened the door for Paul to have comradery and community with those who walked with Christ on Earth. His faith was able to be influenced and strengthened even more, allowing his impact to grow exponentially. Although we don’t often hear about Barnabas from the pulpit, he was a model of excellence in his obedience and his availability to be used by God.
Paul clearly valued the friendship that he and Barnabas shared. So much that the next chapters in Acts give accounts of their effectiveness as an evangelistic duo. Who wouldn’t want someone with the nickname of “Encourager” around at all times? Especially for a life like Paul’s which was full of getting kicked out of towns, beaten, stoned, and imprisoned. Of course, I have a modern day Disney analogy to include. Can you imagine how sad Finding Nemo would have been if Marlin didn’t have Dory by his side to remind him continually to “Just keep swimming!”?
To conclude, I want to share one more passage about my new Bible hero. Acts 11:22-24 says:
“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.”
What a life! What a Testimony! His influence during his time on Earth was from something so simple, being encouraging. We can do the same if we make the choice. If we CHOOSE: to lift others up; to be kind to one another; to focus on the positive qualities of those we come in contact with. Go one step further and Tell someone how they have helped you or changed you for the better.
And with that I ask you, “Who is your Barnabas?” Who is it that has helped you keep going when you feel like giving up? Who is it that sees the beauty beyond your scars? A few of mine are: My husband (aka my biggest encourager), my parents, my sister, and my bestie. Who are yours? Share this post on facebook and tag them to let them know how much they mean to you!
One final passage as food for thought:
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5: 9-11
Do you have things in that you have done in the past, like Paul, that still cause others to have preconceived ideas about you? Things you are not proud of but can’t seem to shake? I hope you have, or can one day find, a Barnabas to stand up for you and break down the barriers put up by others. Even if you don’t, take heart in knowing that the greatest missionary in the New Testament also had a background that he wasn’t proud of by any means. The wonder of Salvation is that God looks beyond our past and sees our potential for greatness when we give our lives over to the Master. He can use us in ways unimaginable and allow us to leave a mark on this world. We just have to surrender.
Be encouraging, be encouraged, & Keep Shining!
~ Lindsey Alaine
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