The Blessing of Encouragers
But Barnabas took [Saul] and brought him to the apostles. Acts 9:27
The 2010 movie The King’s Speech tells the story of England’s King George VI, who unexpectedly became monarch when his brother abandoned the throne. With the country on the brink of World War II, government officials wanted a well-spoken leader because of the increasingly influential role of radio. King George VI, however, struggled with a stuttering problem.
I was especially drawn to the film’s portrayal of George’s wife, Elizabeth. Throughout his struggle to overcome his speech difficulty, she was his constant source of encouragement. Her steadfast devotion provided the support he needed to overcome his challenge and rule well during the war.
The Bible highlights the stories of encouragers who gave powerful assistance during challenging circumstances. Moses had Aaron and Hur’s support during Israel’s battles (Exodus 17:8–16). Elizabeth encouraged her pregnant relative Mary (Luke 1:42–45).
After his conversion, Paul needed the support of Barnabas, whose name literally means “son of encouragement.” When the disciples were fearful of Paul, Barnabas, at the risk of his own reputation, vouched for him (Acts 9:27). His endorsement was essential to Paul being welcomed by the Christian community. Barnabas later served as Paul’s traveling and preaching companion (Acts 14). Despite the dangers, they worked together to proclaim the gospel.
Believers in Jesus are still called to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). May we be eager to offer encouragement to help support others, especially as they face difficult circumstances.
Barnabas was an encourager. In the Scriptures, he is singled out as a believer who encouraged others by his generosity (Acts 4:36–37). He encouraged Paul, as we see in today’s text, and he also played a critical role in encouraging John Mark, a young man who was deemed an unreliable failure by Paul because he had abandoned the first missionary journey (13:13). Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on the second missionary trip, but Paul refused, causing a severe break in their partnership (15:36–39). Barnabas took a risk and gave John Mark a second chance, restoring him to effective ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). Without Barnabas, there might not have been the great theologian Paul, who wrote thirteen books of the New Testament, or John Mark, who wrote the gospel of Mark.
Who has been a “Barnabas” to you by encouraging you, believing in you, and restoring you to wholeness and usefulness? Will you be a Barnabas to someone who needs a fresh start?