36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. NLT
26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. 28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. NLT
Although Barnabas may not be well-known to you, he was actually well known in the early church. He is mentioned as one who was very generous in the church’s infancy (Acts 4:37). But did you know that Barnabas wasn’t his real name? It was Joseph. “Barnabas” was actually a nickname given to him by the apostles. “Barnabas” actually means “Son of Encouragement.”
Think about that. Nicknames are not usually conveyed on someone for no reason. A nickname may be a shortened version of a proper name (like, William being called Bill), or it may refer to a particular characteristic of a person (like, a vertically-challenged person being called, Shorty). And Joseph was an encourager, so he was called “Barnabas.” He lifted people…he lifted their spirits…he made a person’s day better just because he was around. He believed in people. When you left Barnabas’ presence, you were just glad that your path crossed his that day.
Barnabas saw people differently. He saw them with different eyes. His perception of people would often go cross-grain to the consensus. Why? Because he truly believed in the redeeming, transformational work of Christ, and he allowed that belief to shape the way he treated people. I’ve seen people get pigeon-holed because someone refused to recognize that a person can actually become “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” And it’s usually with reasons that may sound something like this, “Well, they have always been like that, and they will never change.” Barnabas didn’t believe like that.
It’s one thing to say you believe in someone, but it’s another thing to say you believe in someone…get in their corner…stand with that person in the face of opposition…and even help the person.
And that’s what Barnabas did for a man named Saul of Tarsus. Saul was well-known for being a hater of Christians…a man determined to destroy the early church…active in having believers (even families) imprisoned…standing by and consenting to the stoning death of Stephen. But Saul had a dramatic conversion to Christ on the road to Damascus while he was actively pursuing that agenda (Acts 9:1-19). And although many disciples were skeptical of Saul’s conversion and were still afraid of him, Barnabas wasn’t. He got in Saul’s corner. He even went on a missionary trip with him. In fact he even pastored a church in Antioch with Saul (Acts 11:25-26). No one else was willing to stick their neck out like that. But Barnabas the “Son of Encouragement” did.
Men, let’s be like Barnabas. Let’s be encouragers. Let’s believe in people. Let’s see people through the eyes of Christ. At times it may take courage, but God’s grace is well able to supply it. Is there someone you can lift today? I bet there is!
25 Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. NLT
Why don’t you encourage someone’s heart today, and you can be a “Son of Encouragement,” too.
“Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Be the one that finds the gold.”