|Acts 4:36 – “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas, (which means “son of encouragement”).”
Everyone grows discouraged. Life doesn’t work as it should. Our actions have no effect. We see no progress.
Anne Lamott in her book tells of her father and the effect on her brother.
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
A gentle hand guided the boy through his frustration.
In the Bible book of Acts, we meet a man early on in the story of the church. He was not an apostle. Through his life, he played second fiddle to greatness. He is paired with another but is mentioned second.
He had an outstanding trait. He was an encourager.
“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”),” (Acts 4:36, NIV)
His parents had named him Joseph. Others did not ask for his name. They watched what he did and gave him a new name. Encourager.
If you try to define encouragement, the word is egg-white tasteless. Embody it and people flock to it. Barnabas was the latter.
We meet him when life in Jerusalem looked grim. The needs of the hungry faces overwhelmed the meager resources. They needed someone to step forward, to give to help the needy. Barnabas primed the pump by giving a piece of property. Others joined. He encouraged.
He partnered with a young firebrand named Saul (whose Gentile name was Paul). They launched on the first great mission trip for Christianity. Barnabas had a nephew named John Mark. Somewhere on the trip, John Mark went back home.
A few years later, a second trip was planned, and Barnabas insisted on John Mark joining again. “He’s changed,” he must have said. Paul, with arms folded and foot firm, said, “NO.” So, they went their separate ways…Paul to Europe and Barnabas into obscurity.
While we don’t hear of Barnabas again, we hear of Mark. He makes his way to Rome where he joins himself as the scribe for an aging eyewitness of Jesus named Simon, also called Peter. He would write down Peter’s memories to share with others.
It would become the first printed story of the life, ministry, and mission of Jesus the Christ. His name was Mark.
Who wrote Mark? While the young turned-around turncoat put words to parchment, it could be said Barnabas helped write it. Where would Mark have been without the loving nudge of an uncle who believed in him?
Oh, that there were more Barnabases in this world! We all need someone to see the potential in the failure and a push when we want to stop.
When feelings grow raw, an arm around the shoulder comes. That’s a Barnabas.
When life looks bleak, put an arm around a shoulder and introduce yourself. “Hi, I am Barnabas.”
-Robert G. Taylor-