Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
May 2, 2010
Everybody needs a few good friends like Barnabas
Though I do not know anyone named Barnabas, I love the name. Barnabas is synonymous with encouragement. And while none of my friends is actually named Barnabas, I have many friends who are Barnabas to me. That is, they constantly encourage me to be the best that I can be.
Encouragement is such a beautiful gift. Everybody needs it. Everybody can give it. And everybody is blessed by it. All it costs is a little extra kindness and understanding.
I don’t mind admitting that I soak up encouragement like a sponge. Life is difficult. Some people are harsh; some are even cruel. So the kind encouragement of a friend is like a gentle breeze on a sultry summer day. My life would have been impossible without the good friends who have been Barnabas to me.
Barnabas is a biblical name. It was the name given to a disciple of Jesus because of the way he lived. His proper name was Joses but his friends decided to call him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”
Many times as a pastor I chose a verse by Doctor Luke as the text for funeral eulogies. I used it when I could honestly say of a deceased brother, “Like Barnabas, he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”
Such men may be rare but they do live among us, and it is a joyous privilege to enjoy their friendship. They are the men who always show up to lend a helping hand no matter what needs to be done. They are the ones who, realizing that you are discouraged can lift you up with a kind word that helps you find the courage not to give up.
People are different. They often acquire nicknames that are born out of their attitudes and behavior. Most of us have known a “Grumpy,” who complained about everything; or a “Skinflint,” who was as tight as the bark on a tree when it came to giving.
Barnabas became the encourager because he encouraged fellow Christians to love each other and do their best. When the young church in Antioch needed help, Barnabas was sent by the church in Jerusalem to encourage them. I love the way Doctor Luke says Barnabas began his work in Antioch.
The first thing Barnabas did was to observe that God was already at work there. He realized that he had not come to “bring” God to the people. He was “glad” about what he saw happening in the little fellowship. He encouraged people by being glad!
He did not come into town breathing prophetic fire and pronouncing judgment upon the people. He did not chastise them for their sins. Instead, he celebrated what God was doing and to borrow a phrase from the Psalmist, Barnabas “served the Lord with gladness”!
No wonder many people were “added to the Lord,” for a joyful spirit is contagious. The winsome personality of Barnabas attracted people to the fellowship.
Barnabas, however, was much more than a “happy” fellow to have around for a few days. He had solid faith and knew the value of living with people long enough to build solid relationships. He brought in his friend Paul and together they taught their fellow believers for “a whole year.”
So was Barnabas a perfect saint? No, absolutely not. The Bible, thank God, shows us the flaws of people as well as their strengths. Conflict developed between Barnabas and Paul and they parted company.
We know very little about the incident except that the two men disagreed about taking John Mark on their missionary journey. We have no need to judge which man was right. Indeed, both may have been wrong by having a contentious spirit.
What is important is to see that conflict need not disqualify us from serving others. We will have disagreements with fellow Christians. When conflicts occur we can seek the grace to resolve them, mend our relationships wherever possible, and resume living at peace with others.
At the end of our lives, it will not matter much how many times we have been “right” in our arguments with fellow believers. Indeed some of us may need to admit that we are not always right! Sometimes we can be right in our opinion but wrong in allowing a self-righteous attitude to weaken our witness.
What will matter finally is whether we did what we could to encourage other people. People all around us are tired, lonely, angry and hurting. Every fellowship needs more than one Barnabas.
If we are willing we can stop complaining and practice gladness of heart with others. We can refuse to let conflict win the day and find loving ways to renew friendships when disagreements occur. We can be the first to say, “I was wrong; let us settle our differences and try to work to together.” To intentionally live like that is to be an encourager like Barnabas. Perhaps there is no better way to live out our days. + + +