Primary texts: “Let everyone of us please his neighbor for his good to edification; for even Christ did not please himself.” (Rom.15:2-3A) “Pleasant words are as honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” (Prov.16:24).
Encouragement is the great picker-upper-the stimuli that everyone needs. Look around and you’ll realize there isn’t one person who is really as confident and trusting as he seems to be-what would the world look like if we all practiced what Solomon and Paul preached?
Paul directs our attention to Jesus as our prime example of human conduct. When Jesus is central in our lives others will feel safe in being around us. Barnabas takes the spot light as the “Great Encourager.” Early in his ministry Paul lacked credibility with the Christian church because of his cruel and relentless past to Christians; so, it would be natural for them not to accept him as ‘who’ he says he is. Thank God there was a Barnabas who affirmed Paul’s calling; it was only through his encouragement that the church accepted Saul/Paul as a genuine fellow believer (Acts 9:27-31)
Barnabas was sent to the church at Antioch that was failing and he helped it to become one of the most influential (Acts 11:22-26) It was through Barnabas’ encouragement as well as Paul’s that the Jerusalem church embraced the Gentile Christians as their spiritual brothers and sisters (15:12-20)
Not only did Barnabas introduce Paul as a brother in the faith, but assisted in some of his ministry journeys. Without a Barnabas we might not have had Paul as the great evangelist, scholar and teacher who trail-blazed the gospel of Christ Jesus across continents; thus in the early church, encouragement loomed large.
We might not consider encouragement as ‘just a positive word;’ but, we could fail to realize the power that it possesses. Let’s be grateful for the encouragement we receive and strive to pass it on to others. A word or act of encouragement can make the difference between success and failure, life and death.
Rev. Barbara McFarlane.