Acts 4:36-37 – And so it was that Joseph, a Levite born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means "one who encourages" sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles.
I shall never forget that letter. A few days before, I had conducted worship in an area church. At the door, following the service, there were expressions of appreciation and enthusiastic handshakes from departing worshippers. This letter, however, was special. The person had taken the time and effort to write some carefully chosen words of gratitude in addition to the handshake at the door. My spirits were lifted, my heart was warmed, but most of all, I was encouraged at a deep level. Encouragement is an essential element in all our lives. We welcome it!. We need it!
Recently I read about an English teacher, who, when he corrected an assignment, "did not only score and underline; he rewrote and transformed". He did not simply point out what was wrong but showed a better way, and he always wrote encouraging comments. For a boy who was eager to become a writer, he put this comment along with a correction: "Capital! Read all the good English you can, take pains, and presently you will do something worth doing." That boy did succeed, thanks, in a large degree, to a teacher who encouraged him.
In the New Testament, Barnabas, a fellow worker with the apostle Paul, is remembered chiefly as one who encouraged others. On one occasion John Mark, the writer of the second Gospel, had deserted them on a missionary journey. Barnabas wanted to give him another chance to continue with them, but Paul flatly refused. There was a sharp argument and Barnabas took Mark and went on a different mission. Barnabas encouraged the younger man and gave him another chance. Many recognize this as crucial in the life of Mark. Later we find Paul acknowledging that Mark had been doing good work and wanted him to join him once more. Without the encouragement from Barnabas we might not have a "Gospel According to Mark" nor much effective work that he accomplished in several places.
There are plenty among us ready to complain and criticize. What we very much need are those who will be encouragers. Many years ago Dale Carnegie published a book with the title How to Make Friends and Influence People. It was a run away bestseller. The emphasis throughout was on showing appreciation by giving praise and thanks in every way possible.
Fortunately we can all do this. It may be a letter, a phone call or a kindly word of praise in a conversation. It will really make a difference. Do try it and see for yourself. As a by-product you may glow a bit on the inside too.
Prayer: For your unfailing care and compassion for us, O God, and for the ways in which you encourage us, we praise and thank you. And now it is our prayer that you will help us, like your gracious servant Barnabas, to be one of those who encourage others, and in this way help them grow toward their full potential for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.