In the book of Acts we read of a Christian named Joseph who was given an interesting nickname. The apostles called him "Barnabas" (Acts 4:36). As Luke (who wrote the book of Acts) translates, Barnabas means "Son of Encouragement." What an interesting name. What a way to be remembered? Can we learn a lesson from the man who earned such a title? Letís see.
When the reader examines the context that introduces Barnabas, he will notice the environment that the apostles were in. The earlier portion of Acts 4 gives the account of Peter and John performing a work of healing in Jesusí name, and subsequently being thrown in jail. The text immediately following the introduction of Barnabas gives the account of a very sad situation the apostles had to handle within the church (the treachery of Ananias and Sapphira).
Life was difficult for the early Christians, especially for the apostles. The apostle Paul gives this telling assessment of what it was like to be an apostle:
"For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day" (1 Cor 4:9-13).
Thank God they were willing to bear the burden of the cross so that everyone could know the truth of the gospel! We should do the same. Realizing the difficulties that lay before the apostles, it is easy to see why they would love a man like the one they named Barnabas.
While the majority of Christians serving today may never face the extreme trials the apostles faced, there are still many obstacles to overcome. Isnít it wonderful, when things are not going as well as you would like them to, to hear an encouraging word? Barnabas was a valuable addition to the work of the Lordís church in the days of the apostles, because he encouraged them in the face of the challenges of their great task. Modern "Sons and Daughters of Encouragement" can do great things for the Lord with their pats on the back, and reassuring comments. Weíre all in the Lordís body together, and we share this holy work. Be an encourager. I hope that Encouragement has many, many more children yet to be named!