As I sat at lunch with a friend a while back, he made and interesting observation and said, “where are those who would be like Barnabas today?” The thought of that really triggered my mind to think of how we all could use a person like that, of how nice it would be to have someone come along beside us and encourage us like Barnabas did as you see in the book of Acts. Everyone needs someone like Barnabas in their life, especially today when we are flooded with critics all around us. It seems people, even Christians are on the sidelines waiting to pounce on just about everyone with criticism. It’s almost like the “sport of choice.” How sad to criticize and pile a person who makes a mistake or is cast down. Indeed, “where are those who would step up and be like Barnabas today?”
Let’s take a look at this man named Barnabas in the Bible and see if we can learn a thing or two about being a blessing to others in the “spirit of Barnabas.”
There was a man described in the book of Acts in the Bible as the “son of encouragement” whose name was Barnabas.
Acts 4:32–37 (ESV) — 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
The “son of encouragement” lived up to his name. When God took an enemy of the church, Saul of Tarsus, a man who persecuted believers and made him a follower of Jesus Christ, people were skeptical of his conversion and quite frankly scared of him. Barnabas steps up to encourage and defend him, paving the way of acceptance which furthered the ministry of the man now known as “Paul.”
Acts 9:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
Barnabas continued living up to his reputation as the “son of encouragement” when his nephew Mark wanted to travel with himself and Paul. Paul was not too keen on the idea since Mark had previously deserted them when things became a little difficult. After some words of disagreement between Paul and Barnabas, the son of encouragement stood with the rejected Mark so much that he was willing to separate from his dear friend Paul, and travel with Mark.
Acts 15:36–40 (ESV) — 36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.
This account may seem small or insignificant, but this is believed to be the same Mark who spent time with Peter, the same Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark, and the same Mark of whom Paul wrote later was very useful for ministry.
What about Barnabas is needed today? We need someone who will believe in us, stand by us, defend us, and be willing to suffer loss as a result of standing with us. Quite frankly, that is a definition of a true friend.
Proverbs 18:24 (ESV) — 24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Of course, that is a perfect description of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the ultimate source of encouragement.
Back to Barnabas and how we might find someone to be a Barnabas to us. There’s good advice in the proceeding verse in the KJV.
Proverbs 18:24 (KJV) — 24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: And there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
If you need a Barnabas in your life, someone who will defend you in the midst being surrounded by critics, then be a Barnabas to someone else. If you take up the mantle of Barnabas and stand by your friend, pointing them to the One who sticks closer than a brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, you’ll soon realize there are people around you who are like Barnabas, but you may not have realized it when you focused on your need, rather than on being a Barnabas to someone. In other words, when we imitate the real son of encouragement, the Lord Jesus Christ, we find the blessing of His consolation, which often comes through others.
Where are those who would be like Barnabas today? Look first in the mirror. This is something we can all strive to be.