Barnabas, the Encourager

Bible Verses About Encouragement 1

People often come to the Bible, looking for Bible verses about encouragement. And why not?

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People Need Encouragement

1.     Because they are undertaking something new that seems daunting.

2.     Because they are uncertain of what comes next.

3.     They know themselves and know how prone they are to wander.

4.     Because they are discouraged.

5.     Because they have been disappointed by others.

6.     Because they have disappointed themselves.

7.     Because too many things have gone wrong.

The New Testament, as you know, was written in Greek. The Greek word for encouragement means someone who comes alongside and supports. There is the idea of an attorney who is there to advocate and to make sure that you have all the help you need.

The Bible has a lot to say about encouragement, but encouragement rarely comes directly from God. Are you surprised? I was. I was looking for verses of encouragement for you and found that encouragement usually comes from other people.

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Let me introduce you to Barnabas.

The first time we meet him in the Bible is in Acts 4:36-37. He was a Jew, of the priestly line of Levi, and he had been born on Cyprus. Although his given name was Joseph, all the believers called him Barnabas. It was a foreign nickname and meant “Son of Encouragement.” What did he do? How did he do it?

1. Encouragement because they are undertaking something new that seems daunting

Jesus’s eleven disciples had started the new church in Jerusalem which had grown from 120 frightened followers to 5000 people who had repented of their sins after hearing a rousing sermon from Peter. That was 50 days after Jesus’s resurrection.

Now, a while later, the believers were beginning to wonder when Jesus was going to come back, as He had promised. Many had sold everything, and although they were happily living together and praising God a lot, the money was running out.

Barnabas, apparently, was fairly wealthy. He owned a bit of land – we don’t know how much – and he sold it. The Bible tells us he laid the money it at the apostles’ feet.

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What an encouragement that must have been! Now they had money to give to those in need.

2.  Encouragement because they are uncertain about what comes next

A while later, a man named Saul was persecuting the believers. On the road to Damascus to find more Jesus-followers to lock up, he had a vision of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself told Saul that he would be given a new name – Paul – and that he would be a missionary to the Gentiles. Up to this point in time, the believers were all Jewish.

It was difficult for the believers to accept this man who had been their worst enemy. Besides that, they were not sure that they wanted Gentiles to get saved and become a part of the church.

“But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27).

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Definitely an advocate! As a result, Paul was accepted, and the Gospel was preached. The church continued to grow and spread to many other areas in Israel, and eventually to all the known world.

3. Encouragement because they know themselves and know how prone they are to wander.

When the church had spread to the northern parts of Israel and Antioch and onto the island of Cyprus, it probably seemed natural to send Barnabas to Antioch to teach and encourage the new believers.

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“Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:23-24).

Many more came to know the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Barnabas, however, knew what the new believers really needed. He left them and went to Paul’s home town, looking for Paul. When Barnabas found Paul, he convinced him to come to Antioch. Paul agreed and they stayed for a whole year, teaching a considerable number of believers.

It was here, that the believers were first called Christians.

4. Encouragement because they are discouraged.

Meanwhile, the church in Jerusalem was experiencing terrible persecution, and the believers there were very poor. When a famine broke out, the Christians in Antioch took a collection for the relief of those living in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.

“And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders” (Acts 11:27-30). Paul and Barnabas made the 200-mile journey to deliver that money. One can imagine the encouragement that must have been!

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After spending some time in Jerusalem – presumably encouraging the believers – they prepared to leave and invited Barnabas’s young cousin, John Mark, to join them (Acts 12:25).

They all returned to Antioch. “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them; Then when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away . . . They also had John as their helper” (Acts 13:1-5).

And so they went, taking John Mark with them. The missionary journey went well, but John Mark quit after the first city. The Bible does not tell us why he quit; just that he had high-tailed it back to Jerusalem, where his mother lived (Acts 13:13).

Paul and Barnabas eventually returned to Antioch to encourage the believers. “When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).

5. Encouragement because they have been disappointed by others.
6. Encouragement because they have disappointed themselves.

Eventually, Paul thought it would be a good idea to return to all the places he and Barnabas had preached, so they could see how they were doing. Barnabas thought it was a great idea and wanted to take his cousin, John Mark, with them again. He had returned to Antioch.

The problem was, that the first time, John Mark had quit at the beginning of the missions’ journey.

Paul called it desertion, and insisted that Mark be left behind. Barnabas was adamant in wanting to include him, and the Bible conveys the idea that they had a shouting match about Mark (Acts 15:36-41). “There occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:39). Paul took Titus, and left for Asia Minor.

Some scholars think they were wrong to break up. Others put a positive spin on it, pointing out that now there were two missionary teams. Focusing on Barnabas’s encouraging nature, we see that his love and care for Mark was a top priority for him.

The Quiet Ones

Encouragers are often very quiet, not flamboyant and noisy. They come beside you and whisper that you can, indeed, accomplish great things. Barnabas’s care obviously paid off. Many years later, Paul wrote from house arrest in Rome, “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (2 Timothy 4:11). Now Mark was an encourager of Paul.

And Mark eventually wrote the Gospel of Mark, about Jesus’s life here on earth.

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Barnabas didn’t write any books in the Bible. Churches and cities are not named after him. His only claim to fame is that he encouraged those who went on to accomplish great things. And although we are often looking for verses and people to encourage us, we can learn from Barnabas to be an encourager of others. We can open our eyes to the needs of others and come alongside and be there when they need us.

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