Text: Acts 11:19-26 — Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year, they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians.
Introduction: A politician was speaking to a number of Indian tribal leaders about all that he would do for them if he were elected to office in their state. “I will give you more land,” he said. With that the Indians smiled and responded “HOYA” “HOYA.” Then he said, “I will make sure your children get a college education!” Again, they smiled even bigger than the first time and responded, “HOYA” “HOYA.” Finally, he promised, “I will see to it that you have the best medical care!” Now as they were laughing with glee, the leaders shouted “HOYA” “HOYA.” When everything was over the politician was delighted with their response and asked his host, the son of one of the leaders, how he thought the speech had gone. Wanting to be a source of encouragement to the politician he shared that it had gone well. A few moments later as they were crossing a field to return to the politician’s limo, the young host warned his guest to watch where he stepped as a number of cattle had grazed there earlier in the day and, if he wasn’t careful, he might just soil his shoes. The politician laughed and said, “Oh yes…back home we call those cow patties.” Then after a brief pause, he asked, “By the way, what do you Indians call them?” The boy smiled and responded, “We call them HOYA.” Have you ever had an experience like that in your life? I sure hope not. An insult wrapped in a smile is never very uplifting. What all of us need when we’re just about to step into life’s difficult challenges is true encouragement, the kind that undergirds and supports us as we seek to do God’s will.
This morning I want to talk about a role model from the Bible that was a real encourager…in fact, his name means “Son of Encouragement. His actual name was Joseph, but he has renamed Barnabas by the apostles according to Acts 4:36. He was a Jew, by birth, a Levite from the Island of Cyprus. When you study the passages that speak of Barnabas, you understand why the apostles gave him this name. This morning I want to look at a few of these and see what we can learn from his example with the hope that we might walk in his footsteps and be a source of encouragement to many others.
The word that is used in our text this morning for “encourage” means “a calling to one’s aid.” Sometimes we accomplish this with a timely word, but more often it is with our actions. This was certainly the case with Barnabas. Now, join me as I point out some of the ways he encouraged others and then help each of us to consider how we can do the same.
I. Barnabas came to the aid of others WHENEVER he could. I would encourage you to do something that I did in preparation for this message. I read every passage multiple times where Barnabas was mentioned and discovered that he had no limitations when it came to his ministry to the body. Whenever an opportunity to encourage others presented itself, he took advantage of it regardless of how it affected him. Here are just two examples.
A. He put his money on the line. When the church was in its early days, Barnabas gave funds to help care for those in need(See Acts 4:36-37). He did this by selling a piece of property (note that it was not communal ownership) and turning the money over to the apostles so that it might be redistributed to those in need. He wasn’t the only one to do it, but it does give us some insight into the extent of the love he possessed for other Christ-followers. And it’s clear from the text that he had no impure motive in doing so, unlike Ananias and Sapphira who sought spiritual prestige by doing the same thing (See Acts 5).
B. He put his reputation on the line. The word “reputation” refers to the public’s estimation of a person’s character. Proverbs 22:1says that “a good name(a reputation among others) is more desirable than great riches.”When Paul was a relatively new believer(probably three years had passed since his conversion—See Galatians 1:17-18), he was forced to flee Damascus. As a result, he headed for Jerusalem. When he arrived, the other disciples were fearful that he was only pretending to follow Christ. It was Barnabas who put his reputation (“he was a good man” — Acts 11:24) on the line by standing up for Paul before of the apostles (See Acts 9:26-27 — 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. 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). As a result, his testimony was believed and Paul was welcomed. This is just the kind of person that Barnabas was. He routinely came to the aid of those with legitimate need whenever he could.
II. Barnabas came to the aid of others WHEREVER he could. When the persecution of the followers of the WAY broke out beginning with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8, Christians were dispersed all around the Mediterranean. As they moved further away from Jerusalem they proclaimed the Gospel to anyone who was willing to listen with great results. While at first, they preached only to Jews, soon Gentiles (everyone else who is not a Jew) were also receiving the message, becoming believers and giving evidence that they, too, had the Spirit of God (See Acts 10:44-45). Eventually, even those in the far away city of Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire, heard the Gospel. As to their response to the message, Luke remarks that the “hand of the Lord was with them so that a great number who believed turned to Christ.” At this point the church in Jerusalem needed to send someone to investigate confirm that everything taking place was from God, so they sent Barnabas. He was, of course, the right choice because (1)he was a man full of the Holy Spirit; (2)he was well grounded in the faith, (3)he was from the Island of Cyprus not too far from Antioch and so would be considered an insider and, not least of all, (4)he was willing to go wherever he was needed. Application: That’s the thing about an encourager(someone who understands God’s call to come alongside others), he or she is willing to go anywhere the Lord might lead in order to serve. Illustration: When I joined staff with Campus Crusade I thought I would spend my summers attending the Institute of Biblical Studies at beautiful Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, CO. Occasionally I did, but most of the time I was asked by the leadership to head up a missions team to show the Jesus Film in some other part of the world. I traveled to Freeport (Bahamas), to Georgetown (Guyana), to Guam and the Islands of Majuro and Pohnpei in Micronesia. Why was I asked instead of someone else? At the time I was single and I could leave this country for two months at a time without creating great hardship on a wife or children. So, I was called to give an assist to the movements in these countries and it turns out that I was the right man for the job. I had a love for the Word, a love for unbelievers, experience in leading a team and a willingness to go anywhere or do anything for the Lord. That seems to be the way God works. He sends his servants wherever they are needed. That’s why Barnabas went to Antioch. It’s where God placed him.
III. Barnabas came to the aid of others (WHENEVER, WHEREVER) HOWEVER he could. When he arrived in Antioch, Barnabas followed a fourfold strategy.
A. He examined the situation(See Acts 11:23a — When he came and saw the grace of God). Before Barnabas took any action, he looked for evidence that God was at work. I’m sure it took some time to see if what was being reported in Jerusalem was actually happening. When he saw that the reports were accurate, Barnabas rejoiced.
B. He encouraged the believers(SeeActs 11:23b — he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose). Barnabas encouraged them to get busy serving the Lord, no longer looking back at the life they’d left behind. This is what every pastor wants to see in a new convert…a new purpose for living.
C. He evangelized the city(SeeActs 11:24 — he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.). Of course, he didn’t do this without help. No one person can!! But it seems clear that Barnabas was a key participant in spreading the Gospel message so that many were coming to faith in Jesus.
D. He established the church. Once Barnabas saw how many were turning to Christ, he left Antioch for Tarsus and looked for Saul.
1. He demonstrated humility in seeking out Saul(SeeActs 11:25-26a — So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.). Barnabas understood that Paul would be a key person in building up these new believers, so he turned to him for help.
2. He demonstrated commitment to serving with Saul(SeeActs 11:26b — For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians). Luke notes that the two of them stayed in Antioch for the next twelve months meeting with the church and teaching a great number of people. Then they returned several more times (See Acts 12:25; Acts 14:22, 26-28; Acts 15:10-31, 35) to build the church. This is the kind of effort it took to get the work of God in Antioch off the ground and Barnabas (as well as Saul) was up to it.
Applications: Pastor and motivational speaker, John Maxwell, says, “… never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it.” Not many people today remember Barnabas. Instead, they remember Paul, the man who got his start in ministry from ‘the son of encouragement.’ If you’re looking for glory, encouragement may not be your thing because it focuses on the needs of others and not the promotion of self. But if you want to be an encourager, a good person who can make things better for everyone else, then consider doing these three things.
· Serve WHENEVERGod leads. You are never too young or too old to encourage someone. Whether you’ve Whether you’re a child, a teenager, in mid-life or a senior, you can always come to the aid of someone who needs you. Like Barnabas who refused to turn a blind eye to a person in need, all you have to do is recognize your God-given opportunities to offer encouragement and take immediate advantage of them. Don’t wait lest those opportunities pass you by.
· Serve WHEREVERGod leads. For Barnabas, this meant traveling to the city of Antioch (and to a number of other places as well). For you it might mean just walking out your back door and noticing a neighbor in need of your help; or going to work and learning about a challenge facing a coworker that you can do something about, or coming here to church and serving in a ministry to others in our church family; or traveling across the globe in response to God’s call to come to the aid of someone you’ve never met before. Don’t put any restrictions on where you’re willing to go to serve others in the name of Christ.
· Serve HOWEVERGod leads. I’m pretty confident that God wants to use your gifts and talents to bring encouragement to others. Speaking from experience, it’s always nice when that happens. On the other hand, perhaps He will call you to come alongside and do something for someone that you’ve never thought you were particularly good at. The issue isn’t how effective you think you’ll be, but how humble and committed you are to getting the job done simply because God led you to do it. After all, it’s all for His glory anyway.
Conclusion:In his book The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men, author Richard Phillips shows us that behind every great man in history is a humble person who helped make that man great. He writes: There are two statues in Washington D.C. that together tell a remarkable story. One is the massive memorial to General Ulysses S. Grant that stands at the east end of the Reflecting Pool, literally in the morning shadow of the U. S. Capitol building. Visitors can hardly miss this majestic depiction of the legendary general atop his war stallion. Grant’s military leadership was decisive to the Union’s victory in the Civil War, and he is considered a symbol of the force of human will, an icon of the strong man who stands against the storm when all others have shrunk back. Some two-and-a-half miles away, in a pleasant but nondescript city park stands a more commonplace memorial. The statue of this lesser-known Civil War figure, Major General John Rawlins, has actually had eight different locations and is hardly ever noticed by visitors. Rawlins had been a lawyer in Galena, Illinois, where Grant lived just prior to the war, and he became Grant’s chief of staff. Rawlins knew Grant’s character flaws, especially his weakness for alcohol. At the beginning of the war, Rawlins extracted a pledge from Grant to abstain from drunkenness, and when the general threatened to fall away from that promise, his friend would plead with him and support him until Grant could get back on track. In many ways, it was Rawlins who stood beside the seemingly solitary figure of Grant the great general. Rawlins’ memorial is modest compared to the mounted glory afforded Grant, yet without his unheralded love and encouragement, his coming to the aid of his friend, Grant would hardly have managed even to climb into the saddle. WHAT KIND OF AN ENCOURAGER ARE YOU? ARE YOU A GOOD PERSON WHO MAKES THOSE AROUND YOU BETTER BECAUSE YOU SERVE WHENEVER, WHEREVER, AND HOWEVER THE LORD YOUR GOD LEADS? IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO ANSWER “YES” TO THAT QUESTION UP TO THIS MOMENT, MAY TODAY MARK A TURNING POINT WHERE YOU BEGIN TO PURSUE A MINISTRY OF ENCOURAGEMENT JUST LIKE BARNABAS TO THE GLORY AND HONOR OF GOD.