I am constantly reminded of how much new Christians need encouragement in their spiritual journey. I heard someone once say, “People grow the best when the atmosphere of acceptance is present.” We need the influence of others in our lives if we are going to grow spiritually. Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” You have found a good friend if they are sharpening you in your spiritual development.
The one Bible character who embodied this was Barnabas. Barnabas was such an encouragement that the apostles changed his name from Joses to Barnabas—which means, “Son of encouragement.” In the New Testament, the word most often translated “encouragement” is the word paraklesis. It comes from two Greek words: para, “alongside of,” and kaleo, “to call.” So the word encourager means “someone who is called to come alongside of you to help renew and comfort you.” Think about it. What is one of the Greek words for the Holy Spirit? Parakletos—which is very similar to the word for encouragement; paraklesis. What a wonderful thing it is when a Christian is yielded to the Holy Spirit. He then can be a source of encouragement to others.
Barnabas was a man greatly used by the Lord to reach many people for Christ. Acts 11:24 says, “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.” Barnabas was mightily used to reach and disciple new believers for the Lord. Barnabas was known for encouraging Saul. In so doing, God used Saul (Paul) in an unbelievable way to impact the world for God.
Consider three lessons we can learn from the life of Barnabas that will help us reach and encourage new Christians for Jesus:
1. Barnabas Was Willing to Take a Risk
When nobody wanted to extend the right hand of fellowship to this new believer, Barnabas responded in faith and embraced Paul as a new person in Christ. The impact that Paul had on the early church is overwhelming! However, if Barnabas had not been willing to mentor Paul he may not have made as much of an impact. It is a risk to reach out to people and love them, invest in them, care for them, and mentor them. However, if we fail in these areas, the church’s mission will be highly impacted in a negative way.
2. Barnabas Took Personal Responsibility
The Bible states that Barnabas, “Took him and brought him to the apostles…” Barnabas took personal responsibility in seeing that this new Christian had the opportunity to grow and to be used in ministry. I wonder if we take that same responsibility with the people God has allowed us to bring to Christ? Do we make a fatal mistake and leave behind those new believers in search of reaching others for Christ? I believe we need to be passionate in reaching all people for Christ, but I also want to be diligent in seeing those whom the Lord has already allowed me to reach grow spiritually!
3. Barnabas Purposely Rehearsed Paul’s Testimony
Not only did Barnabas share Paul’s conversion, but he also communicated how the Lord had already used him. How shocking this might have sounded to these believers. Here is a man that had given his life to threaten Christians, and now he is preaching Christ. Barnabas was a man of great faith!