“Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
Humans are born faultfinders--slicing and dicing God’s law either to excuse behavior we’d like to engage in ourselves or to condemn things we don’t want others to enjoy. Rare is the man who is so thankful for the gifts of God to him, so awed by the mercy which gives him life and breath each day, so grateful for what God has given him rather than jealous for what He has not, that he loves God’s law, delights in God’s people, and is quick to let them know it.
Joseph, known by his cognomen Barnabas, Son of Encouragement, was one such man. Thankfulness and generosity bubbled out of him. Bump him and joy and gratitude spilled on the floor. And it is this gratitude which we see today – selling a piece of land and donating the proceeds to the work of the Gospel. But this is not an isolated incident – as his name indicates. We see it again later in Acts when Barnabas and Paul cannot agree what to do with John Mark who had deserted them during the course of their first missionary journey. Paul refuses to take him; Barnabas refuses to go without him. And so he and Paul part company--but it is Paul who later acknowledges the blessing of Mark’s ministry. Paul had left him; but Barnabas stuck with Mark and encouraged him and so today we possess the Gospel of Mark. Such was the power of Son of Encouragement’s ministry.
And so, beloved, let me ask you today--have you been a Barnabas this week? Have you been so filled with thankfulness and gratitude that you have seen very little to complain about and much to encourage? Have you looked at the world with the eyes of faith, knowing that if God can save you from the kingdom of darkness then there is nothing that He cannot do?
Husbands and wives, have you praised your spouse this week for all the little things they do for you? Have you shown them how much you delight in them? Parents, have you praised your children as much or more than you have corrected them? Do you look for things to praise or things to critique? Employees, have you encouraged your employers by letting them know how grateful you are for your position? Children, have you thanked your parents for their love and their willingness to bring you up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Siblings, have you spent the week praising the gifts that God has given you in your brother or sister?
Listen, beloved, it is easy to criticize. We are, as I said, born faultfinders. There will always be room for improvement. But Barnabas understood as I think few of us do that the best way to accomplish the improvement is to lavish praise on even the smallest deeds done in faith.
So let us bow before our God, acknowledge our critical natures, and petition Him to forgive us through Christ and to make us all into sons and daughters of encouragement. Let us kneel together.