I read about a well-known evangelist who passed away this week. Junior Hill passed away at the age of 87, after more than 68 years in ministry. Wow! As I looked at the outpouring of love and appreciation for his ministry, two words kept coming up: evangelist and encourager. His ministry of evangelism was most prominent. He would share the simple gospel of Jesus Christ, and then God would bless with scores of men, women, boys and girls coming to the altar. However, he was known as an encourager of pastors and pastors' wives. Throughout his decades of ministry, he would regularly speak at Pastors' Conferences all around the US. He would help pastors know that God was using them where they were. One pastor referred to Hill as "our generation's Barnabas."
Barnabas is referenced multiple times in the Book of Acts and other places of the New Testament. Acts 9:26-27 reads, "And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried (in the Greek it means he kept on trying) to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles." Saul (also known as Paul) had been a persecutor of the early Christians. After he became a Christian, no one would trust that his conversion was real. However, Barnabas helped him get closer to the more established believers. Barnabas believed in Paul.
In Acts 11, the apostles in Jerusalem hear about people coming to Christ in Antioch, and they send Barnabas to check it out. Acts 11:22-26 reads, "22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 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 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." The important idea here is that Barnabas sought Paul out and brought him to Antioch to help the new believers. He knew Paul had something to offer, and God blessed the ministry there.
Later on, Paul and Barnabas went on their first missionary tour with a young man named John Mark. John Mark deserted them and went home. Acts 15:37-38 records how Paul and Barnabas begin to discuss a second missionary tour. Barnabas wants to take John Mark again, but Paul refuses. Paul's thought may have been, "If he deserted us once, he will do it again." Barnabas wants to give John Mark another chance. This conflict led to Paul taking Silas on a different missionary trip, and Barnabas taking John Mark. Who was right? You can't blame Paul for his convictions, but time would prove Barnabas was correct. Later in life, Paul would ask for John Mark to come, because "he is profitable for my ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). We also know that Mark's Gospel was penned by John Mark.
We can learn from the example of Barnabas about the power of encouragement. Hopefully we have experienced the power of encouragement from a father, mother, coach, teacher or someone we have looked up to. Can you identify someone in your sphere of influence that you can encourage? Is there someone who needs you to believe in them? Is there someone who needs a second chance? Is there someone that you see who would benefit God's work in this world - they just need the encouragement to do it. I pray that one day it will be said also of us that we were "full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and many people were added to the Lord" because we were someone else's Barnabas, coming alongside of them and encouraging them for King Jesus. God bless.