Barnabas means “son of encouragement”.
In the Bible we know a lot about the apostle Paul. But, there was a man named Barnabas who first came alongside Paul and encouraged him to move into the relationships and purposes God had for him. Barnabas made a difference in Paul’s life and in the connections he made.
I have been given the gift of my own personal “Barnabas” — my husband, Don. The other day, I heard a friend tell him, “You’re the most encouraging man I’ve ever known.” And it’s true! Throughout our lives, I have repeatedly heard people acknowledge to Don how his words of encouragement came exactly when they needed them, or because of his words of affirmation they took new steps of faith.
Don sees “the gold” in people and tells them what he sees. He notices their best traits and calls them out. He encourages them to step out and use the gifts they have and to become who God intends them to be. Often, he will return from a meeting with other men or pastor friends, and he will begin telling me about one of the men, and he will either begin or end by stating, “he’s a really nice man, I really like him.” He truly means it. He likes people and sees the good in them.
Over the years I’ve watched him bring loads of encouragement to our children. He tells them of his faith in them, his trust in them, how proud of them he is, and then declares over them their strengths, abilities and graces. I consider it a privilege to hear him speak into their lives! He’s done it from the moment they were born until this very day. And now he does it with our grandchildren! They too are the recipients of their own personal Barnabas.
I sometimes wonder how the kids and grandkids view this gift of encouragement, or how they feel when they hear his words of love and affirmation. But I need only watch as their faces light up, their shoulders lift, and the dark clouds part, to understand what a difference he makes by speaking life to them and placing great worth and value upon them.
Throughout our 41 years of marriage, I have tried to learn from Don, how to be an encourager; how to be someone’s Barnabas. Here are the specifics I have applied in order to help develop the gift of encouragement.
1. FOCUS on one person. Whether Don’s with me, his children, grandchildren or in a group of people, he focuses on the person to whom he is talking.
2. LISTEN as they tell their story. Ask them about their life, and then listen carefully. Refrain from thinking about what you will say next.
3. Find the GOLD. Their strengths and abilities will emerge as they tell their story. Remember these and prepare to let them know what you’ve heard in their story.
4. Speak LIFE! Verbally affirm their strengths and abilities. Recount what they said in their story and use it to point out to them their strengths and abilities.
5. WATCH as your words of life help them become who they were meant to be!
Do you have a Barnabas in your life?
And whose Barnabas will you be?