Barnabas was. His original name was Joses. It was the apostles of Jesus who saw his character and called him “Barnabas,” meaning “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). At a later time, when the church in Jerusalem learned that the gospel had gone to Antioch of Syria, the brethren sent Barnabas there. What did he do after he arrived? No surprise: he “encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23). The early church was blessed to have Barnabas as one of its encouragers!
Jonathan, King Saul’s son, was an encourager, too. When his good friend, David, was facing a troubling time in his life, Jonathan “arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, ‘Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel . . .’” (1 Samuel 23:16,17). By word and deed, Jonathan encouraged David to be strong in the Lord.
What about Shechaniah? That man also was an encourager. Who in the world is that? He was a Jewish man who lived in the days of Ezra. After Ezra led a group of Jews back to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon, it was discovered that a number of Jewish men, in violation of the law of Moses, had married foreign wives. Shechaniah told Ezra, “We have trespassed against our God . . . Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God . . . Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it” (Ezra 10:2-4). Shechaniah exhorted Ezra to step up and do the right thing, pledging to be supportive of him. Ezra put the encouraging words of Shechaniah into practice, and it was a blessing to God’s people.
Jesus was a great encourager. In the same conversation in which He foretold that Peter would betray Him later that night, our Lord told His apostle, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail, and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31,32). Jesus knew Simon had his faults, but He wanted him to know that He had confidence in him and still planned to use him in His work. Peter wept bitterly after he betrayed the Master (Luke 22:62), but he must have been greatly encouraged each time he recalled the encouraging words Jesus spoke to him.
What kind of people need encouragement? Our first instinct might be to say, “People who are going through a rough time need to be encouraged.” They certainly do! When a friend is facing serious challenges in his marriage, he needs encouragement. When my child is disappointed because he did not do as well as he thought he would on his exams, he needs to hear some encouraging words. When a brother or sister in the Christ has lost a spouse or some other loved one, they need to be encouraged. And, yes, when one is struggling in his commitment to the Lord and is not regular in assembling with the saints, he needs encouragement.
But what about those Christians who are not showing outward signs of being weary or “down” due to some struggle in life? They need to be encouraged, too! Shepherds of the flock need to hear words of encouragement. Sadly, in many cases a congregation’s overseers hear from the flock only when someone is upset about something. Why not go to your elders and tell them how much you appreciate their labors and their concern for your soul’s well-being?
Who else needs to be encouraged? Deacons do. So do Bible class teachers, those who work to prepare the Lord’s Supper, those who help clean the church’s facilities, and gospel preachers. Parents need to hear words of encouragement, as do their children. Widows and widowers need to be encouraged, as do bachelors and bachelorettes. Youth need encouragement, as do middle-aged, and elderly folks. New Christians and those who have been faithful members “forever” need to be encouraged. Yes, there are times when everyone needs some type of encouragement.
Are you an encourager? You need to be! In the church today, we need encouragers like Jonathan and Barnabas. In order to encourage others, one does not have to be “qualified” with a high level of education, a high income, or lots of experience. Some of the ones who make us smile and make us feel good about ourselves are small children. If a person has a heart like Jesus and cares about others (Philippians 2:3-5), he/she can be an encourager.
Some saints of God encourage others by sending texts or e-mails. Some speak words of encouragement in a phone call. Others send short notes in a card or old-fashioned letter. Some encouragers pay visits to those who are confined at home. There also are those who tell others face-to- face that they have been praying for them. Find a way that works for you and make it a part of your weekly routine to do something to help brighten someone else’s day.
What if nobody notices that we are trying to be an encourager, and what if no one ever expresses their appreciation for what we are doing? Keep on encouraging! We do it because we want to help lift someone’s spirits, not to receive men’s praises, right?
— Roger D. Campbell