While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2 NIV)
Barnabas could be called one of the most important people in the early church. As a matter of fact, it could be said that he is responsible for more than half of the New Testament. Whoa! Wait a minute! Didn't Paul write more than half of the New Testament? Right. But would Paul have gone as far as he did if not for Barnabas? Let's consider what Barnabas did.
Barnabas' real name was Joseph. A Levite from Cyrene, Joseph sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles in Jerusalem, making him one of the first people to sell his possessions in support of the early church. His nature was to bolster up those around him, and he was given the nickname, Barnabas, which meant "Son of Encouragement". After Saul was converted on the road to Damascus, Saul went to Jerusalem where all of the Christians there were understandably afraid of him. Barnabas was the only one courageous enough to meet with Paul (Saul) and was the one who encouraged the others to see that Paul had become committed to Jesus.
Barnabas encouraged John Mark to accompany himself and Paul to Antioch. John Mark later flaked out and returned home, and then some time later wanted to rejoin them on another journey. Barnabas tried to convince Paul to let Mark come with them, and when Paul refused, the partners split up, Paul and Silas going off together and Barnabas and Mark going in another direction. The result -- a doubling of missionary effort. Barnabas' joining Mark provided encouragement for Mark, allowing a man who could have been a failure to later have an effective ministry. All in all, Barnabas provided great encouragement to those around him and had an incredible effect on the early church.
What would have happened to Paul without Barnabas' encouragement? Would he have given up, or have possibly had a small, effective ministry but nothing compared to the ministry he had, nor the effect he continues to have on Christians today? What would have happened to Mark without Barnabas' encouragement? Mark was less than brave. In fact, he was probably the young man who was with Jesus at His arrest, who was so frightened that he ran off without his clothes. And he was also the one who was so indecisive and uncommitted that he couldn't complete his first journey with Paul. Without Barnabas' encouragement, would we have in our possession the wonderful Gospel of Mark?
The gift of encouragement is essential to the continuation of the church. Without encouragement, many would lose heart and stray. Without encouragement, most would never make it through the trials that daily come our way. Without encouragement, many of the things that need to be done in our work for Christ would never be accomplished.
Encourage those around you every day. The people you work with, the people you meet, your family. Your job is to build up, not to tear down. Don't shoot the wounded. Be a "Barnabas". Encourage others so that God might be glorified in both of your lives.