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By Pastor Glenn Pease
Words are powerful tools of influence.
All of us can speak words and so all of us have the power to encourage or discourage others.
The life of Victor Sirebianca is a radical illustration of the power of words.
His teacher said to him, "You are a dummy.
You will never graduate.
You will always be a dummy.
Go get a vocation and stop wasting your time and everybody else's."
Victor figured she should know what she was talking about, and so he dropped out of school.
For the next 16 years he just bummed around the country working at different jobs.
He was 32 years old and going nowhere as a dummy.
Then an acquaintance said to him, "You should go and get tested to see just what you potential is.
You could amount to something."
With this encouragement Victor went and got tested.
He discovered that he had an IQ of 160.
He was a genius.
He decided to act like a genius and he began to invent things and get patents on them.
Then he wrote a best seller book.
He became the International Chairman of the Amenza Society where you have to have an IQ of 140 to be a member.
Because somebody encouraged him to be what he could be he stopped being a dummy and became the genius he was.
He was always a genius, of course, but the fact is, he was also a dummy for believing the words of discouragement.
We believe what we tell ourselves about ourselves, and if we are influenced by negative people, we will have a negative self-image.
If we believe the encourager we will have a positive self-image.
That is why every person is truly blest if they have a Barnabas in their lives, for Barnabas was an encourager.
He always saw the good side of people.
He saw past their failures to their potential for good.
It is amazing we do not know Barnabas better, for he is one of the most influential men in the New Testament.
He played a major role in the early history of the church, and a major role in the lives of the men who wrote the New Testament.
Yet he seems like an obscure person because we do not know much about him compared to Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul.
He was a man behind the scenes who encouraged great men like them to be all they could be.
The first man he greatly encouraged was Paul.
When Paul was first converted Christians were afraid of him.
He had been a brutal enemy of the Christian faith.
He had arrested many and had even aided in their deaths.
The Christians in Jerusalem were fearful when he came.
Acts 9:26 says, "When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple."
This was a very strange situation for Paul.
He wanted to be their friend, but they were suspicious.
The next verse provided the solution.
Verse 27 says, "But Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles."
Barnabas took him right to the top and made it clear that Paul was truly converted and was a great messenger of the Gospel.
After this Paul could move about freely and speak boldly in the name of Jesus.
Barnabas was the friend that helped Paul overcome his bad image and become an accepted spokesman of the faith.
Barnabas went on to play a major role in the history of Paul.
In Acts 11 we see the church at Jerusalem sending Barnabas to Antioch where many were coming to Christ.
Verse 23 says that when he saw the great work he was glad and encouraged them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
Verse 24 describes Barnabas: "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.." People were coming to Christ under his ministry.
He could have had all the glory of this great work, but verse 25 says that he went to Tarsus to look for Paul.
He brought him back to Antioch, and for a year they taught the faith to great numbers of people.
It was there in Antioch that disciples were first called Christians.
Paul never would have been there for that great experience had Barnabas not gone to get him.
Barnabas was the great encourager of Paul.
He was back in his hometown of Tarsus when Barnabas came to him.
Who know what was going on in his mind at that time?
Was he fading out of the picture?
Was he going to settle down in his hometown and become a professor?
We don't know what his plans were.
All we know is that Barnabas went and got him and took him into active ministry that changed his life and the rest of history.
Barnabas never wrote one word of the New Testament, but he was the encourager of the man who wrote nearly half of the New Testament.
In Acts 13 the Holy Spirit told the church to send Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey.
We don't have time to follow them, but these two men started churches all over the world.
In Acts 14 we have the account of their healing of a lame man in Lystra, and the people were so amazed that they began to worship Barnabas as Zeus and Paul as Hermes his chief messenger.
Not too many men in history have been mistaken for gods, but these two were, and Barnabas was thought to be the chief god-Zeus.
The implication is that he was a big man who was impressive in his presence.
Barnabas could have been a powerful man building up his own following, but he didn't do it.
He was an encourager of others, but had no ambition to be a big shot himself.
Barnabas had the gift of encouragement and he used it.
It even cost him his place in the New Testament that he might have had, but he was so set on encouraging one who needed it that it cost him much of his own reputation.
When he and Paul were heading out to visit all the churches again, Barnabas said, "Let's take Mark with us again."
Paul said that Mark had let them down the last time and he was not going to take a quitter with them.
This led these two best friends, who had changed the course of history together, to go their separate ways.
Barnabas took Mark anyway, and Paul went with Silas.
Dr. Luke followed Paul and so the rest of the book of Acts is about him and Silas.
It could have been about Paul and Barnabas, but Barnabas refused to dump his cousin Mark.
He paid a heavy price for Mark.
He gave up a place in history for his sake, but he saved Mark for the kingdom of God by his act of encouragement.
This young man went on to be a worthy servant of Christ, and even Paul later acknowledged this.
He wrote in II Tim.
4:11, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry."
This young man he did not want to give a second chance ends up as his faithful helper because of the encouragement of Barnabas.
Mark went on to write the first Gospel that was written.
Matthew and Luke copied a great deal from his Gospel.
The man behind the scenes, who never wrote a word of the New Testament, was a key factor in much of the New Testament writings because of his encouragement.
Ivan Hagedorn in Biblical Messengers Of Encouragement writes, "No one comes any closer to reflecting the true spirit of the Gospel in the entire New Testament than does Barnabas."
He was like Jesus in many ways.
Jesus wrote none of the New Testament either, but he was the one who inspired it.
Barnabas wrote none, but he was the encourager of those who did.
You can be great for the kingdom of God, not just by what you do, but by what you encourage others to do.
Barnabas made people feel big when they were feeling small, and he made them feel hopeful when they had failed.
He kept people going who otherwise might have given up.
To be an encourager is a great honor in God's book, for he cared more about the fame and success of others than his own.
The result was that most of his key friends are better known than he is.
But the whole family of God is richer because of it.
We need to face this reality: Not everyone has this kind of personality.
We can all strive to be like Barnabas, but we may not ever be just like him, for he was by his nature an encourager.
Barnabas was not even his real name.
His name was Joseph from Cyprus.
But in Acts 4:36 we are told that the Apostles called him Barnabas because it means Son of Encouragement.
This was his nick name and not the name on his birth certificate.
This is not what his mother called him, but this is the name he got from the leaders of the Christian faith because of the kind of guy he was.
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