“And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” –Acts 9:26
The story of the Apostle Paul’s conversion is a pivotal story in the life of Christianity. Paul was a young Jewish leader who was focused on combating the growing number of people who were following Jesus. Paul decided to expand his persecution of Christians to Damascus. While on the road to Damascus, Paul is knocked off his horse and blinded. At the same moment, he hears the voice of Jesus. From this moment on Paul, who once persecuted the Church, now works to spread the news of the risen Christ around the world.
Paul’s work helped the church to grow and bless many lives, but Paul did not work alone. He had many people who helped make his work and success possible. One of the most significant people in ministry of Paul was Barnabas.
When Paul first became a follower of Jesus he was not well received by the other disciples. Who could blame them? Paul had been, “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” (Acts 9:1) Now he was a believer, but the disciples were not sure he was really on their team. It was Barnabas who interceded and convinced the disciples in Jerusalem that Paul was a genuine disciple who had met Jesus on the road. It was Barnabas’ willingness to vouch for Paul and encourage the church to accept him that allowed Paul to be accepted by the church leadership. Barnabas helped to change the story of Paul and allowed Paul to share the story of God’s great love around the world.
Barnabas’ encouraging words to the disciples, on Paul’s behalf, helped calm many fears about persecution and the legitimacy of Paul’s conversion. It opened the door to a ministry that blessed lives around the world. Barnabas believed in Paul and encouraged others to do so as well.
The actions of Barnabas are a reminder that intentional encouragement can make a significant difference in the lives of the people around us. When we are willing to speak encouraging words to someone, or on their behalf we build them up. Who will you encourage today? Will you speak up for others who need encouragement? If we are willing to be encouraging we can help change others and change the world.
Rev. Keith King, Online Campus Pastor