A short reading and prayers for today
When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.
Acts 11:22-23 NLT
When the church leaders in Jerusalem heard about the rapid growth of the church in Antioch they had lots of questions. Because the church in Jerusalem was strongly Jewish in character there were some who were deeply suspicious of what was going on in Antioch. Their concern was that the followers of Jesus should follow the Old Testament law.
Others were excited to hear the news but wanted to know exactly what was going on so they sent a representative and their choice was a crucial one.
They needed to choose someone who would be able to understand the non-Jewish background of most of the new converts in Antioch and who could give them plenty of encouragement. They made a very good choice when they selected Barnabas.
Barnabas came from Cyprus. He had a much wider understanding of the world than the leaders in Jerusalem who had probably never set foot outside Judaea. More importantly, he was a man who was famous for his gift of encouragement.
When we first meet Barnabas in Acts 4.36-37, Luke notes that his name means Son of Encouragement. That particular gift was crucial at this moment. If one of the other leaders from Jerusalem had visited Antioch and demanded that they should all follow the Jewish law, it could have been incredibly destructive.
Thank God that they sent an encourager! When Barnabas got to Antioch, all he could do was rejoice! In his joy, he encouraged the church to keep it up and to stay true to the Lord.
Making good appointments was crucial in the early church and it still is today. If the church is to thrive it needs people like Barnabas whose love for the Lord is so strong that they bring encouragement wherever they go.
It must have been incredibly tough for the early Christians to live for God in a society that was fundamentally opposed to everything that they stood for. And it still is today. We need to pray that God will raise up an army of wise and godly encouragers.
Who has been the greatest encourager in your Christian life?
Loving God, thank you for all those to whom you have given the special gift of encouragement. Amen
Wisdom of God, from the street corners and at the entrances to the city you proclaim the way of life and of death. Grant us the wisdom to recognize your Messiah, that following in the way of the cross, we may know the way of life and glory. Amen.
Through suffering and rejection, O God, you bring forth our salvation, for in Jesus you embrace our humanity and transform our lives by the glory of his cross. Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may rebuke the lure of this world, take up our cross, and follow your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.