Article: PROACTIVE BARNABAS | Shiju John

“The LORD is with you, mighty warrior. Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:12, 14). Those are the encouraging words of the angel of the LORD to Gideon who, at that moment, did not really comprehend the words spoken about him. He was a peasant, and not a mighty warrior. His own strength was not enough to save Israel. Nevertheless, the words of the angel had a transformational power. It miraculously transformed a peasant into a warrior and multiplied his little strength into greatness. Our God is a ‘God of encouragement’ (Rom.15:5) and it is an essential part of God’s nature. He does not snuff out a smouldering wick (Isa.42:3) but rather ignites it into a flame. We are commanded to imitate Him (Eph. 5:1-2) and called to be His children. If He is the God of encourageme“The LORD is with you, mighty warrior. Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:12, 14). Those are the encouraging words of the angel of the LORD to Gideon who, at that moment, did not comprehend the words spoken about him. He was a peasant, and not a mighty warrior. His strength was not enough to save Israel. Nevertheless, the words of the angel had a transformational power. It miraculously transformed a peasant into a warrior and multiplied his little strength into greatness. Our God is a ‘God of encouragement’ (Rom.15:5) and it is an essential part of God’s nature. He does not snuff out a smouldering wick (Isa.42:3) but rather ignites it into a flame. We are commanded to imitate Him (Eph. 5:1-2) and called to be His children. If He is the God of encouragement, we are also called to be the sons and daughters of encouragement like Barnabas, which means ‘son of encouragement.

Sadly, most of our counselling and the fellowship life, per se as Christians, hover around waiting to point fingers at the others’ wrongdoing. Once I heard a young prophet praying to get some revelation for a family, “Lord, please tell me what is going wrong in this family; where are they falling short?” Identifying the shortcomings of others and finding appropriate words to communicate them comes naturally to most of us. But it may take hours, days, and months to train ourselves to intuitively find something good in a person and we seldom think it unimportant to communicate this and encourage them.

Barnabas, the disciple mentioned in the book of Acts, is notable for his encouragement to others. He was the one who recommended Paul to the apostles when no one else trusted him and as we all know the rest is history. Today, we’re all well aware of Paul’s contribution to the church and its impact on our present day. But no one saw that potential in Paul, except Barnabas.

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Encouraging is one of the most powerful ministries we can have. It is a major part of spiritual warfare. By encouraging one another daily, we can stop hearts from hardening by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb.13:3). So, what stops us from doing it more regularly in our Christian walk and as counsellors?

It may be because we underestimate the power of encouragement and the process of transformation in lives that it can bring forth, Or we may not consider it vital in the growth of the person. It’s also possible that many of us might not have seen it as a command for us believers. We might even tend to think that being an encouragement is probably a special gift for some select people among us. For many of us, it’s probably even difficult to find appropriate words or gestures to show that encouragement. Some fear that they may not sound authentic. But the deeper truth is that many of us unfortunately might have never noticed or valued the encouragement that we received along with its impact on our lives and thereby fail to give it freely. Irrespective of the reasons, none of it holds ground or permits us to disobey God’s command.

Encouragers can be of two kinds, proactive encouragers and reactive encouragers. A proactive encourager observes the good (even if little) in a person and goes intentionally to the person to encourage him or her, just like the angel of God, in the case of Gideon. On the other hand, a reactive encourager needs to be convinced and notice the good in a person to encourage them. For example, when a child brings a drawing to the father, the father could encourage his child by saying, “You’re a good artist, keep it up.” But in reality, scientific evidence has proven that being a proactive ‘encourager’ is more influential and has a greater lasting impact than a reactive one. A proactive encouragement is enriched with authenticity and prompted by the Spirit of God. Therefore, it gathers a hundred per cent result.

I remember the day, years ago, when a person came up to me in the morning and said, “Hey Shiju! It’s nice to see you today.” This little statement was accompanied by a very genuine bright smile and equally bright-lit eyes. I can never forget those words, the tone of that voice, and that brightly lit face. It did wonders for me. I was feeling low and depressed then, and my perceptions were all badly influenced by my state of mind. But this person’s proactive encouragement instantly brought me out of that emotional state. It felt as though I was teleported from a pit of darkness. To this very day, I still remember and thank God for sending that person with those words and their willingness to have that heart of encouragement.

Friends, there are only a few things in life that enable us to flourish as much as encouragement. It empowers, motivates, strengthens, cheers on, builds up, and gives courage. All these results come from such a small investment of time and energy. So, let’s be true sons and daughters of the God of encouragement. And let us be a proactive Barnabas.

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