John and I both have a drawer where we save special notes that have been meaningful and encouraging. As I think about them, there are several characteristics they have in common.
- They are unexpected. They don’t come as an obligatory “thank you” note after you’ve given a gift or hosted a meal. They come as a delightful surprise when we least expect it.
- They are specific. They don’t contain general niceness, but often include personal examples.
- They require attention, intention, and forethought. Encouragers see the Imago Dei in others and call it out.
In the early church, Barnabas was an up-lifter, an encourager. He would be a “note-writing” kind of guy today I think.
Take a look…
Acts 4:34-37 And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.
Joseph, called by the apostles “Barnabas” (which means “Son of Comfort”), a Levite born in Cyprus, sold a field that he owned, brought the money, and made an offering of it to the apostles.
Acts 9:26-27 Back in Jerusalem he (Paul, after his conversion) tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn’t trust him one bit. Then Barnabas took him under his wing. He introduced him to the apostles and stood up for him, told them how Saul had seen and spoken to the Master on the Damascus Road and how in Damascus itself he had laid his life on the line with his bold preaching in Jesus’ name.
Later, we see that when Paul is ready to ditch John Mark because he’s been irresponsible, Barnabas sticks by him and keeps investing, keeps encouraging. He sees the possibility of redemption! (See Acts 15:37-41)
You may not have the spiritual gift of encouragement and you may not think of it in terms of your neighborhood, but everyone can do something to notice and affirm another. Everyone loves applause. Give it a try!
Neighboring challenge: Write a note of thanks or affirmation to one of your neighbors. Pop it in their mailbox.