11th June 2020
Today is St.Barnabas’ Feast Day and you may know that he’s the Patron Saint of Cyprus, having been born and martyred there. He’s named as an Apostle, appears many times in the Book of Acts, and in three of St.Paul’s letters which is not surprising as he travelled with him to many destinations spreading the Good News. Yet, the thing I like most about Barnabas is he’s thought of as an encourager, and I suspect the reason his missions were so successful is that he didn’t just tell people about Jesus Christ, but encouraged people as they started their Christian journey. Most of us respond positively to encouragement of any kind; whether it’s from a Primary School teacher, parent, employer, friend, spouse or stranger. Genuine encouragement is a wonderful thing to receive, and it’s an even greater thing to give.
The weeks of lockdown have given most of us more time to think and reflect, and hopefully we’ve seen the blessings around us. With this additional awareness, maybe we could all try to follow in Barnabas’ footsteps a little more and to notice others, to be courageous and to offer a word or two of encouragement where it’s needed. I’m sure it really will make a world of difference.
The other side of this coin is that when someone offers us encouragement, we’re sometimes a bit too quick to dismiss it. I think this is particularly true of ladies when we’re encouraged about our appearance; as an example, I fear we’re all too keen to play down a new outfit as something we found in a sale. Whether we’re receiving encouragement about our appearance or our abilities, I feel it’s really important for us to learn to accept those compliments graciously. I say this not so we can puff ourselves up, but because we’re actually just acknowledging our God-given gifts. I would go as far as to say that it’s a little ungracious not to try and accept genuine compliments because in doing so, aren’t we somehow denying God’s role in our achievements?
We naturally, and thankfully, have our own individual gifts and abilities, and whilst it might be tempting to look at someone else and think they’re better than us, they’re not. Not in eyes of God anyway. The skewed way in which society and the wider world judges success may frequently leave us feeling unaccomplished, but we’re all created equally by God and loved equally by him too.
This week I was reading the Bible story of the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14) and I was struck by the differing responses of the characters. Jesus asks Philip where he can buy bread for so many people and Philip is really despondent; whereas Andrew is hopeful, positive and finds a young boy who has his packed lunch, which he gives to Jesus to share. You’ll recall that all the people were filled and the scraps were collected into twelve baskets. We may feel like the young boy with not much to give, but Jesus needs what we have all the same, and in our Lord’s hands, all things are possible.
As we give thanks this week for Barnabas’ life and example, let’s try and do all we can to encourage others, whether it’s in their Christian journey or in their life generally. And so, “to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Every blessing, Heidi.