What if you were known only by the words you speak? What if someone read a transcript of all your words from today? How would someone characterize us if they only knew our words? Would they know I am a follower of Jesus by the words I speak?
I love words! I love fun-sounding words like olio and hoopla! I also love fancy words like hydrofluvial geomorphology, and qualm. Words can craft beautiful, timeless poems, culture-shaping narratives and most importantly, words of God bring life!
What happens when our words find themselves on a different side of the spectrum? Surely, it is not unrealistic to think you and I have let a word slip a time or two. Like an archer releasing his grip, we unloose our words targeted at another. They sink deep. They wound. Maybe you have been on the other side of that arrow as well.
Words have power, in the same way that a $20 bill has power. It represents something. Words inherently are nothing more than organized syllables, but when those syllables sound like “I never loved you”, what the words represent, injures us deeply.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks [emphasis added].Luke 6:45
How much more then, can a word breathe life into a soul! If in the finite power of our flesh we can tear down, how much more can the infinite power of God infuse our words to lift up, to embolden and to inspire?
…how much more can the infinite power of God infuse our words to lift up, to embolden and to inspire?
Barnabas is one of my favorite people in the entire Bible. His role as seen in the book of Acts is one that I have often aspired toward.
He is never seen preaching to thousands, reviving people from the dead, or even doing anything of major public influence. Barnabas is never seen lamenting his posture of anonymity. Yet, the impact of Barnabas’ life should never be understated, I would even be willing to say that much of the existence of the New Testament scriptures hangs on how God used Barnabas!
How could a man not mentioned more than ten times in the Bible have had such influence? Are you intrigued yet?
It was because of his words.
Barnabas was an encourager, so widely known was the fact that people actually gave him a nickname more aptly fit for his character: Barnabas. Did you catch that? Barnabas is actually his nickname! His birth name is Joseph, but he was given the name Barnabas so definitively that even the Biblical authors have no reason to record his name otherwise.
The nickname “Barnabas” literally meant “Son of Encouragement”. The words Barnabas spoke led people to know him, and ultimately identify him as an encourager. This does not mean that Barnabas was gallivanting around pouring out flattery on every person he knew—far from it!
Barnabas was a man who spoke life into others.
In Acts 9, we see a dispute rising about Paul being welcomed by the disciples in Jerusalem. Scripture records their suspicion and doubt that a former persecutor, especially with his reputation could be trustworthy. Then, Barnabas steps in and speaks on behalf of Paul, defending him, affirming his call to preach the Gospel, and putting himself on the line for the sake of Paul.
WHAT AN ENCOURAGER!
Have you ever had someone do this for you? Have you ever had someone publicly applaud all the great things about you and argue for your worth, your value and affirm what God has called you to do? I can think of few greater things than this. It is life-giving!
Our interaction with Barnabas does not end here. There is another instance when Barnabas’ influence is recorded in Acts. Much time has passed since Paul had been introduced to the disciples by Barnabas, and now surprisingly enough we find Barnabas in a dispute with Paul. An argument so seemingly irreconcilable that the two men must part ways.
Paul disproves of inviting John Mark to their next missionary journey, due to his past actions that call into question his level of commitment and maturity. Barnabas however, disagrees, once again standing up for another person, affirming their worth. Barnabas was so confident in his words that the two could not agree and instead split up. But the story does not end here.
At the end of Paul’s life, we see him request John Mark’s help because Paul considers him most helpful to his ministry! Obviously something must have changed since his dispute with Barnabas. Paul was not one to be flippant with his words, I can only believe then, that John Mark grew into the man Barnabas always believed him to be—a valuable teammate in ministry.
The power of our words never ceases to amaze me. I consider my adolescence and less-than-perfect childhood. I should have grown up to be nothing more than a statistic, another illustration of a lower-class uneducated, broken family, destined for self-destruction.
Yet, what I experienced was a mother who never let me hear those words. Instead, I heard only words of encouragement, and support not just from her, also from every one of my teachers as well. Mrs. Cordone, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Jagger, Mrs. Saldivar, Mrs. Meyer, Mrs. Flanigan, kindergarten through 5th grade my heart was fostered and nurtured by the encouraging and inspiring words of these women I respected.
Friends, never rob someone of the joy they will feel from your encouraging words!
Friends, never rob someone of the joy they will feel from your encouraging words! There is not a single person you will meet today who is not in need of the love you will speak into their life with your encouragement.
Sometimes that encouragement might look like a quick text message to a friend or loved one, reminding them why they are special to you.
Sometimes that encouragement might look like sending a card to someone God has put on your heart, and you share your prayer with them in your handwriting.
And sometimes that encouragement is stepping out in faith, putting yourself on the line for another person, because you know that there is no one too far gone for God to work a miracle in their life.
Do not be afraid to love fiercely. And yes, words are necessary.
The world will know we are disciples of Jesus based on the love we show to each other.
May your words be the testimony of a heart surrendered wholly unto our Lord Jesus!