“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Becoming Body Builders, by Randall D. Kittle
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It should come as no surprise that most Americans wish they were in better shape physically. According to the advertising industry, men want powerful legs, bulging biceps, and six-pack abs. Not to be left out, the average American female wants to tone her arms, blast her fat, and acquire a solid core.

The reason these desires remain unmet for most Americans is they’re not willing to do the work it takes to possess them. Instead, we tend to look for a “Mega-Muscle” pill with “Secret Ingredient X-87” that does all the work for us. Or perhaps we would be willing to try that one neglected exercise that promises to bring nearly instant results.

If you are interested in building a stronger body, I have good news for you. I have found the one “secret” and “neglected” thing we need in order to become successful body builders. The bodybuilding secret from the Bible contained in this article is
guaranteed to build stronger bodies But not like Denise Austin or Arnold Schwarzenegger, it will build stronger bodies of believers … stronger churches.

The Secret forBody Building
Let me tell you the biblical secret I’ve discovered for building stronger churches … Barnabas. He is an unsung hero of the faith, a neglected example, and the forgotten thirteenth apostle. Now if the sound of a thirteenth apostle has you thinking this is this some new heresy, allow me to explain. The Bible clearly shows us fourteen apostles. There were the original twelve from Acts 1 (when Judas Iscariot was replaced by Matthias). And then Acts 14:14 clearly states that both Barnabas and Paul were apostles. “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude …” While the Word of God names Barnabas and Paul as apostles, it is interesting to note the word order — Barnabas was listed first. When they are listed together in the first half of the book of Acts, Barnabas, not Paul, is mentioned first. This shows the great importance he had in birthing the early church.

So who was this thirteenth apostle? Historically, it is believed that Barnabas studied under Gamaliel the same rabbi who trained Saul of Tarsus (who later became the apostle Paul). It is quite possible he knew Saul as a fellow student. Barnabas’ real name was Joseph, and he was a converted Levite from Cyprus. He became an early disciple of Jesus and was believed to have been one of the 70 disciples Jesus sent forth to minister in Luke 10. His name is mentioned thirty times in the Bible, more often than most of the twelve apostles. According to Acts 4, it was the other apostles who gave Joseph his nickname Barnabas.

Nicknames are very interesting. Parents often spend hours a day over many months trying to find the perfect name for their child, only to discover that they end up going by a completely different name for most of their lives. But, just as you and I didn’t get to pick our names, we don’t get to choose our nicknames either. Normally a prominent character trait or something we do inspires others to give us our nicknames.

What does the name Barnabas mean?
This is what happened with Joseph the Levite from Cyprus. We know that the apostles gave Joseph the nickname “Barnabas.” In Hebrew, “Bar” means “the son of.” For example the apostle Peter was also called Simon Bar Jonah, meaning: “Simon the son of Jonah.” But what does the “bar-nabas” mean? The son of …? While it could mean: “son of refreshment,” “son of comfort,” or “son of consolation,” it literally means: “son of prophecy.” However, Acts 4:36 explains clearly that the name was chosen by the apostles to mean “son of encouragement.”

It might seem strange that a name meaning “one who prophesies” is used to represent “one who encourages,” but that is only because we forget the vital link between prophecy and encouragement. For example, in 1 Corinthians 14:3 it tells us,
“But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” Prophecy is meant to encourage those to whom it is given — to strengthen and inspire them. Those who have matured in the prophetic have learned that prophetic ministry is only fruitful when we combine prophecy with love and encouragement.

How does Encouragement Build the Body?
Let’s look in the book of Acts at the life of Barnabas, the son of encouragement, and learn the important role encouragement plays in building up the body.

#1 — Acts 4:36–37: “And Joseph, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Barnabas willingly gave what he had to the church, and he gave it with “no strings attached.” This showed that he supported those in leadership. From this we learn that encouragement strengthens the church and undergirds church leadership.

#2 — Acts 9:26–27: “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” Barnabas believed the best in others and was willing to adopt the spiritual orphans the church had rejected. This shows us that encouragement welcomes the outcasts and ushers them into fellowship.

#3 — Acts 11:22–24:
“Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” Barnabas was willing to leave behind what he was familiar with to go and strengthen others. From this we see that encouragement builds up new believers.

#4 — Acts 11:25–26:
“Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Barnabas didn’t try to do it all. He encouraged Saul to be part of his work, which helped release him into his giftedness. We discover from this that encouragement brings out dormant gifts and helps birth new ministries.

#5 — Acts 15:36–40:
“Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.’ Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.” Barnabas didn’t turn his back on others. He came alongside them and helped them find their place. Barnabas knew that his God was the God of the second chance — the One who redeems, restores, and reconciles. From this we learn that encouragement redeems those who fail and helps them succeed.

Did Barnabas succeed with Mark? Not only did Barnabas successfully minister with him to a number of the early churches, look at how Paul (who had earlier given up on Mark) esteemed him as a minister in his later days:

• Colossians 4:10 —
“My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)”

• 2 Timothy 4:11 — “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry”

The Results of Barnabas’ Encouragement
Here is just a short summary of the fruit produced by Barnabas’ encouragement.

• The Church in Jerusalem was strengthened and leadership supported.

• Paul was able to become the man of God he was called to be … including writing thirteen books of the Bible.

• Mark became useful in the Lord’s service … including writing the gospel of Mark.

• The first Gentile Church was established, enlarged, and strengthened.

• The Gospel message began to spread around the world.

Like Barnabas, encouragers today help the kingdom of God to progress. They do this by thinking encouraging thoughts, speaking encouraging words, and doing encouraging deeds. Encouragers help us release what is dormant within us — working out what God has put within.

God uses encouragers as a catalyst for advancement. A “catalyst” is
“a person or thing that precipitates an event or change.” Encouragers cause change in our lives … change for good. They bring light into our darkness and hope into our despair. Encouragers also give strength, for the word “encourage” literally means: “to impart courage, to hearten.” Encouragers make faint hearts stout, and help us have the courage to carry on.

These ones who strengthen feeble hearts and help bring about change are so much more valuable to the Church than we can imagine.

Let me give you an example. I remember, years ago when the Lord called me to pastor a church, I felt so inadequate for the job. It wasn’t so much that I felt insufficient. It was more that God had shown me some of the big things He wanted us to do, and they seemed beyond what we could possibly accomplish. Yet in the next few years, we impacted the region around us in ways that were astounding. I believe much of the credit for our fruitfulness was due to the seeds of encouragement many people (first and foremost my wife) sowed into my life. Two women the Lord used to greatly encourage me were Anita and Geri. They were encouragers who are also intercessors. What a dynamic duo! After nearly every message that I shared, they spoke words of affirmation with smiling faces. When we would venture forth into some new area, they not only spoke words of encouragement, they volunteered to roll up their sleeves and help do the work. These two “Barnabases” did more for advancing the kingdom of God in our area than they will ever realize … more than I realized until recently.

The Duty to Encourage
Encouragement isn’t just needed or nice. It is the Lord’s command! “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13). And 1 Thessalonians 5:11 & 14 further instructs us, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing … And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

William Barclay wrote:
“One of the highest of Christian duties is the duty of encouragement. It’s easy to pour cold water on others’ enthusiasm; it’s easy to discourage people. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has helped a Christian to stand in difficult times.”

The Need for Encouragement
Your church doesn’t need just another Barnabas, or even a few; it needs to be filled with Barnabases. Can you imagine if your church were filled with people like Barnabas … if every person in your church decided to be a source of encouragement?

Your church would explode with the kindness and love of Jesus.
Your church would soon have standing room only because …
… a Barnabas is a person who willingly sacrifices for the good of the kingdom.
… a Barnabas loves people and helps bring them into the presence of God.
… a Barnabas tells people, “God wants to do something more with your life.”
… a Barnabas is a person who stands up in defense of the name of the Lord and their church.
… a Barnabas says, “Our church is an incredible place and the message of God gets better each time you hear it.”
… a Barnabas is a person who says, “I want to use all of my abilities to help this place go forward.”

A church filled with encouragers like that would be strong. It would do exploits. It would rattle the very gates of Hell!

A while ago, the Lord gave me this prophetic promise:
“I am coming in the days ahead to lift up the Barnabases throughout My Church, and reward them for being faithful friends of the Bridegroom.” Although encouragement is seen in the Church as little more than a few nice words those who can’t accomplish much say to those who can, it is a vitally important ministry that is far more powerful and effective than most of us realize. That is why God desires to elevate and reward those who serve in this vital ministry in the days ahead.

Becoming Barnabases
How can we become Barnabases? To be an encourager, you must first be encouraged in God yourself. You must first believe that God is for you and wants to bless you. Do you remember Barnabas’ given name? It was Joseph. “Joseph” means: “God will add or God will increase.” Being a “Joseph” always precedes becoming a “Barnabas.” In other words, it is from the place of believing that God will increase and add to your life that you can encourage others.

To become encouragers like Barnabas, we need to understand the great truth found from the beginning to the end of the Bible, which is that God is for us not against us and has created us to be His own special people. God sees us as the head and not the tail. The cry of His heart is “I rejoice and delight in you! You are My special treasure!” The Lord has declared that we are His own special people … set apart for Him. The living God of the universe loves you with an unfathomable, undeniable love.

God prophesied that He would take a people who serve Him and treasure them as His own special jewels.
“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels” (Malachi 3:17). As believers, we are the gemstones of God — worth more to Him than all the rest of His creation!

The second way to become a Barnabas is simple …
just do it! Encouragement is like a muscle. It becomes stronger as we begin to exercise it. Won’t you choose this day to start to exercise the precious gift of encouragement? By starting to walk in the gift of encouragement, you can make a powerful difference in your family and your church. Words of encouragement are powerful. They bring light, renew hope, inspire faith, and help do the impossible. Start building a stronger body at your church by being like Barnabas — a bodybuilding son or daughter of encouragement!

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