Acts 9:26-31:The gift of encouragement.

“26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,  but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”NIV

In the unfolding story of the infant church, Saul (Paul) gets many more mentions than Barnabas. He has lots of lines to deliver in this play, whereas Barnabas appears on the stage just a few times. Saul becomes high profile; Barnabas doesn’t.. Yet reading between the lines, the progress of the early church owed a lot, humanly-speaking, to Barnabas and his gift of encouragement (and maybe to others too who, like him, did not have star-billing, but quietly and faithfully went about their lives of service.) What a wonderful thing Barnabas did for the church when he took Saul by the hand and brought him into the church at Jerusalem (27). He smoothed the way and allayed their understandable fears. In the church today we know about the big name speakers, but often we don’t hear the stories of the anonymous, godly believers who encouraged them when they were younger. The church needs its Saul’s if it’s going to grow, but how it also needs its Barnabas’s.

Another attempt was made on Saul’s life, yet in the wake of these events the church ‘’enjoyed a time of peace’’ (31) after a season of persecution. It was only for ‘’a time’’, but during it the church prospered (31),experiencing the kind of growth we all long for, I’m sure – that in both quality and quantity.