Barnabas the tow truck


You can jump-start the drained people around you

By Gaylord Goertzen

“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, which the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)…” Acts 4:36

We all know what it’s like to get in the car and turn the key only to hear a groaning or clicking noise. The car won’t start. Why? Because the car battery has been drained of power for one reason or another. The solution is to call a tow truck. It has a battery with power and can jump-start our car.

In the early church there was a man named Joseph whom the apostles called Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). The disciples called him Barnabas because he was a spiritual tow truck. Why? The Greek word encouragement means “come alongside to help.” That’s what a tow truck does, and that’s what Barnabas did. 

The early church was a family and shared their possessions. Barnabas sold a piece of land and gave the money to the church so the church wouldn’t be drained of all of its funds.   Barnabas came alongside those in the church who were drained by physical needs and gave.

After Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he tried to join with believers in Jerusalem but they were afraid of him. Saul was discouraged and spiritually drained. Barnabas was not afraid but came alongside Saul and encouraged him, affirmed God’s call, brought him to the church and told them how Saul’s life and been changed. Barnabas jump-started Paul’s ministry. Without Barnabas there might not have been a Paul.

On their first preaching tour, Paul and Barnabas took a young man named Mark with them. Mark couldn’t take the pressure and went home. He failed. Paul refused to give Mark a second chance, but not Barnabas. Barnabas came alongside Mark and encouraged him by taking Mark with him as he went one way and Paul went another. Barnabas jump-started Mark’s drained career as a missionary. Later Paul affirmed Mark and Mark became the writer of the first Gospel. Without Barnabas there might not be a Gospel of Mark.

What happened to Barnabas? What happens to a tow truck after it jump-starts our car? Its work is finished so it disappears. After Barnabas was used to jump-start people with financial needs, to startup Paul’s career and to jump-start Mark’s career, Barnabas disappears from Scripture as the emphasis is placed on Paul’s ministry. 

Not all of us can be great like Paul, but we can be tow trucks like Barnabas. All around us are people who are drained of power due to sickness, circumstances, hurt, pain or loss and who need a jump-start. God’s Word calls us to be Barnabas people and our churches to be Barnabas churches and come alongside hurting, needy, broken people to help and encourage them.

Gaylord Goertzen is a retired USMB pastor living in Hillsboro, Kan.




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