I find it interesting that the first thing we find out about Barnabas, and his gift of encouragement, wasn't about what he said, but about something practical he does.
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36)
So often we think of encouragement as being all about words, about saying positive and uplifting things. But sometimes it is so much more powerfully expressed by what we do rather than what we say.
I still remember something that happened to Catrina and me not long after we got married. We had a car which had just gone to car heaven, and had no money to buy a replacement. At the time we were in a Lifegroup in Reading. Colin and Sarah Boyle, who were also part of the group (and were as broke as we were), came round one day and gave us some money towards buying a new car. I can honestly say that is is one of the most encouraging things that has ever happened to us. To know that somebody else was willing to stand with us and support us, not just by saying positive things, or even offering to pray for us, by by offering a practical demonstration of support.
I've heard similar stories so many times. People coming home and finding bags of food left outside their home, or money in envelopes put through their letter box, just when they needed it. People taken out clothes shopping for that event coming up when they didn't have the money for a new outfit. A thoughtful present, especially when there isn't a birthday or any other reason for it.
And if you want to encourage church leaders, one of the most powerful things you can do is to give your money, not to them but to the churches they lead. If there's one things that communicates the fact that we trust leaders, it's being willing to trust them to properly use our financial resources. That's what Barnabas was communicating by laying his money at the apostles feet.
So two challenges. First have you got a cool story of receiving practical encouragement. If so please comment on the blog about them. Secondly try and find a way of encouraging someone practically this week. Buy someone flowers, pay for someone to have a haircut, buy someone a book, whatever is practically going to express encouragement to someone in your world.