Dr. Larry Crab is an accomplished Christian author. He wrote a book entitled, The Key to Caring and in it he tells a story about a man that changed his life.
“It happened one Sunday in the church of my childhood. I was just a young man, and we were having communion that day. For some reason, I was called on to pray. I was overcome with anxiety, because I already struggled with a speech impediment. In a terribly confused prayer, I recalled “thanking the Father for hanging on the cross and praising Christ for triumphantly bringing the Spirit from the grave.”
When I finished, I vowed he would never again speak or pray out loud in front of a group. At the end of the service, not wanting to meet any of the church elders, I made for the door. But before I could get out, an older man named Jim Dunbar caught me. I braced for a scathing correction of my bungled prayer and twisted theology. Instead Mr. Dunbar spoke the most shocking words of my life, “Larry, there's one thing I want you to know. Whatever you do for the Lord, I'm behind you one thousand percent.”
Crabb reflects, “Even as I write these words, my eyes fill with tears. I have yet to tell that story to an audience without at least mildly choking. Those words were life words. They had power. They reached deep into my soul and encouraged me to keep serving God.”
In Acts we meet a character much like Mr. Dunbar—Barnabas whose name means, “the son of encouragement.” Every time we see Barnabas in Acts he is always building someone up. In Acts 9 we read that Barnabas was willing to be Paul’s advocate despite his checkered past.
26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. (Acts 9:26-28)
If you think about it, Barnabas really put his neck on the chopping block for Paul and in effect he helped the Jerusalem church see that they wrong about Paul. Barnabas helped the church avoid a tragic mistake. Everyone needs a second chance and a Barnabas at some point to help open doors for them.
We may not be a Paul, but we can all be encouragers like Barnabas, who are God’s second-chance ambassadors. In the church, God has called us to raise up teachers, deacons, preachers, missionaries and servants. I don’t think Barnabas knew about the impact Paul would have on the church down through the ages. Likewise, when we invest and encourage others in the church there’s no telling how God may use us to raise up somebody else, who in turn is going to impact countless others. John Maxwell has said, “People go farther than they think they could, when someone else thinks they can.” Encouragement costs us nothing, but it worth more than gold to someone whose down! -DM
 Larry Crabb, Encouragement: The Key to Caring (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 81.
 John Maxwell, Encouragement Changes Everything (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 13.