Who encourages you when you are down? Perhaps it's an old college roommate, a former teacher, or your spouse. The prototype encourager in the New Testament was a man named Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus who became a disciple of Jesus. Repeatedly, this man took actions that comforted and encourage. He sold his own land and gave to the poor in the church. He took the side of new converts with whom established church members were not comfortable (one of those unaccepted new converts whom Joseph stood up for is better known to us as the apostle Paul). He mentored less-seasoned preachers and groomed them for greater service. Joseph encouraged so well that he earned a nick name - Barnabas, the son of consolation or the encourager.
Maybe you are the encourager in your group and don't even realize it. Military chaplains sometimes talk about the "ministry of presence," encouragement and spiritual assistance that is somehow given simply by just being there. Your presence may make it easier for another to do what is right. Your attendance at worship services may inspire someone who is discouraged and might drift away if not for your example. Sometimes a simple smile from someone at the right time helps me. So, keep smiling. Give a hug to the downcast. Give a cup of water to the thirsty. The ministry of encouragement is not always dramatic. It is, however, crucial. Thank you to my encouragers. It would be so hard without your prayers, hugs, e-mails, and brilliant smiles. Keep the Barnabas tradition going.