When he was a young boy, Benjamin West attempted to draw a picture of his sister, but he succeeded only in making a mess. His mother saw his creation, kissed him on the head, and remarked, "Why, it's Sally!" He would later say that it was that kiss that made him an artist-and the great American painter he would become. Encouragement is a powerful thing!
Like a child learning to paint, Paul didn't have much credibility early on in his ministry, but Barnabas affirmed his calling. It was through Barnabas's encouragement that the church accepted Saul as a fellow believer (Acts 9:27). Barnabas would also encourage the fledgling church of Antioch, helping it to become one of the most influential in the book of Acts (11:22-23). And it was through Barnabas's encouragement, as well as Paul's, that the Jerusalem church embraced the gentile believers as Christians (15:19). So, in many ways, the story of the early church is really a story of encouragement.
The same should apply to our own lives. We might think encouragement is merely saying something nice to someone. But if we think that way, we fail to recognize the lasting power it possesses. It's one of the means by which God shapes our individual lives as well as the life of the church.
Let's thank God for the moments we receive encouragement and strive to pass it along to others.