52 years ago this coming May my wife, Norma Jean, and I moved to Hillsboro, Ohio, for my first full-time preaching work. Very quickly we came to know a young couple, Dave and Nancy Wyckoff, and their 2 young daughters, Cheryln, and Tamara, who we affectionately called Tammy, and their newborn son, Jason.
Little did we know how that relationship would continue, and flourish, over the course of living in 6 different states and working with 9 different congregations in the coming years. Dave and Nancy were what you would call “forever friends.” We could go a year or more and not see each other, but pick up again, right where we left off.
While the Wyckoff’s were not widely known outside the community where they lived and in Southern Ohio, their godly influence impacted everyone they met, far and wide.
In thinking of Dave, it occurred to me the description of the New Testament disciple Barnabas was a fitting summary of Dave’s life, influence, and character.
The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch on a mission trip, which Luke described this way.
When (Barnabas) came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Ax. 11:23-24).
Dave Wyckoff was a Barnabas man.
#1 Like Barnabas, Dave was a good man
Barnabas used his resources and possessions to help others. Once he sold a piece of property to assist saints in need (Ax. 4:36-37). And he was willing to give his time, talent, and skills to make a difference in the growth of the early church.
Our mutual friends Bob and Terry Andrews commented “Dave is a good man.” Then Bob added.
♦Dave was selfless, always putting others first.
♦Dave was tireless, he could outwork most.
♦Dave was dedicated to Jesus, his Savior.
♦Dave was concerned for the souls of his family and friends.
I asked Dave’s family to share one-word descriptions of Dave. His family offered these words: Devoted. Uplifting. Friendly. Happy. Kind. Fun. Strong. Faithful. Godly. Hardworking. Helpful. Affectionate. Joyful. Generous. Compassionate. Enthusiastic. Content. Selfless. Amazing. Caring. Leader. Servant. Loving. Those are marks of a good man.
A good man does good. And Dave did. Whether it was financial help. Or loaning his truck. Or helping someone with house repairs. Dave’s family, friends, neighbors, and brethren can attest that he was always doing good.
#2 Like Barnabas, Dave was full of the Holy Spirit.
No, not with miraculous works, but he was filled with the fruit of the Spirit. Identified in Galatians. 5:22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The above descriptions by Dave’s family, speak to the fruit they could see in his life. Dave loved his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His love for his wife Nancy was demonstrated both in life, during her illness, and following her death.
Dave was a joyful person. A positive person. A man who made you feel better just being around him. He treated everyone, even total strangers with kindness, compassion, and consideration.
The fruit of Dave’s life continues to be experienced by all who knew him.
#3 Like Barnabas, Dave was full of faith.
His faith was in “the faith,” the gospel. The Word of God. Dave was a Christian. And unashamedly professed his faith in his savior, Jesus Christ. He looked to the Lord both in good times as well as tough times.
His faith was evident to the local church when he was selected to serve as a Deacon, then later as one of their Shepherds. To Dave, those were not positions, but opportunities to serve. To minister. And to help others both physically and spiritually.
In his final days while in the hospital, Dave was talking to the nurses about his faith and sharing the gospel with them.
#4 Like Barnabas, Dave was an encourager.
The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement (Ax. 4:36). He encouraged the brethren at Jerusalem. The new converts at Antioch. And Saul of Tarsus, extending to him the right hand of fellowship, when others were wary of him.
When I think of my friend and brother, “encourager” is a fitting summary of his life. Dave encouraged me as a young preacher in my first work. He encouraged those who were struggling, weak, hurting, and often felt disenfranchised. He encouraged preachers. And he encouraged his family to be faithful to the Lord.
Like Barnabas, Dave “saw the grace of God,” because he experienced the grace of God. And by faith, we believe he’s now enjoying a place in Paradise by God’s grace.
I write this not only in honor of my life-long friend, but to encourage others to emulate the life of Barnabas. There are many Christians living in small, rural communities, unknown and unheralded by the world or even the brotherhood, who quietly go about their day-to-day duties, living their faith, loving the Lord, serving others, and making a difference.
Like Dave Wyckoff, I encourage you to be a Barnabas.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman