Paul and Barnabas were really close friends and partners in the Gospel. Barnabas had been instrumental in bringing the newly converted Saul to introduce him to the Apostles in Jerusalem. And later, the pair were commissioned by the Church in Antioch to go out on their first missionary journey together. Here, they were making ready for their second missionary journey, when Barnabas insisted on taking his nephew Mark along again. But Paul rejected the idea, annoyed that Mark had deserted them half way through the first trip. And so they went their separate ways. Now on the surface, we see discord and disunity between Paul and Barnabas…but by parting company, the Gospel was spread much wider by more people. Sometimes we become very comfortable in the little group we’re part of…and God has to stir up the nest to move us out…in order that His work gets done.
No matter how spiritually strong we are, anyone of us can stray from the will of God. Here Simon Peter, nicknamed the Rock, of which Jesus had said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,” caved under man’s pressure. Peter had been fellowshipping with Christian Gentiles until a group of Jews showed up and started pressuring him to stop. He was afraid that his reputation and standing might be questioned…fearful of what they might think of him…so he separated himself from the Gentiles…taking everyone with him, including Barnabas. Isaiah 51:12-13 asks this question, “Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker?” It’s a dangerous slippery slope when we start fearing man rather than God…afraid of what people may think of us rather than doing God’s will. Peer pressure can be tremendous, for we all want to fit in and be liked…but when it causes us to deviate from God’s plan…it effects everyone around us.
Everyone can use encouragement…everyone likes words of appreciation. This week I was explaining to a group of ladies the purpose of this Devotional. Over 4 years ago, the Lord challenged me to become a modern-day Barnabas…an encourager of others. And in today’s world of negativity – I would challenge you also to become that man or woman of God that strengthens those around you…renewing souls with encouragement and gratitude…reviving and renewing those who are discouraged and down-trodden. A kind word could be life changing to someone around you today….resolve to be a Barnabas.
Barnabas not only had the spiritual gift of encouragement, but the nickname also. His mission and focus in life was to comfort and encourage others. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit as our Comforter…our Paraclete. Someone who comes up along side as a intercessor, advocate, encourager, and exhorter. To be a Barnabas, we need to be a Paraclete to others.
In the case of Barnabas and Saul, God’s calling was to preach the gospel…in your case it may be something entirely different…but the correlation is the same in that the calling comes first, then the setting apart. And depending on a myriad of things, the timing between one and the other can be short or long. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will place a calling on our heart and immediately will spring us into action…while other times, there is a long period of equipping and preparation on our part before He says, “Yes, the time is now.” It’s during that long wait that we tend to question our calling…but regardless of how long it has been, know that the Lord has not forgotten…He’s still at work, perfecting you, until the time when He will separate you for the work He’s called you to.
We all can use encouragement from others as we contend in this battle called life. God has put a unique group of people within your sphere of influence in order that you may inspire them towards unconditional love and doing the right thing. No one else can touch these people’s lives in a positive way like you. You can be that Barnabas -Son of Encouragement- to many around you today by simply speaking reassurance and hope.