During the last time when you were going through some kind of struggle in your life and felt it affecting your worship and service to God, who came along side you to pick you up, dust you off and help you get things going again? Did you quickly come up with a name? Or were you one of the people who said sorrowfully that no one came alongside you. You have really felt that no one seemed to care what happened to you at all.
Think of some of the principles God has given us in his word for such times as this. He said we are to “let brotherly love continue”. He illustrated love for neighbor with the story of the Good Samaritan who risked his own life and goods to help someone in trouble even when he didn’t know him or even know what had happened to him. We are to “bear one another’s burden and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In judgment it will be considered how we took care of the least of these our brothers when they were hungry, thirsty, a stranger naked, sick and in prison. What is never obvious to us is that when we are helping that one of these who are least among the brethren we are helping Jesus himself.
In I Thessalonians 5:14 Paul said “We exhort you, brothers: warn those who are lazy, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” This is a tremendous plan of action. Please notice he wasn’t talking just to the preachers and elders. It was written to every one of us to help us all feel responsible for our brothers and sisters so that we can help them in the time and in the way they need it.
One of my very favorite people talked about in the Bible is Barnabas, the son of encouragement. When people were down and out he seemed to always show up as one who would help them even if it was extremely hurtful to him. When the church got into a financial bind in Acts 4, Barnabas had land that he sold and brought the money to the apostles for them to distribute to the ones in need. When Saul was converted in Damascus, he returned to Jerusalem and tried to become a member of the Jerusalem church, but they didn’t want him. They couldn’t see beyond what they knew he had been, to look at who he was now. Barnabas, who was trusted in the church took Saul and brought him to the brethren there and explained his conversion to them and told them they needed to accept him as a bother. They took Saul in at that point. When some brethren went to Antioch and preached to the gentiles it was Barnabas that the elders in Jerusalem sent to see if it was real and to help them grow and develop as a strong church. He came and encouraged them, bringing in Saul of Tarsus to help and meeting with them for a year.
After he and Paul had gone on their first missionary journey when Mark went part of the way and gave up to come back home to this mother, Barnabas wanted to take him with them on their second missionary journey. Paul didn’t want to give him a second chance. He thought they had gone far enough and Mark needed to find work for God closer to home, not launch off on another rugged trip that would last for at least another year.Their difference of opinion became so strong that they parted ways and Paul took Silas as his new partner and Barnabas took Mark with him to go in a different direction.
We don’t see a whole lot about Barnabas in the Bible. What we do see is a man dedicated to the Lord and to serving him by helping others when they are down and needed his help.
Who do you know that has been a Barnabas to you when you were struggling? I suspect that most of us could name someone and perhaps many who were a Barnabas to us when we were in the deepest despair. But think of this whole matter in another direction. You had struggles in life and needed someone to be the son of encouragement to you, but when have you been a Barnabas to someone else that needed your help. The fact we’ve been through some things in life and didn’t allow them to pull us away from God should empower us to help someone else in such times.
When Paul was near the end of his life he wrote Timothy his young friend to plead with him to come to him before winter and bring his coat, gloves and parchments. As much as Paul wanted those things I don’t believe that was his primary reason for writing this letter. He most of all wanted Timothy to get there before the day that Nero would call him out of his prison cell to execute him. He wanted Timothy to come along side him and walk with him to the final farewell. He wanted the young man he had become closest to with him to help him be strong to the end. I sure hope Timothy made it in time.
It is easy to be the receiver all the time from Barnabas’ who help us when we struggle and hurt over children who have gone astray. Thank God for every such Barnabas. But if you’ve been in this whole situation for a long time, it is time for you to turn the spotlight off of yourself and on to someone else that is hurting so that you can be a Barnabas to someone else. You’ve been in a great training program from which you now deserve a graduation certificate that allows you to work with others who are empty and hurting. It would be a shame to waste all the training you’ve received. Start praying for God to open a door for you to serve in the very area you have hurt the most. It brings healing like nothing else in the world.