Anything that we do to help, and spur each other on, in our journey of faith is an act of encouragement. Kind and thoughtful words can be a blessing but to have a lasting effect, our words and our actions need to point to the Lord. Sometimes it is simply the practical things that we can do for each other, that have more of an impact.
What does the phrase ‘investing in the lives of others’ mean to you?
The definition of invest, is to put money or time into something or someone with the hope and expectation that there will be a profitable return.
God’s ways, though, are so different. His word teaches us that we are to give and serve others without expecting anything in return.
Our attitude, in all that we do, should be that we are serving the Lord, and to give without expectation of return, to place the outcome of our service in His hands. I believe, though, when we are serving in that way, God who is gracious and kind blesses us in His way and perfect timing.
Keep company with God, get in on the best. Open up before God, keep nothing back; he’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.Psalm 37: 4-6 MSG
The Early Church
In the last couple of posts we have been following the story of Barnabas from his introduction in Acts 4 as the ‘son of encouragment’ who demonstrated that true encouragement flows with generosity, to a couple of years later in Acts 9 where he is willing to take a risk and show true encouragement when he reaches out in friendship to Saul.
Now in Acts 11 we’ve moved on 4-5 years. The gospel has spread out from Jerusalem, due to the persecution of the church many believers have left the city. In the towns where they settled, they shared the gospel. Some men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch, at that time a Greek city, and they began to share their faith with the locals there – this was significant, because these people were Gentiles. A great number of people believed and turned to the Lord – and they were being blessed. The news of what was happening travels back to the church in Jerusalem – and the leaders there wanted to know more!
Barnabas had a good reputation among the church in Jerusalem and when they needed to send someone to investigate, someone without prejudice, who would be able to view the situation impartially, they turn to him. He was willing to travel, and to put himself out to serve the leaders in this way.
Antioch was approximately 300 miles North of Jerusalem and whether you enjoy travelling now or not, it was a whole different undertaking in the first century. Would you be prepared to walk that far? The average walking rate was 20 miles a day – so Barnabas could get to Antioch in about 15 days…
Investing in Others
When Barnabas arrived in Antioch and saw what God was doing, he was glad for the people there and encouraged them in the faith “to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts”. This is the only time in scripture that we have a quote of Barnabas speaking ‘encouraging words’ – words of true encouragement which point people to the Lord!
Barnabas realised that there was a need for teaching in this new ‘church’ and he remembered Saul, who loved to preach the gospel. Saul had left Jerusalem about five years earlier, for his own safety, and gone back to his hometown of Tarsus. And so Barnabas is willing to travel further, back on the road to Tarsus to find Saul and bring him to Antioch. Barnabas did not look for self-promotion, but looked at how the need in this new fellowship of believers could be best met. He considered others above himself.
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.Philippians 2:3-4 MSG
Barnabas was willing to invest in the lives of others – to put in time and effort to encourage the new believers in Antioch, but also to ‘remember’ Saul – who would be ideally suited for this new work, as God had chosen him to be a ‘light to the Gentiles’.
If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else – Booker T WashingtonTweet
It was here in Antioch, as Barnabas and Saul co-worked together, for over a year, that they experienced a real time of peace and blessing. The new church was hospitable towards them and they taught a substantial crowd – a time of stability and friendship. Barnabas was blessed for his willingness to serve faithfully, in whatever task came next!
God reveals His plans to us one step at a time. “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.” Proverbs 16:9 MSG
When Barnabas took a risk five years previously to reach out to Saul and offer him friendship, he had no idea of the significance. When he set off for Antioch, to report on what was happening there, he had no idea of where it would lead. He willingly invested in the lives of others and at the same time God was investing His plans and purposes in him. As he served God faithfully in what was before him, God broadened his service, new opportunities came his way, and his ministry also grew.
The move to Antioch would be significant for both Barnabas and Saul – later on it would be from here that their ministry would develop further, and they would be sent out together, as missionaries to Cyprus….
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