If I could ask God to give me a specific gift it would be the gift of encouragement. I would ask Him to create in me an ability to encourage those around me; I would ask for the ability to see people as He sees them; I would ask for the gift of loving people the way He loves me. You see we live in a world that is full of reasons to bring us down. In between all that, we as people also have a tendency to see the worst in situations and people and hammer it away.
The other day I listened to Sarah Jakes talk about the mistakes she has made in life from getting pregnant at 14years to getting divorced and what amazed me is the kind of faith the father must have had to let her make the mistakes she has made. In the end God has transformed the mess to a ministry that many relate to. One of the things that she said that tagged at my heart was that the problem she saw in the church as she went through her messes was that many of us feel the need to police each other. We are therefore always snooping for a goof and looking to arrest this. Yet she says a simple truth, that the church is not called to police people but to lead them to Christ who then transforms the people. I sat and listened to her and thought how amazing it would have been to be the person who sees how God can still use her in the mess and so soldier her on. Encourage her. Pray for her. Trust God for her life. I think that’s an amazing gift.
This is the gift I find in this guy called Barnabas. Saul has met with the Lord and given his life to Him. However, to many he still is the guy who stoned and harassed the church. So many do not want to interact with him, let alone accept he is a transformed man. I don’t blame them really, what with the guy Saul was, I am not sure I would have been any different. Yet Barnabas sees Paul as Christ sees him. He somehow is able to see past what he was and encourage him.
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.
Barnabas had a knack for encouraging Paul. He seems to see Paul as he will be not the Saul he was. So as if once is not enough, he still goes looking for him yet again:
Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
I like this description of Barnabas, a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. He really had to be this man for him to see what Paul could be. The result of these encouragements is Paul becomes one of the greatest teachers ever! As a result of this encouraging season,our faith is spread, it was in this season that believers were first called Christian! I always wonder what would have become of Paul if no one was able to see what God was doing and encourage him.
Help me to see
I wonder if in our churches today we have Saul’s that we refuse to see. I wonder if we sometimes we only see what has not worked because we see with logic eyes. I wonder if we have the faith it takes to trust God’s transformative power to finish the work that needs to be done in Paul. Because Paul was still not perfect. He still had rough edges. Yet despite and inspite, Barnabas sees beyond that and sees what God can do with him.
That is my prayer. That I will see what God can do with people and encourage them on. I pray that God teaches me to trust His transformative power, to trust that that when He says that my job is to bring people to the Lord, it is because that is more than enough. The rest He will do.
I pray He teaches me to extend grace to others, that He teaches me to trust that He will finish what needs to be done with others. Heck He still is at work in me.
Too often we forget
Paul a few chapters later forgets this lesson as well; it is still Barnabas who is the encourager.
After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas.
Yep, Barnabas is still encouraging, his newest student is John Mark. It is said that this John Mark is the same one who becomes the great evangelizer responsible for the gospel of Mark.
I look at myself and see what the Lord has done with me over the years, I am not where I need to be by a long shot, but I am not who I used to be. How many others are like me, still in this pathway of figuring God’s calling for their life, far from perfect, yet submitted to Christ? Do I see them as such or am I the one who wants to hurry them to completed works. Do I see the imperfections or do I have faith eyes that see what God is doing?
I am desiring this gift of encouragement; the gift of building others, the gift of calling out sin in love. The gift of seeing people as Christ sees them. The gift of vulnerability.