Sunday, 15 November 2015

Daily Reading: Acts 11v19-30 'Being Barny'

"19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul."
There is a lot we could focus on here.  But what has struck me is the character of Barnabas, who Luke keeps on drawing our attention to (ch6, 9, 11).  "When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose..."
Barnabas was an encourager, such an encourager that encouragement could have been his dad because they had the same DNA, the family likeness and here we see a picture of what encouragement looks like in the church.

Barnabas is sent by the Apostles and just look at the description he "came...saw...was glad...exhorted them to remain faithful..."  Barnabas was a man filled with the Spirit in whom the fruit of the Spirit were obvious.  When he gets to Antioch he rejoices that the Gentiles have come to faith, that the grace of God is at work, active, among them as a community.  And that joy leads him to encourage them to keep on going.  he doesn't coolly and critically evaluate and then troubleshoot, or suggest how he would have done it differently.  There's no criticism sheathed within a velvet glove as we can sometimes do.  Barnabas rejoices in the gospel bearing fruit and works to encourage further fruitfulness.

Isn't that a challenge, am I characterised by joy in seeing the gospel and grace at work in others.  Am I rejoicing in the faith and fruit of others?  Am I looking to spur others on rather than bring them down.  This is so counter our culture, our culture prizes criticism not praise, it assumes that intelligence and skill always evaluates and knows a better way.  But that is the fruit of this age not the fruit of the Spirit.  Imagine what church would be like if when we walked in we all looked for two people we could encourage about our joy in seeing the grace of God at work in their life.  Two people we could encourage by praying with and for them.  Every church needs a Barnabas, if not more than one.

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