One aspect that we haven’t talked much about is this: Barnabas may well have single-handedly prevented a damaging split in the early church between Antioch and Jerusalem. If you go back and read it, you will see that he was the ‘go-between’ for Peter and Paul-between Antioch and Jerusalem. It wasn’t always easy in that relationship but Barnabas had a foot in both camps. He was a blessing and was described as the ‘chief-mediator’ between those two great centers of the early church by one commentator (Conzelmann) I read.
You have to ask, “Where would the church have been without Barnabas?” He is incidentally believed to have been martyred on Cyprus.
What can we conclude about his life today? When your heart is all for God, as I’ve already said, opportunities to serve Him are not far behind. Barnabas didn’t think “Well, I really don’t have a role here. I’ll just passively watch as others do the work.” He got stuck in to the work of encouraging.
He was secure in who he was in God, he wasn’t looking for position or praise from other people. He was easily led, a joy to lead. But sometimes he was too easily led. Don’t be like that.
He was equally happy in the background or serving in the foreground as the Lord led. Sometimes God will lead you into the foreground, other times He’ll lead you away from the foreground and into the background. The challenge is: will you serve? Some people say, “I only want to be in the background.” But if God puts His hand on you and pulls you to the front, it’s as much a sin to resist that as it is to be someone who yearns for it. We mustn’t be those who resist what God is calling us to do. We mustn’t be those who desire status and position and glory.
It seems Barnabas was also an example of someone who served God despite putting family first before the church and before his ministry opportunities. I think that’s quite liberating for us. I would urge you, and the leaders feel very strongly about this, we must get our priorities right in life. I think Barnabas is an example of a man who did just that.
There are four key elements of a balanced, godly life. First: your relationship with God. There seems no doubt to me that Barnabas was close to God. It did say he was full of the Spirit. It was that closeness to God that sustained him and that came first in his life. How else could he have been so effective and so faithful? I’m sure he put his relationship with God at the top of that list. It’s easy for us to sometimes let other things get in the way of God.
Some of you probably expect me to say, “And then he put church next.” I know many places it’s God first, then the church. Actually, no, he put his family next , his actions demonstrated that. He was prepared to risk his whole future in church ministry and church leadership over his cousin. I think God honored him for that. I think it’s right to put family above church. We serve our family because of our relationship with God. God calls us to our families first, to bless our families, to serve them. They’re your first church.
Actually, the best way to bless your family is to bring them to a godly church and so Barnabas did have a role in church and he saw that as very important.
Of course he knew something of how to order his finances, he had a field that he could sell. But we see by that act of selling, his work came in pretty poor fourth place. No one’s going to get to the end of their life and say they wish they’d spent more time at the office. It’s not going to happen. Work is important. But chances are, you’ll go through several jobs in your life. Hopefully, you’ll stick with one family. Hopefully you’ll be committed to one church for a long time. Sometimes you will move to a different church, that can be a godly thing to do. I am so thrilled to be in the church that I joined in 1995 and to see what God is doing here is a real joy and a delight.
Finally, it was Jesus who changed Barnabas’ life. It was Jesus that Barnabas had met. Jesus who made good all of Barnabas’ mistakes, who covered up for his disagreements. It was Jesus who helped Barnabas to be strong, robust and to be such an inspiration for others. It was Jesus that comforted Barnabas and encouraged Barnabas so that he could encourage others.
It says in the Scriptures: God is the God of all comfort and He comforts us so that we can comfort others. Brothers and Sisters, if you remember nothing else from this message, remember this: Jesus would say to you this morning, “Be encouraged!” And you, though you may never be a Paul (I don’t believe Barnabas was any less successful because he wasn’t Paul ). You may never be a Paul, I may never be a Paul, but we can all be a Barnabas.