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Posts Tagged ‘mentor’

Be_A_Barnabas

There is a man in the book of Acts who has fascinated me for years. If you’ve never read Acts, you won’t get it, but this guy’s life is very compelling. Acts is the book written by Dr. Luke, detailing the lives of the disciples (now apostles) following the ascension of Jesus. Full of adventure and intrigue, good guys and bad guys, shipwrecks, beatings, miracles, signs & wonders, court room drama, and more protesters than at any Donald Trump rally. The story begins with Jesus telling his followers that He needs to go away for awhile but He’s going to send Someone to help them. So, in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit shows up…pretty dramatically…and the world has never been the same.

In chapter 4, a certain man is mentioned for the first time…Joseph, from Cyprus. He is a believer and I assume, because of evidence in his life, the apostles call him Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” At that time the believers were meeting together, living together and sharing in everything. Barnabas owned a field, sold it and gave all the money to the apostles…and this begins the story of the man responsible for the spread of Christianity around the world.

You thought that was Paul, didn’t you? Well, Paul usually gets the credit. We talk about Paul’s missionary journeys and Paul’s letters to the churches (which make up most of the New Testament) but in reality, this little known man called Barnabas is the real hero. And here’s why:

If it wasn’t for Barnabas, the world would never have known Paul. Before Paul (then known as Saul) had his roadside conversion, he was a very nasty guy. He was the original persecutor of anyone who followed the teachings of Jesus. Just the name “Saul” would strike terror in the hearts of believers in Jerusalem. But after his conversion, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and started preaching about Jesus being the Son of God. Needless to say, some were a little skeptical. It would be like a high-ranking ISIS official trying to join your church, claiming to be a Christian. But Barnabas shows up, takes Saul to the apostles in Jerusalem, and vouches for him…puts his own “son of encouragement” reputation on the line for Saul.

Not only is Barnabas known for being an encourager…and a man who champions those who are looked down on, but he was also satisfied with stepping out of the limelight to allow God’s plan for the world to move forward. When the church in Antioch sends out their first missionaries, it’s Barnabas who is the senior member of the team. But it soon becomes apparent that God is moving powerfully through Saul (now known as Paul), and Barnabas is the “other guy.” But he seems fine with it…he continues to travel, preaching and teaching about Jesus, working as a team with Paul to spread the gospel to Jews and Gentiles.

Our last real encounter with Barnabas may seem as though he has fallen out of favor, but I look at it differently. In the end of Acts chapter 15, Paul and Barnabas have a strong disagreement over the future involvement in their ministry of Barnabas’ cousin John Mark. Young J.M. had travelled with them in their first journey, but had quit for some unknown reason. Maybe the journey was tougher than he thought, maybe he was ill, maybe he was just homesick or immature in his faith – but for whatever reason, he went home. Now, in preparing for their second trip, Paul doesn’t want John Mark to join them, and Barnabas, once again, stands up for the little guy. (Remember, Paul? When he did this for you?) So Paul and Barnabas part ways and we really don’t know what happened to Mr. Encouragement after this. What we do know, from some of Paul’s letters, is that John Mark ends up back with Paul at some point. Barnabas has once again brought an immature young man to maturity and future ministry. And not just any future ministry, but a companion to both the Apostle Paul and Peter, as well as the author of the book of Mark, the second gospel. Pretty good mentoring job, Barnabas.

So, now you see why I find Barnabas to be one of the crucial men in the New Testament? If he hadn’t stood up for both Paul and later, John Mark, we may not have had the gospel preached, or the New Testament written. Obviously God would have found another way, but He used a little known Levite from Cyprus. Barnabas was an encourager to everyone, he stood up for the little guy, and he was willing to put his pride away and allow others to get the spotlight. I want to be a Barnabas.

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Finish Well

I ran another 5k last weekend. It wasn’t very fun…at least not the running part. It was hot and already 100% humidity at 8 a.m. One of my good friends was running also. Alanna’s a different class of runner than I am. She loves the long stuff…8-10 mile training runs are nothing for her. She’s a beautiful and godly woman who I have known for over 10 years. When we first met, Alanna was very shy and quiet. She was hesitant to share her opinion, but very willing to help in any way. She’s a great wife and mother and in recent years, has grown into leadership abilities I would guess she never thought she had.

On Saturday I noticed her confidence. She has found her place and she walks in it with assurance. She has grown and matured and, though she’s still quiet, she isn’t afraid to speak up and share her advice and encouragement.

We had a nice time getting reacquainted prior to the start of the race but I knew once the race began, I would be eating her dust. And I was totally ok with that!

The race began and I took off at my normal pace…slow. The weather conditions were ugly. I’ll take running in rain or snow over heat and humidity any day. The route was well marked but I knew I was in trouble when I had to stop and walk at the first mile mark. Though I’m not fast, I can usually run the whole 3.2 mile distance. But by mile two, I was struggling to run more than a half mile at a time. I knew my time was shot but I was moving forward and making little goals along the way.

I always have my run app going through my phone so every half-mile I’d hear the app’s voice tell me how far I’ve gone, how long it’s taking me and my pace. It helps me realize how far I have left to go. At mile three I knew I only had two-tenths of a mile and I was determined to gut it out. There was a turn in the course ahead of me so I assumed the finish line was just around the corner. Then I saw my friend Alanna coming toward me. She met me saying, “I’m going to run you in.” It was then I realized I had further to go than I thought. As we turned the corner I saw more than a quarter mile left to go.

I can’t describe how discouraged I became at that moment. Physically I really didn’t think I could do it. I knew I could walk it in, but Alanna was running alongside me and, to be honest, I didn’t want to disappoint her. I wanted to finish well…or as well as I could. I felt sick, my legs were rubber, I was panting, almost gasping, and sweat was dripping in my eyes. I was literally “a hot mess.” But I prayed “God, just get me home,” and with Alanna’s verbal encouragement and physical presence, I dug a little deeper and ran across the finish line.

My time was awful – but that wasn’t the important lesson. Here are my takeaways:

  • Train hard. It’s the everyday journey through life that prepares you for those sudden races that occasionally pop up.
  • Run your own race. It doesn’t matter where you are in comparison to other runners. You are the best “you” there can ever be. Be good with it.
  • Don’t believe the voice in your head. Keep your eyes and ears on the truth. My app was “off” on the distance of the 5k and I had put my whole mindset on its veracity. When I realized I had more to go, I was so discouraged. Run using the sign posts along the way – the Word of God is your sign post. Let it be your training manual for your own race.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, when you are confident and secure in your race, go back and encourage someone else along the way. Alanna’s voice and presence brought me in. Without her, I probably would have dropped back to a walk which was a failure in my mind. Be the coach, cheerleader, mentor, leader – whatever term you prefer – to bring others along toward their finish line.

The times we live in are getting hotter, tougher, harder…We need each other so we can all finish well.

By the way, I got first place in my age division…I was the only one in it! One more life lesson: There are no other runners in your race. As long as you show up and finish, YOU WIN!

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