People Who were Close to God: Barnabas: Growth over a Lifetime with God

This entry is part [part not set] of 4 in the series People who were Close to God

People Who were Close to God: Barnabas: Growth over a Lifetime with God

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Intro: Who is Barnabas?

We wanted to talk about Barnabas tonight because he is a guy who’s life really amounted to something. And the great thing about Barnabas is that he was with the Lord for a long time. Lots of things happened over that long history with God.

This is such a great message for us today, because there is so much cynicism about meaning in life. We live in the most materialistic culture in the whole world. And in a culture as materialistic as ours, it’s just a given that you live for money. You live to accumulate goods, live comfortable. And the failure of things like marriage and love undermine even those ideals as something to live for.

So I think there is a high degree of cynicism in our culture. I want to look at someone like Barnabas, because he really amounted to something. And the great thing is that the way he got there is a path that is available to anyone and everyone.

The intermediate stage: Barnabas as a trusted worker in the church

Where I want to start is kind of in the middle of Barnabas’ life. This is after he had been a Christian about 10 years or more.


The setting of this passage is the new and spontaneous church at Antioch. It had sprouted up more or less spontaneously and was growing very fast. And the mother church at Jerusalem, which is where Barnabas was from, wanted to send someone up there to check it out.

It’s clear that Luke is trying to tell us the good news that the message of Christ is spreading. And the fact that all these people are believing is so great. But he is also saying something here about Barnabas. “He was a good man, full of the Spirit . . .” And he says that when Barnabas arrived on the scene, two things happened. First of all, people were encouraged to give their whole hearts to the Lord. Second, many more people came to Christ.

Encouraging people to give their whole hearts

Especially the first of these—encouraging people to give their whole hearts to God—that is very unusual. That a hard thing to do.

When you think about giving your whole heart to God, what kind of reaction to people have? “Whoa! That scares me!” What’s God going to do with me?

What does it take to help someone over those fears? It takes a very powerful example. It takes someone who is that way himself, and yet is very attractive. Their life is very attractive, and what God has done with them is very attractive.

Example: I’ve met some people who have really given their life to the Lord and had an opportunity to interact with them. I think of some of the missionaries I’ve met, or just some of the older Christians I have known. And there is something very attractive.

Example: I remember as an 18 year old going with Mark Batcheck to hang out with these older missionaries . . . Mark had been really struggling with his Christian walk up to that point . . . But when he walked away that night?  “I’m going to become a missionary!”  You have to understand, this guy stood to inherit . . .

I want to be this kind of person. I fear that sometimes people can come in contact with me and they are no more likely to desire God than before. But I have experienced the opposite. I have experienced times when I could be around others and they wanted to get closer to God from seeing my example. And it’s real gratifying.

I just think this is a sign of some real genuineness. A motivational speaker can get you excited about something for a couple days. A new idea can get you excited for a week. But this is a profound effect—persuading someone to turn over their life to God.

Full of the Spirit . . .

So, Luke concludes that Barnabas was a good man . . .

To say that he was full of the Spirit is to say that he was spiritually powerful. And to say that he had faith is to say that he was close to God.

And finally, as a result of Barnabas’ input, many more were brought to the Lord.

Where did he come from?

Well, I wouldn’t mind at all being described this way. I mean, when you think of the way people remember you, how do you want it to be?

Example: He built this great house in the suburbs! And his golf game wasn’t too bad either!

Example: She had the best hairdos for most of her life!

Example: He could drink beer all night!

Example: She always drove new cars!

The fact is, no one would remember you for that kind of stuff. But those are the kinds of things that take our time and energy. What Barnabas was accomplishing with his life was really worth living for. And it gets better. We’ll see in a moment.

Acts 4:34-37

But first, to look at his roots, in Acts 4 . . .

This passage tells us a couple things about Barnabas. For one, it tells us that his name wasn’t really Barnabas. It was Joseph. And the reason he was called Barnabas was that he was encouraging to people.

This is great. It’s great because encouragement, in the biblical sense, is so good. To say that Barnabas encouraged people is to say that he was a real motivator. That’s what encouragement is. It’s not, ”You look nice today.” That’s good. It’s positive. But encouragement is so much more than that. When you encourage someone in the biblical sense, it means that you motivate them. You motivate them to action. You motivate them to change an attitude. You motivate them to keep going.

Example: When someone tells you you’re good at something, you know the effect it has on you. It makes you want to excell at it. I remember when I was considering a career in carpentry, and someone took me aside and said that they saw in me a great ability to work with people. Had I considered going in that direction? And that word of encouragement changed the whole direction of my life.

Example: I sat down with a guy on my porch and started pointing out what a great effect he’d been having lately on people. He turned to me and said, “You don’t know how much I’ve been thinking of just quitting things lately.  I’ve been so depressed, feeling like I don’t make a difference to anyone.

If words of encouragement were going on regularly, we would be in a very motivated, dynamic group.

Everyone can do it

The great thing about encouragement is that everyone can do it. This was one of the first ways of serving that Barnabas got into. It was one of the first ways for me too.

All it takes is thinking about someone. When I set my mind to encourage someone, I think about that person. I try to think about him in a prayerful way, if you know what that means. That means that you kind of think through things with the Lord. You pray about the person. You think of what you have seen lately. You think of how that person has effected you. And I’ll guarentee you will get some insight on that person, from God, which will encourage.

Oh, the other part of it is that you have to say something. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten something in my mind that I know I’m supposed to tell someone, and I forget. And then maybe it never happens. I believe I’ve really let someone down when that happens. So you have to speak up.

He gave

The other thing we see about Barnabas is that he gave.  He sold some property and gave the proceeds to benefit the needy.

Here again, this is something everyone can do. I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but the majority of time when giving  is discussed in the Bible, it is not discussed as something you do because people need it.  It is something you do to become more of a sacrificial  person.

Giving can be of your money, time . . .

A promoter of others (Acts 11:25

One other thing I want to observe about Barny’s earlier life and ministry is that he was a promoter of others.  We always find this guy promoting other people.  I’m  sure  this was connected to the fact that he was an encourager.  But what I mean by promoting  others is that he thought of ways he could get behind other people’s ministry.  He thought of ways he could push other people ahead.  He did it with the apostles at Jerusalem.  He did it with Paul.  Later we find him doing it with a guy named Mark.

Barny himself later became  kind of a big cheese.   But long before that, he was constanlty trying to promote other people ahead of himself.

Later life: Worldwide impact

Later in Acts, starting in ch. 13, Barnabas is chosen by God to beome a worldwide church planter with Paul the apostle.  Even after he parts ways with Paul in ch. 14, he continues on planting churches and having a worldwide impact.

Let’s put it this way, when Barnabas’ life was over, a lot of people were grateful that he chose to go with the Lord.

I want to conclude with a few observations.

Never set your goals too low

First of all, don’t make the mistake of thinking too small about what God can do with you.  Who could have told, way back at the beginning of  Barnabas’ Christian life, that he was going to do all the stuff he did?  Who can tell about you?

I’m glad that Barny didn’t just say, “Well, I can give of my money and that’s about all.”

Maturity takes decades

Secondly, the story of Barny’s life  covered decades.   He didn’t stumble into all this usefulness at once.   It took a lot of time.

I think people need to realize this about their Christian growth.  It takes a long time, but as you can see the effects  can be very dramatic.

Do the things you can do now

A lot people say, “If I can’t be a teacher then I don’t know what I want to do.”  Or they don’t  know where to start in their service.   Here were a few excellent tips from Barny’s life.

If you do the things you can right now, the Lord will open up  more opportunities for.  There is no doubt about that at all . . .

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