Saul (or Paul has he was known by the Romans) was a powerful Jewish radical who hated Christians. He had them arrested and at times executed for believing. While on a journey to Damascus to serve arrest warrants to followers of Jesus, Jesus spoke to him. Saul was blinded and told to continue his journey and meet up with a Christian named Ananias. After they met, Saul regained his sight. He was then baptized and introduced to other followers of Jesus in Damascus. Saul was starting over…from scratch.
At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him…Acts 9:20-23
He left Damascus and went to Jerusalem. When he arrived, the disciples did not believe he had really changed. They were afraid to believe in him.
Saul needed help. Starting over was proving to be difficult. His old friends didn’t want him. The church leaders didn’t believe in him.
Believing in Saul would by risky.
Helping someone start over means taking a risk
Barnabas was a Christian from Cyprus who had been with the other believers in Jerusalem for a while. He was not someone who would have gone looking for Saul. There was no reason for the two of them to be together. They were oil and water. If you had told Saul that one day he would need Barnabas, he would have laughed at you…or cursed you.
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. Acts 9:27-28
It was risky for Barnabas to believe. But publicly siding with Saul meant would take it to a whole new level.
Helping someone start over means taking a stand
It is one thing to whisper “I believe in you.” It is quite another to publicly stand with someone and said, “I believe the change is real and I am not ashamed to stand with him and help.”
Eventually Saul ended up in Antioch. The church decided that God had called Saul and Barnabas as missionaries, so they sent them off.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. Acts 13:44-46
We? Paul seemed to be the one making everyone angry. This would have been a great time for Barnabas to distance himself from Paul. Paul seemed to be the one offending people. Yet each time, they stood together and faced the consequences.
Helping someone start over means taking the heat
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. Acts 15:36-41
Earlier in the journey, John had left them to return to Jerusalem. It bothered Paul so much he no longer trusted him. Paul refused to work with him. Barnabas, however, was willing to help John start over…even if it meant losing his relationship with Paul.
Helping someone start over means taking a loss
Paul would be fine. The relationship would end but Barnabas could now help someone else start over. Helping John get back in the game cost him a friend and partner.
Barnabas’ name was actually Joseph. He had been nicknamed by the disciples. His nickname (Barnabas) meant “son of encouragement.”
“To encourage is to infuse someone with courage; to give hope.”
When someone is starting over, the greatest thing you can do is to give courage and hope.
When you started over, what would you have done if you had more courage?