By: Rob Genin
The YBL theme this year has been, “Walking the path of courage”. One of the keys to walking the path daily is to have godly examples so we can imitate their faith: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the Word of God to you, and considering the outcome of their way of life, imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). I want to briefly consider how the biblical disciple, Barnabas, is a worthy example of courage.
We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” The first time we learn of Barnabas, he is doing a courageous thing. It is so easy for us to put our trust in money, but Barnabas shares what he has – he sells a field, possibly his inheritance and family wealth. Most of us work so hard to build wealth and retirement, and here he materially risks his by giving away what he has. Barnabas demonstrates courage because he does not trust in money, but in God.
The second time we encounter Barnabas is Acts 9:26: “When he [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing he was really a disciple. 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.” All the disciples were afraid of Saul, and with good reason – he had given approval for the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 8:1). Barnabas was courageous to believe in Saul and the change that Jesus can work in the lives of rebellious people. He would prove this again by standing by John Mark after he had failed in ministry—and would become the means of strengthening him to do great work (Acts 15:36-40, 2 Tim 4:11).
Barnabas would then be chosen by the disciples to shepherd a growing church of Greek Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:22-23). He was faithful, and the work was blessed by God: “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24). Barnabas was not afraid to try new things or minister among different types of people. This would become even more evident when he and Saul (Paul) would be sent out by the church in Antioch to proclaim the good news of Jesus on what would become the first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3).
Barnabas’ courage was finally displayed by his humility. Having been a mentor to Paul and having helped to bring him into the ministry, Barnabas displays a willingness to take a secondary role to his gifted friend. While in Acts 13:2 it is “Barnabas and Saul”, by Acts 13:42 it is “Paul and Barnabas”. It can be hard to take a supporting role, but Barnabas obeyed God wherever He led. We too, must follow Jesus where He leads, into pleasant or painful places. In the end, there is nothing else required of us as servants of Jesus, but to “trust and obey”.