We are observing the growth of young faith system as persecution seems to be driving believers north along the Mediterranean Coast – Jerusalem to Caesarea to Cyprus and back to the Syrian Antioch not so far from Tarsus where Saul is. Jewish followers are sharing with other Jews but in Antioch someone starts sharing with the Greeks and there is a new wave of believers. “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”
Christian is a common label today but back then “Christ” was the Greek word for “Messiah,” God’s anointed king. The Greeks did not know all the spiritual implications for Jews and the title stuck. The leaders in Jerusalem sent Barnabas, the encourager, to check this all out and Barnabas brought Saul back from Tarsus, up the coast, and they taught believers for a year. Remember, there were no written Scriptures, no podcasts, no ipads and no radio. Spiritual growth was one person reaching out to another, sharing, and modeling and encouraging. Saul who was trained had the intellectual background to encourage and Barnabas had the heart.
Verse 23 shares, “When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them to stay true to the Lord with all their hearts.” I think this is our nugget for today. It is so easy to look out and see all the problems confronting our world today. We turn on the news and can be depressed before lunch! Barnabas looked out with eyes that saw grace operating in his world, no economics, no politics, not disease and corruption. He saw grace. Pick a time period, say a year or ten, and see if you can identify God’s hand of grace working in your life. Try to list three highlights from that time period and then thank God for his blessing. This need not be miracles. My husband turned 76 and we asked him to name six blessings. A man dealing with Parkinson’s named health as his first blessing. Each day it is a major task to get from point A to point B but he does and he appreciates each day he is not in a wheelchair! I was touched. What might you name as a blessing today?
Secondly Barnabas had the humility to call for Saul to come and help him disciple the believers. Perhaps thank God for those who are teaching you and challenging you to grow in your faith. An attitude of gratitude and the humility to learn are both good ways to approach today. Blessings as you face your challenges!