Read His Words Before Ours!
We all come to Jesus under different circumstances and with a past.
A past without Him.
Some of those pasts are basically “forgettable”, while others are more difficult to leave behind.
The apostle Paul was no exception.
None would argue the impact Paul had on the early Church, an influence which continues to the church today. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he preached the good news of Jesus and because of his influence, many have come into a relationship with Jesus. However, Paul, who began life as Saul, had a past.
A past quite different than the one we most attribute to him.
Before Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, his purpose was in direct opposition to the one for which he is most remembered. In fact, he was on that road to carry out that purpose: to stop the Gospel’s advancement by killing Christians!
While Paul’s purpose immediately changed after meeting Jesus, others were not so quick to forget his past. The disciples in Jerusalem were afraid to associate with Saul, remembering who he was and what he had done. How could God use such a dramatic story if no one would give him audience because of his past?
It wasn’t until Barnabas came alongside Saul, affirming him, supporting him, and sharing his story, that others began to believe Saul had really changed and began working with him, instead of against him. Acts 11:24 describes Barnabas as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith”. Barnabas believed Paul, but more so, he trusted what God could accomplish by His Spirit through a humbled heart. Because Barnabas had experienced God’s transformation for Himself, he was able to rejoice in what God alone had done while encouraging others to do the same. Barnabas supported and encouraged Paul, ministering with him as they taught and edified the church to stay true to the Lord.
But suppose Barnabas had not affirmed Paul?
A high school girl I know has a personal mission. She has chosen to sit by another girl in church who has mild special needs, writing questions which correspond to the message, allowing her friend to interact with the sermon in ways she can better understand.
How easy it would be to allow irritation to take root or simply issue a reprimand.
What if we, like my young friend, chose instead to take someone aside, get to know them, and see how we might be able to help them learn more about Jesus? What if we come alongside another for the sake of the Kingdom so someone else can understand Jesus better?
What if, instead of coming to conclusions about the mom with disruptive kids in the grocery store who are interfering with our peace, we understood that she too has a story. What if we whispered a kind word instead of giving a judging look?
What if that child in your classroom who asks for attention in inappropriate ways is the child who ends the day in an empty home or a home with little or negative attention? Suppose we got to know that child and took him under our wing, helping him succeed while possibly opening an opportunity for the gospel because of your investment?
How would our churches, our communities, and our schools change
if we began seeing others as image bearers of our Father
and people for whom Jesus died?
In Acts 1:8, Jesus gives His followers the charge of being His witnesses to those in our sphere of influence. To extend hope and encouragement like Barnabas did in our homes, communities, and businesses, we must get close to people, hear their stories, and be exposed to the uncomfortable.
We all have a past, some appear darker than others, but in reality,
we are all the same without Jesus!
Because Jesus changed him, Barnabas knew Jesus could change Paul.
If Jesus has changed me, I must believe He can do the same for others, even those I’m hesitant to engage.
What might God do when our hearts are ready to hear and obey Him?
Who might God want you to come alongside to encourage and make a difference for His Kingdom?
Ask, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!