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The encourager who paved the way for the greatest apostle

August 18, 2022

Daily Scripture

Acts 9:26-28

26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn’t believe he was really a disciple. 27 Then Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles and told them the story about how Saul saw the Lord on the way and that the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them about the confidence with which Saul had preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus. 28 After this, Saul moved freely among the disciples in Jerusalem and was speaking with confidence in the name of the Lord.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The back story: Saul fiercely opposed the early Christians (cf. Acts 8:3). Then the living Jesus met him, and redirected Saul’s energy into preaching the reality that the risen Jesus was God’s promised deliverer (cf. Acts 9:20-21). But when he went back to Jerusalem, the Christians there were, as we’d expect, afraid to receive him into their community. But they trusted Barnabas, and it was only when he vouched for Saul’s transformation that they opened their doors and hearts to their former enemy.

  • Scholar William Barclay paid tribute to the role the less prominent Barnabas played: “The Church owed Paul to the large-hearted charity of Barnabas…. Barnabas took him by the hand and stood sponsor for him.” Barnabas had two key qualities: “He was a man who insisted on believing the best of others” and “He was a man who never held anyone’s past against him.” * Has anyone ever made something important possible by vouching for you? For whom can you do that?
  • The man’s given name was Joseph. “Barnabas” was a nickname the apostles gave him (cf. Acts 4:36), and it meant “one who encourages.” While Saul was still persecuting the Christians, Joseph had already showed his inner qualities and earned the nickname by which we most commonly know him. Reflect: what is a nickname with a positive meaning you’d hope others might come to know you by? Who do you know who might properly receive the nickname “Barnabas”?

Generous God, you believe in me even when I struggle to do the same. Grow in me the quality that Joseph had—make me a “Barnabas” who believes in and encourages others. Amen.

GPS Insights

 Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as Human Resources Lead Director. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

Each year, Resurrection hosts a leadership conference called Leadership Institute. It’s an exciting time when church leaders from all over the country gather to learn and connect. As a part of the conference, I’ve had the opportunity to lead breakout sessions specific to Human Resources. A few days before Leadership Institute, we’re provided with a list of participants in our sessions and where they’re from. Four years ago, I was reading the list for the upcoming HR breakout, and I spotted “Scott Smith from Church of the Servant, Oklahoma City, OK.” I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was!

When I was in high school, I visited my sister in Oklahoma City over the summers. During that time, I attended her church and became very involved in their youth group. That church? Church of the Servant. And who was the Student Ministry Director at the time? Scott Smith. It was an amazing experience! Their youth group was fun and engaging. My faith grew through a Bible study, and I even went on a mission trip with them to Juarez, Mexico. Scott and all of the other staff and volunteer leaders at Church of the Servant had a HUGE impact on my faith.

My involvement in the Servant youth group over those summers not only changed my life, but it impacted many others. You see, my youth group at my home church was on its deathbed. It was dull, lifeless, and essentially just a few students who faithfully came. I remember one week it was just me and another student. After I came back from experiencing a vibrant youth group, I went to my local church and said, “I’ve seen what youth group can be. I believe that God wants this for us as well. Think of all of the students we could reach!” With the picture painted, we began to make changes to my home church youth group, and the group went from barely surviving to thriving. This happened because there were people like Scott willing to pour into youth and people at my hometown church who were willing to listen, catch the vision, and invest in students.

Four years ago, I got to tell Scott about the impact his ministry had beyond what he may have ever imagined. In fact, I can think of at least five of us from my home youth group who have gone on to work in a church or ministry. This all happened because God worked through staff and volunteer leaders.

I think most of us have a very limited perspective on how God may work through us. We may even think that we can’t make that big of a difference, but that’s because we’re relying on what WE can do, not on what God can do through us. God’s story of redemption doesn’t end with our generation. It lives on for eternity, both on earth and in heaven. We have the opportunity to be a part of this glorious, eternal story if we’re willing to pour into the lives of the next generation.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press,1976, pp. 75-76.