BEST DECISION EVER: UNERECTED MONUMENTS OF GREATNESS

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. Others we make spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives are intertwined with ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? For better or worse?

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the one good decision that some people in the Bible made that changed the course of their life for the better. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word I hope we’ll all take comfort, courage, and hope in the fact that, despite the mess we’re presently faced with, we can still turn things around. A lousy past or dismal present doesn’t have to give us the same future. By God’s grace, our future and life can be changed for the better…if we only make the right decision today. May God help us do that on a daily basis!

UNERECTED MONUMENTS OF GREATNESS

In a PREVIOUS POST I wrote about a man in the early church named Barnabas. I’ve thought a lot about him since then.

We’ve been studying the Book of Acts in our adult Sunday school class. Each one was asked to do a character study on any person found or mentioned in that Book. Naturally, with the thought of Barnabas fresh on my mind, I chose to do my study on Barnabas. Was I ever glad I did! Let me tell you what I mean.

We know about the conversion of the church’s fiercest and most-feared persecutor – Saul. When Saul could no longer work for the Lord in Damascus because of the opposition of the Jews, he came back to Jerusalem hoping to be received by the apostles and the church (Acts 9). But the apostles would not see him or have anything to do with him. They were afraid of Saul and perhaps thought that Saul’s conversion was a ruse to capture, imprison, and kill more Christians – especially the apostles.

According to ancient tradition (Theodore Lector, circa 525 AD), Barnabas and Saul both went together to the school of Gamaliel, the renowned Pharisaic Teacher. Barnabas had been trying for several years to convert Saul to Christ, but was unsuccessful.

Anyways, when Barnabas heard that Saul was saved and was in town, he went looking for him. In Barnabas’ eyes, even the church’s most-feared persecutor deserved a fair hearing. After speaking with him, Barnabas was convinced of the sincerity and genuineness of Saul’s conversion. To his credit and our eternal benefit and our eternal benefit, Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles and convinced the apostles to meet with him.

The result of that meeting, as we know, is history. Saul was received by the apostles and ministered for a time in Jerusalem. If it weren’t for Barnabas, the apostles wouldn’t have met with Saul; the Church in Jerusalem wouldn’t have received him; and the history and growth of the Christian Church would not have been the one that we find recorded in the Book of Acts.

You see, Barnabas believed that people—even the worst of men—can change through the power of Christ. He believed that the Church would be better if Saul were a part of it. And he believed that Saul would be an effective witness for Jesus Christ. Barnabas took a chance on Saul and history proved him right. Saul was an invaluable Christian leader, missionary, and evangelist. The Church truly was better off with Saul in it. Like I said in my PREVIOUS POST, the Christian world owes Barnabas a debt of gratitude that can never be fully paid. Thank you, Barnabas!

In view of how history was changed when Saul became a Christian and a missionary for Christ, I believe it goes without saying that Saul being received by the apostles and the Jerusalem Church—his getting their stamp of approval upon his conversion and ministry—was Barnabas’ magnus opus.

Barnabas and Saul, who was later named Paul, would spend the next several years working together in various churches throughout Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor. They took John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, along with them on one of their missionary trips. But for some reason that we are not told, Mark decided to leave Barnabas and Saul and return home to Jerusalem.

Well, some time after, Paul decided that he and Barnabas should return to the churches they established during their first missionary journey and see how the newborn believers there were doing (Acts 15:36).

Barnabas agreed that this was a needful thing to do. He wanted to take John Mark along with them. Paul disagreed. He thought it best not to take someone along who had, in his own words, deserted them during their first missionary journey. This was a rather strong and serious charge. In all likelihood, as we glean from his later writings, Paul had very high standards for Christian leaders. Desertion and unfaithfulness would certainly disqualify one from continuing in ministry.

In contrast, Barnabas stood by his cousin. I don’t think he did this merely because he was family. I believe Barnabas stuck by Mark because he firmly believed that you needed to give people a chance to get things right. People—even a deserter—are capable of changing through the grace of God.

The disagreement between Barnabas and Paul escalated into a severe argument, with neither man willing to concede or compromise. Both were adamant and entrenched in their position that the only recourse left was to part ways: Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus. We never hear again from him in the Book of Acts. Paul took Silas and went throughout Asia Minor and Europe.

Earlier, I talked about Paul’s introduction to the apostles and his acceptance by them as being Barnabas’ magnus opus. Along this same line of great works, think about how this sharp, vocal, and doubtless, heated argument could have scarred John Mark for life. Put yourself in Mark’s shoes. Wouldn’t you feel spiritually, emotionally, and mentally battered, rejected, and worthless after the great apostle Paul has made you feel unworthy, almost apostate, labelling you as a deserter? How many more hurtful words were spoken? The point I’m trying to make is, there’s no way John Mark walked away from this argument without being scarred or hurt.

Barnabas stood by Mark’s side. He took Mark back to Cyprus. And Barnabas nursed Mark back to spiritual life. He got him involved in evangelism again as they went throughout Cyprus evangelizing. Instead of doing what so many of us would have done if we were treated badly and severely bad-mouthed–drop out of  church, become bitter, critical, and antagonistic towards Christians, and turn our backs on the Lord;  Mark stayed in the ministry and proved his mettle as a Christian leader and worker that, years later, he would work once again with Paul. And Paul, having a change of heart and mind, regarded this one-time deserter as being profitable to him in the ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). John Mark’s redemption and triumph in Christian ministry, I am saying, is Barnabas’ handiwork. It is his second magnus opus.

Even though Barnabas sets sail into the sunset in the Book of Acts, never to be seen or heard from again, his accomplishments in the lives of Paul and Mark stand as an unerected monument to his greatness and his graciousness as a man who gave the most undeserving of people a chance. Without fanfare or notice, Barnabas made people great by the sheer power of love, faith, and kindness that were in his heart.

Barnabas’ disagreement with Paul, his parting ways with Paul, and his disappearance into oblivion and obscurity; reminds us that making the best, or the right, decision sometimes comes at a great cost or suffering. It comes with a lot of grief and hurt. Barnabas reminds us that there’s a price to pay for standing up for what we believe is good and right. The consequences of being faithful or true may not be pretty.

But through all the tears and pain, Barnabas teaches us to console ourselves in the fact that we did what we believed was good and right. He teaches us to persevere in the right no matter the costs or consequences. Like John Mark who needed Barnabas to stand by him and nurture him back to life, there are people out there who need our encouragement and help. No pride intended, there are people out there who need us. Like Barnabas with Mark, we need to be there for them.

History may never record another word about you. Like Barnabas, you may sail into the sunset of obscurity without fanfare or notice. But the lives that you’ve changed; the investment that you’ve made in the people you’ve helped; stand as unerected monuments—they are unwritten epitaphs and unspoken eulogies—of your true greatness in the sight of God. So persevere and press on, O child of God. A hurting world and church awaits and needs you.

7 Comments

  1. Jodi Cooper said,

    April 16, 2016 at 12:08 PM

    This is a very encouraging article that God uses our efforts to help a healing world. I think tho there needs to be a warning heeded as well. The Bible tells us we are to be wise and that there are con artists. We are not to waste our time with them not even eat a meal with them. If someone claims to be a Christian yet persists in living for sin. They are not genuine and we can judge their works. I have really struggled with this issue because I have been given helps as a gift. But God has shown me to be discerning who I help. Satan can use the misguided openess to help a hurting world to keep you wrapped up in inabling users. And it drains you of energy that should be given toward true ministry. Yes we are to give the genuine believer help to heal but not the con artist who says one thing but has no true intent to change. Thank you for hearing my thoughts on this issue dear to my heart issue.

    • gaylorddiaz said,

      April 18, 2016 at 7:05 PM

      Thank you for your insightful words, Jodi. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with you. You touched on what I believe is the real key when it comes to helping and ministering to people, and that is to be guided by the Holy Spirit. We need His guidance and help to be effectual in ministry.

  2. Brenda McAdam said,

    April 16, 2016 at 2:21 PM

    What an encouraging word.

    Thanks you, Gaylord.

    • gaylorddiaz said,

      April 18, 2016 at 6:53 PM

      Thank you, sister. God bless you and your family. God is faithful.

  3. Mark Yotter said,

    April 16, 2016 at 3:36 PM

    Thanks for your insights. I don’t remember the source of something I heard years ago, but the gist of it was “The major choices in life only reveal your character, it’s the thousands of small choices that create your character.”

    It’s shaky ground when people start supposing the unwritten story that happened beyond what is recorded. Sometimes authors or movie writers jump to some rather stretched or unbiblical story lines when they try to conjecture what else happened around a Biblical excerpt. But I think your thoughts about the Barnabas story are both safe and helpful. It’s easy for us who focus so much on inspired scripture to forget that these were real people with real emotions and feelings and reactions that they had to live out. It’s an edifying reality check to think about how Paul had to convince the other apostles of his authenticity, and how Mark would have felt and reacted to the contention Paul and Barnabas had over him. I guess I need to make better use of a sanctified imagination.

    Thank you for writing such helpful and edifying observations. Your blog posts are read and appreciated.

    • gaylorddiaz said,

      April 18, 2016 at 6:51 PM

      Thank you for your encouraging words, Mark. I like your use of “sanctified imagination.” Whatever we choose to read into, or get out of, the Biblical text we must let both the immediate and greater context of Scripture set the parameters of our imagination or interpretation.

  4. Brad Cooper said,

    May 4, 2016 at 9:03 PM

    Beautifully put, brother! I’m sharing this. Keep up the good work. 🙂


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