Note: Parts of this article came from the Labor Day 2006 sermon Pastor Joel preached at Southeast Valley Baptist Church (Gilbert AZ).
A Pauline Illustration of the Modern-Day Need for Barnabas-Styled Ministries
I recently preached on a passage found in Acts 14:19-20. The title of the sermon was the same as this article: “Lied About, Stoned, and Left for Dead.” The occasion for the sermon was Labor Day, so I tried to insert a little humor by adding the following subtitle, “A Union/Non-Union ‘Sensitive’ Labor Day Sermon: A Pauline Case Study of the Biblical Procedure in Recovering from the Emotional, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Wounds Received from Those Nasty, Stinky, and Stubborn Elephants That Often Will Run You Over in Life, Work, and Ministry.”
Other than the fact that I’ve never preached a sermon with a longer subtitle, the folks of our congregation enjoyed the description. It’s funny, but several folks said the subtitle immediately set the context of how the topic intersected with them. Most of us have suffered pain in the context of trying to do the right thing at home or at the work place and even in ministry. That happened here with the apostle Paul. Notice the passage.
Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe (Acts 14:19-20).
When I consider the role of Barnabas here in this passage, I’m challenged to have this kind of a ministry at Southeast Valley Baptist Church (SVBC). I’ve always loved Barnabas. He is hands-down my favorite New Testament character. I personally believe that Barnabas was the author of Hebrews. While a Barnabas authorship of Hebrews may not be as clear as I would wish, what is clear is that Barnabas played a central role in the health, accomplishments, and success of the early New Testament church. It seems as if every time there was a key moment, Barnabas was there in the background, fulfilling his role for the health of the church. Barnabas wasn’t always the point leader, but his role was always one of encouragement and exhortation.
There are many parallels between the way our ministries should operate and how we see Barnabas helping Paul in this passage.
What Hazards (notice v. 19) do we face today in contemporary ministry? In our passage, Paul was faced with three specific hazards. First, there was the plotting from “the enemy” (“Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there”). Believe it or not, in some ministries the tension between leadership and congregants, employees and employers, and brothers and sisters in Christ can become so tense, “political plotting” becomes a sad yet regular part of doing ministry. Second, there was the “twisting [lies] from the enemy” (“persuaded the multitudes”). Again in the midst of ministry conflict often before open war breaks out, there are seasons of tearing and deceitfulness that attack every corner of the ministry. Last, notice that finally the plotting and persuading led to an attack from “the enemy” (“they stoned Paul”). The landscape of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism today is littered with the battered souls of men and women who have suffered greatly in ministry. How much ministry could be accomplished if those men and women allowed themselves to go through the process of healing? At SVBC we have a special passion to find God’s children who have been wounded in the fight (even if some of those wounds are self-inflicted).
We said earlier that our desire at SVBC is to help God’s men and women before, during, and after they are drug through the hazards of satanic attack. How do we do that? A good pattern of that is found in the next verse in this passage. Notice the Recovery (v. 20). Here Paul was aided in six ways.
A. The Healing of Community–“the disciples gathered around him”
As ministries, we must take the role of healing seriously. We need to understand the role here. At SVBC, it’s really our desire to help each believer understand how he can, through the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, heal each other. In other words, we don’t want ministries to be dependent on us but on God.
B. The Courage from Commitment–“he rose up and went into the city”
As ministries, we must take seriously the role of equipping others with the tools of carrying out our commitment to ministry. We understand that while certainly one will need time to have the rest (both physical and spiritual), at some point in time we carry on in faith.
C. The Reasonableness of Rest–“the next day”
It’s interesting when you look at the discouragement episode of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 to note that God saw to it that the first thing Elijah received was rest. God’s servants today need to be equipped with an understanding of how important it is to achieve a sense of balance. Too many ministries allow their servants to mortgage their families and ignore the physical needs of their bodies, even though we are clearly told that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.
D. The Role of Encouragement–“he departed with Barnabas”
His real name was Joses. Yet he was such an encourager that he was called “Barnabas.” The name Barnabas means “son of consolation.” This is remarkable. We ought to be passionate about being a Barnabas. Frankly, this commitment is one of the most foundational aspects of our vision and mission at SVBC. This is such a cornerstone–it’s in our vision statement. We desire to be a hospital, a place were broken leaders and hurt Christians can experience the love, healing, and relaunching of an effective and victorious pattern of life and ministry through the embrace of God’s people.
E. The Power of Partnership–“he departed with Barnabas to Derbe”
As ministries, we must take seriously the responsibility of walking with you from the place of stoning (Lystra) to the next level of ministry (Derbe). I remember years ago seeing a funny Charlie Brown comic. Linus saw that Snoopy was discouraged, so he and Charlie Brown walked up to the suffering canine, placed their hands on the dog’s shoulders, and said, “Snoopy, be warmed and filled.” The last picture shows Linus and Charlie Brown walking away, satisfied that they had done the biblical thing. It also shows Snoopy with a bewildered look on his face. We need to understand that the biblical thing is to walk with you to Derbe!
F. The Faith in Moving on–“he departed…to Derbe”
So how successful was this tactic of Barnabas? Humanly speaking, Barnabas may have been one of the most successful leaders of the early New Testament Church. Sure, ultimately glory goes to God. Consider Barnaba. Just as he was successful with John Mark, just as he was successful with the church in Antioch, he again is successful here. We are successful when we obey God. However, we especially delight to see ministers and ministries who have heard the voice of God allow the process of healing and joyfully serve the Lord today in Derbe.
Perhaps someone reading this short article today can relate to being lied about, stoned, and left for dead. Please know we care. We certainly don’t believe we have the right or ability to lead local church ministries. We do desire to come alongside and in the spirit of Barnabas encourage and help as we can. Perhaps we find you bruised, bloodied, and not sure you can go on. Let me assure you–you can go on! First, understand the Lord will help you through this time. Second, know that you have friends and family here at SVBC who will be here to help you make it on to “Derbe.”
You are going to have to do something you can only do for yourself. We can’t help you with this one: you’re going to have to trust God. You have to determine–I will trust God. I will have faith in Him, even though I’m hurting. I will move on and ask Him to heal the hurt in His perfect time. Perhaps you need to prayerfully place yourself in the sovereign hands of a loving Lord, as the father of a child who had a muted spirit whose tearful response to Christ was, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
A Few Take-Home Thoughts
Take-Home Thought #1
Hey, let’s make sure we don’t turn into one of those “nasty, stinky, and stampeding elephants” ourselves. That happens when we, through lies and unbiblical wrath, stomp on those who cross us the wrong way! How important that after we’ve been stoned (and after we have dealt with the issues biblically), we in faith, love, and obedience turn our eyes away from Lystra and move on to Derbe. Remember, “Let every man be … slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
Take-Home Thought #2
Remember, a quick read of the next several verses reveals that this episode strengthened Paul’s ability to minister to others. You might be going through a rough time at work (or somewhere else). Just remember how Scripture shows that God equipped Paul to accomplish his mission in part because of his tribulations. Notice the effect on the early church in Galatia after this episode: “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (v. 22), “they had appointed elders in every church” (v. 23), “they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (v. 27).
Look at this! As a result of Paul’s biblically responding to “the elephants,” disciples were strengthened, the Kingdom was furthered, the church was equipped, and the Gentiles were reached!” Wow! Perhaps our prayer should be, “Lord, send the elephants!” Paul says it this way:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations; knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5:1-5).
Take-Home Thought #3
Expect the elephants! They’re coming! “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
Take-Home Thought #4
Remember that ultimately God allows us to experience the pain from those “stampeding elephants” so we might be made more conformed to the image of Christ and participate in the power of His resurrection!
Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10).
PS: If you would like to chat with Pastor Joel, please give him a call on his cell at (602) 614-6739 or zip him an e-mail at email@example.com.
Dr. Joel Tetreau is senior pastor at Southeast Valley Baptist Church (Gilbert, AZ). He is on the adjunct faculty at International Baptist College and serves as co-director of SW Romania Missions Project.