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The Power of One
March 22, 2020, 10:42 PM

One person can make all the difference. In the face of unreal circumstances, the message of the difference we can make is so much more meaningful.


Prolific inventors Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were friends and neighbors. Edison was years ahead of Ford in his prolific career as an inventor when he met the young Ford. Being introduced to Ford as a “Young man who has made a gas car” Edison took the time to encourage him.


After talking for a while about the invention Edison responded excitedly: “You have it! Your car is self-contained and carries its own power plant.”


Years later Ford spoke of the importance of that meeting. He said, “No man up to then had given me any encouragement. I had hoped that I was headed right. Sometimes I knew that I was, sometimes I only wondered, but here, all at once and out of a clear sky, the greatest inventive genius in the world had given me complete approval.”


Everyone benefits from that kind of encouragement. Especially now. During this challenging time one can make a difference. Consider a couple of other statements:

  • Encouragement is oxygen to the soul (George Matthew Adams)
  • Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end, you are to succeed. (Abraham Lincoln)
  • How do you identify someone who needs encouragement? The person is breathing. (Truett Cathey)


Throughout this year our church family has been studying through the book of Acts. We have come to one of the absolute best characters in the book. He doesn’t receive a great deal of attention, but he made all the difference. He is a model of the “Power of One.”


I call your attention to five scenes from Barnabas life. The first mention is in Acts 4:36-37

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.


We gain a few basic descriptions from this passage. We know that his name is Joseph. We learn that he was a Levite and that he was not from Jerusalem. In every age there is a bias towards those who are “from here.”


Because of his incredible nature Barnabas was able to win not only their admiration but also gain a nickname. They call him Barnabas which means Son of Encouragement. The word “encouragement” can also be translated, refreshing, consolation and exhortation. Each time we se him He is living up to this name.


In each of the five scenes I will outline the problem, Barnabas’ solution, and the outcome. May you find the Lord leading you to follow the “Son of Encouragement’s example.

The Power of One Life: Generously Meeting Needs

In the first scene, the need is simple to understand. The church is growing very quickly. Thousands of people coming to faith is a great problem to have. However, many of them become easily isolated from their previous lives. Their livelihood is taken away. The human needs of the church are enormous.


How like our day that is. People isolated, cut off from their livelihood. Unlike our day they could not turn to Rome for help, nor could they turn to the Jewish faith. Instead they turned to the church.


Barnabas’ solution is simple. He, being a person of some wealth sells a piece of land. He brings the money and lays it at the feet of the disciples. He doesn’t make a show of his actions. He doesn’t seek to control what happens when the money is given. And, he doesn’t want a building named after him. Quietly he gives the money to meet the needs.


The result for the church was obvious. They were able to feed those in need. Through his actions and others like him the people received the grace of God. Also, because of this action he earns the nickname.


Today, amid the strains on us because of this virus there are hundreds maybe thousands of people around us who are hurting financially. I may not have a piece of property to sell and you may not either but each of us need to do all we can to make a difference. Be the church today.


The Power of One Life: Drawing in Those Who are Rejected/Excluded

As the church continues to grow it draws the attention and ire of the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem. The animosity grows into persecution eventually led by Saul of Tarsus. Yes, that Saul of Tarsus. He grows more powerful and more full of hate. Until he meets Jesus! The story of his conversion of Saul will be studied later.


Pick up the story of Saul after his conversion. He later finds his name changed to Paul so for simplicity I will use his new name throughout this section.


Paul makes his way into the church in Damascus. That would not have been an easy effort, but with his persistence they accept him, and he ministers there for some time. Eventually his presence stirs up the religious establishment and he escapes a trap set for him.


We find Barnabas next when Saul tries to make his way to the believers in Jerusalem. Those verses are recorded in Acts 9:26-27:

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.


The believers are understandably reluctant to welcome him. He left there after having persecuted the church. His reputation preceded him. He is not welcomed by them and excluded by those who he left Jerusalem representing. He is a man without a country.


Imagine the silence as Paul walks into the room. He is easily excluded.


Based on what you know would you expect Paul to be patient. Hardly. He would not stand knocking on that door for long. His patience would wear thin and he would turn and walk away.


“But Barnabas.” Barnabas steps up. He believes in Paul and testifies for him before the church. Barnabas risks his reputation to step up for Paul. He believed Paul and gave him a chance.


Would he have waited long? I do not believe he would have. The author of half the New Testament and the greatest missionary force the world has ever known got his start because someone believed in him. This man without an identity gets one because someone believed in him.


What was the immediate result? Paul grew powerful. With the bolt to the door unlocked Paul began to preach the message, even debating the Greeks.


Who needs you to be a Barnabas today? Who needs a chance that only you can bring? Step up. Encourage. Strengthen. Console.


The Power of One Life: Making a Difference by Giving People a Chance

The story progresses and the church grows. Their growth was a growing threat to the Jewish establishment. With their livelihood in danger they turn up the heat. A great scattering (diaspora) of the church resulted in gatherings of believers being scattered around the known world.


One such group congregated in Antioch. The fledgling church there began to experience a real growth. The church in Jerusalem wanted to investigate the work of God. Acts 11:21-26 shows the encounter

21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So, for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.


The Jerusalem church sent the Son of Encouragement to investigate the happenings in Antioch. He went to Antioch representing the church to see if what was happening there was real. He was sent because He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.


Arriving at the fledgling church Barnabas quickly ascertained that God’s work there was genuine. He invested himself in the believers there, recognizing and dispersing grace. Grace, active and effective, grew in the believers. He encouraged them to continue what they were doing. God’s spirit continued to work, and the church multiplied. Great numbers were added to the church.


Barnabas realized that he could not continue the work alone. He would be unable to handle the weight of the work. He could have sent back to Jerusalem, requesting the help of Peter, James, John, or Andrew. He could have asked for help from anyone else, but he did not.


The “Son of Encouragement” instead sought out Paul. This young believer had been unheard from for more than nine years. His strengths and skills went untapped as the church grew. He was simmering in Tarsus. With the help and encouragement of Barnabas that simmer became a boiling model of Christianity.


Such a move did not come easily. The journey to Tarsus from Antioch was a long one. The searching described by Luke (our author) implied an intense search. Barnabas surely used the travel back to Antioch to encourage and uplift Paul. He wants the young man to step up.


This one life, this encourager changed the course of Paul and the entire Christian community through the ages by reaching out and drawing in Saul.


What was the result? They enjoyed a powerful, effective ministry there for a year. The growth of the believers there brought a new name, “Christian” for that community of faith. At first intended as an insult, akin to the idea of “little Christ” this title became a badge of pride worn by those of faith.


Is there someone around you right now who needs only for someone to give them a chance? Are they just waiting on an encourager to let them know that they matter? It may be someone in your home? At your work? In this day of social distancing it may be the time you need to reach out and encourage others to step forward.


The Power of One Life: Helping Others Reach Their Potential

This evidence of being an encourager develops over the next several years and chapters in the book of Acts. Look carefully over the chapters and it will be readily apparent.


For the next several chapters every time they are mentioned the names are listed “Barnabas and Paul.” Barnabas and Paul, Barnabas and Paul. The implication is obvious as they travel around ending up back in Jerusalem and then begin another journey.

The titles stay the same until Acts 13:13 where it speaks of “Paul and his companions.” From that point on the names read, “Paul and Barnabas.” (See 13:42, 13:46, 14:1 and ff) The implication is equally clear. Paul has become the leader of the team.


What is the significance? Barnabas has demonstrated the power of building into others. He first stepped up for Paul, brought him into ministry, encouraged him, pushed him, and then stepped back. He realized the work of the kingdom was so much more important than his own personal acclaim. Building Paul, reaching people, stepping back. These were all the signs of our Son of Encouragement. Make it your goal to invest in someone so that they can assume your role.


The Power of One Life: Restoring the Fallen and Failing

The strength of the early church continues to build. Throughout the first missionary journey new believers are added and those already in the faith become stronger. Paul and Barnabas come back to Jerusalem in what has become called the “Jerusalem Conference.” We will study that experience in future weeks and months.


Following this gathering Paul and Barnabas agree that it is time to go on another journey.

Acts 15:36-39
36 Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,


As Paul and Barnabas gather and make plans for a journey, the Encourager has a plan. He wants to take young John Mark on the journey. He had accompanied them on their first journey, only to give up and go home. The reasons why this young believer left will be addressed as we continue our study. For the purpose of understanding this passage just know that he left.


Barnabas sees the opportunity to bring John Mark along, perhaps to give him another chance. Paul disagrees. A study of the Greek words used of both Paul and Barnabas are revealing. Both stubbornly state their case. Both are fiercely determined. The disagreement is “Sharp.”


Please step into the scene. Hear the words. Dripping with emotion. Paul declaring before them all that John Mark was a failure. Announcing for all to hear that he was a quitter and unworthy for consideration. Can you feel this pain? Can you watch his shoulder drop, his head hang down in pain? This hero of the faith has completely rejected him.


Paul and Silas leave Jerusalem with the blessing of the church. They go off leaving Barnabas alone with the young man. The church largely ignores them.


Did you see what Barnabas does next? He goes up to the young John Mark. He puts his arm around him. They walk off together. Does Mark walk off uplifted? Hardly! He is dejected. How many times did Barnabas have to put his arm around him and say, “it’s ok, God loves you, you can do it?”

You know what it is like, don’t you? Failure is something we have all felt. Rejecting because we fell is a bitter drink. How we would have treasured a Barnabas to put his arm around us and restore us. How that would have made a difference.


What difference did it make? Consider two truths. Scholars almost universally agree that the first written gospel was the Gospel of Mark. Mark! Does the name sound familiar? It should. John Mark, forgiven by God and restored by Barnabas writes it.


Fast forward to the end of his life. Paul is an old man now. He is, we believe, a prisoner in a Roman cell. He writes to young Timothy and says, “Send John Mark, he is useful to me.” That’s right, John Mark is now useful. Rejected earlier, now treasured. The difference? Barnabas!


So, ask a few questions

  • Where would Paul have been if Barnabas had not stepped in and helped him be accepted in Jerusalem? He would have been way too hotheaded to endure that rejection for
  • What would have happened had Barnabas not found Paul and brought him to Antioch? He was languishing away. Do that long enough and the fire burns out.
  • What if Barnabas had been more concerned with who got the credit or the attention? What if personal recognition had been more important than building the kingdom? Would we never have had Paul the Apostle, the author of half our New Testament.
  • What happens to young John Mark if he is left there dejected staring into the dirt in Jerusalem? Would he have gone home defeated and publicly shamed? Would he have ever tried again? Instead he moves forward, reclaimed by grace.


The world is forever changed by this one man. Made different by this one life. May you be a “Son of Encouragement.” The world needs you now more than ever. Step up, encourage. Make a difference.

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