Summary: A Father's Day Sermon about a man we need to know, Barnabas.
Father’s Day - Barnabas
June 19, 2016
We were on our way back from a college visit. We left the campus, started driving towards home, driving through country roads and my gas tank was flashing a big 0 on it. I don’t really like to fill my gas tank. There were no gas stations in sight. The passengers in the car were rather nervous. Searching on their phones for the nearest gas station. I knew we were ok . . . actually, I really thought we were doomed. Somehow we must have had about 1 block left.
Cars aren't the only things that have fuel tanks. People have them, too. Everybody you know has a fuel tank, and it's in their inner being, in their spirit. You can read their gauge. Look them in the eye: some are alive and their eyes have fire in them; some are just glazed over. Look at their shoulders: some people are walk with a hop in their step; others are hunched over. Some people have energy; some are just kind of trudging along.
There are some people who fill your tank. They are the people who breathe life into you. They remind you of how good God is. They encourage you to be the best you can be. When you're with them, your anxiety is gone and hope is up.
Gregory of Nyssa was one of the early church fathers in the fourth century, and he painted a powerful picture of this way of living. In a letter to a friend he wrote ~ "At horse races, the spectators intent on victory shout to their favorites in the contest. From the balcony they incite the rider to keener effort, urging the horses on while leaning forward and flailing the air with their outstretched hand instead of a whip."
With that picture in mind, he then wrote ~ "I seem to be doing the same thing myself. Most valued friend and brother, while you are competing admirably in a divine race, straining constantly for the prize of the heavenly calling, I exhort, urge, and encourage you vigorously."
Gregory is basically saying, "I'm up in the stands. I'm watching you run the race, and I'm cheering you on. This is your race. God is with you, so don't stop. Keep going." Some people do that for you. They're what we would call balcony people. They fill your tank. They’re your cheerleaders, advisors, mentors and ones you know to go to when you need your tank refilled.
Then you have other people in your life, who stick a hose in your tank, and start siphoning the fuel out. They drain you of life. They’re basement people, because they bring you down. They’re joy challenged, dream squashing, and fault finding. We're called to love them, but we have to guard our hearts.
I believe one of the key words in the New Testament is Encouragement. The word "to encourage" is used more than a hundred times in the New Testament. One of the great characters in the Bible — maybe we could call him the patron saint of balcony people — is the guy we're going to look at today. His name is Barnabas, and we find him mostly in the Book of Acts. We're going to look at a few stories about him, as we look at a man we need to know this Father’s day.
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.
33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold
35 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
That’s what was happening. Everyone helping one another. Now we are introduced to Barnabas ~
36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus,
37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Joseph was a Levite. Levites were a tribe of Israel, and they served as assistants to the priests — as doorkeepers in the temple or musicians or something else. But Joseph could not do that. Even though he was a Levite, he was from Cyprus, which meant he hadn't been born in Israel. He was a Hellenist — a name given to Israelites born overseas. They were regarded as foreigners. They didn’t speak Aramaic, and they were considered to have picked up Gentile ways. There was a lot of hostility between native-born Israelites and the Hellenists. Because of this, Joseph would not have been allowed to serve in the temple.