When We Get Stuck
Acts 11:24, Acts 11:18-26
If you’ve lived for a few years, you have experienced being stuck – sometimes by physical circumstances, sometimes by emotional obstacles, sometimes by career issues like job/boss, sometimes by family problems.
The Bible is a wonderful, “real life” book for our life. It shows where multiple people and nations get stuck and how they either go under or go forward. Before we get to the focus passage, let’s review some situations of how God’s people can get stuck. The story of the nation Israel is the key focus of the Old Testament. It is a story of starts and stops, wanderings and marches, good leaders and bad.
Joshua’s story is one of my favorite. This nation had been led by Moses out of slavery, delivered by the Red Sea miracle, began the march of over a million people across a wilderness. They had stops and starts, high moments and horrible moments until they came to the edge of their Promised Land. There they discovered that their promised land must be fought for. There were insurmountable obstacles and they found themselves defeated before they tried. They doomed themselves to be stuck in a wilderness only a day’s journey from the promised land for forty years.
They built a temporary city for a million people and lived out their lives stuck, wandering in a wilderness on the edge of their promised land. Moses died, and with him that generation of people who voted “no” to go fight for their land. They were stuck. Only two leaders survived, Caleb and Joshua, who was the chief captain for Moses. Joshua was anointed by God to lead them and was ordered to “speak to the people, that they move forward.”
After the nation captured and occupied the land, they began the process of being stuck again. They avoided their allegiance to God, married among the native, pagan people and became a leaderless, godless nation. God tried to provide leaders through judges and prophets, all locally based in the larger land, but the people desired a king and army like all the other nations that raided their land. They were stuck.
God chose David to be their king after Saul was a gigantic failure. He led them to shape the nation that would rule of the world. Solomon tried to maintain their greatness but at his death the nation was stuck. Like typical Baptist they split, divided into two weak nations, suffered defeats by neighboring nations and became a conquered land. They were stuck.
In His strongest move yet, God sent His son, Jesus. He was God in the flesh, God’s true representative, and He began a new kingdom. He taught eternal principles of God, showed the love and power of God in His miracles, and trained twelve very ordinary, common persons to be his next generation of leaders. His death, burial and resurrection formed the life-changing experience that persons could claim as their salvation experience. In His last hours on earth He charged His followers, then and now, with His mission orders and gave them the power of His sustaining spirit. His spirit, coming in power on the celebration of the Jewish Pentecost, launched the church we now are a part of. His spirit delivered that person, and us, from our stuck places.
Wouldn’t you know it! They began to move to their next stuck place. They quickly became the church for people just like them, the Jewish Christian Church that was going to exist only within their country’s borders. God began very quickly to challenge their narrow-minded boundaries. Persecution drove them out of their country into other countries and they told of Jesus.
God raised up a key leader in a man named Barnabas. A new, quiet follower of Jesus, a man of Greek descent, who saw a larger world and more possibilities than others saw. Two very brief scriptures introduce him to us.
As the Christian movement grew larger, it became more cautious. The apostles, disciples of Jesus, leading the church became Jerusalem centered and accepted their issues of dealing with the Jewish leaders. The Christian community was discriminated against and many were forced into poverty. The church began receiving offerings to help them and Barnabas felt the need to give as did many others. However, Barnabas did more. Having property, a rare possession for a Christian and possibly his only claim to financial security, he sold his property and gave it to this need. No wonder he was renamed “Barnabas, Encourager.
Here we see that Barnabas was Sold Out for Jesus:
We are by our human nature accumulators. Whether it is land, cars, titles, awards or friends, they become our signs of security and pride. Jesus asks us to not get stuck about these things when He taught, “Where your treasure is, so will be your heart.” Your heart does follow your treasures. “Give and it will be given unto you, pressed down and overflowing”. Barnabas chose to invest in Christ’s kingdom and others. Giving, a big part of stewardship, is how we function as trustees of all God has given us. One of the places we practice this is in our churches. Often we think that others will do that. We park on their nickel. It has been said, “God loves a cheerful giver, but receives from a grouch”.
Barnabas is described as a “Good Man.”
Barnabas became the first Christian friend that the apostle Paul had after his conversion. Barnabas brought him into the leadership of the church in Jerusalem and supported him as he tried to achieve acceptance. When that was not to be, Paul retreated to his home area of Tarsus. Barnabas continued quietly and faithful within the Jerusalem church. When the Christians in Antioch began to receive Gentile Christians into their fellowship, a new step to world missions, the church chose him to go see what was happening. He went to Tarsus, brought Paul into the ministry, and was a co-leader of the church. Paul quickly rose to be the key leader and Barnabas willingly took the lesser role.
Barnabas was humble. He had no need to be first. He was not working to be noticed or the key leader. He was serving Jesus, and all he did demonstrated that.
Barnabas was a visionary. Quickly projecting hope, he saw the big picture of God’s plans and joined Him there. He crossed boundaries of race, culture and old thinking to help the Antioch church grow even before Paul came.
Barnabas was unselfish. Because he had no need to be leader of leaders, he rejoiced in the success of Paul and moved from the key leader to one of five key leaders to serve in the church. Later when Paul objected to taking Mark on the next journey, Barnabas took Mark on a separate trip and developed him to be the inspired writer of the first gospel about Jesus. Barnabas never sought prominence, but a way to serve Jesus.
Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit.
The driving force of that early group of Christians was not their wealth, education or political clout. It was the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Christ at work in the lives of regular people. The Holy Spirit directed the events on that stage, prompted those who spoke and brought the right audience to see and hear the message. It was the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Christ, that launched and advanced the church. Barnabas, from his seat in the group but not the dictator of the dictator, demonstrated what God can do with a quiet, unassuming person sold out for Jesus.
Barnabas was full of faith.
In the marriage program called “Five Love Languages,” there is identified a love tank that we all have. It is either full or empty, depending on the investments of our spouse, family and friends. Perhaps we also have a faith tank. One person describes faith as “believing what ain’t” but the Bible describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11)
Faith gives us that physically invisible sense of confidence we have about the future and our role in it. It is important to notice that Barnabas is described as full of the Holy Spirit and faith. They are companion qualities that make our Christian life work. To have the Holy Spirit but nowhere demonstrate it doesn’t work. To have faith without the personal power of the Holy Spirit is a dead end street. Barnabas was empowered by the Holy Spirit to move forward in faith.
Where do these things fit in our personal world?
Are you stuck? Isn’t that your choice to be stuck? When we decide to give our full allegiance to Jesus, to sell out to Him, we can have opportunities to move forward.
Is your church stuck? Does this quote fit your church? “They do it every Sunday, they will be okay by Monday, and it’s just a little habit they’ve acquired.” What role do you and I play in getting our church to “move forward?” Are we helping the church move forward with our attitudes and efforts? Are we part of the problem, or the answer? Helping or hurting?
Churches are by nature cautious, conserving organizations. We are holders of the faith, believing and fighting to be sure the message is conserved. Often we stop there, get stuck there.
God’s expectation of our church is that we will move on! We are called to leave behind yesterday, with both its valleys and victories, and move in faith into the future. God is already out there, waiting for us to join Him.
The difference between Christianity and any other world religion is this. We follow and serve a risen Savior, while all other religions learn and try to follow a dead leader, He still calls us out of our stuck places with “Arise, go. I will be with you!”