by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 5/25/2019
©2019 by Maylan Schurch
To watch the video of this sermon, click the link below. The sermon starts at the 58:12:00 mark.
Please open your Bibles to Acts chapter 4.
This is probably going to be our final “Bible Sidekick” sermon, and I think it’s a good one to end on. As you know, a sidekick is someone who is a close associate or helper, and since the start of the year we’ve looked at several Bible people who played this role for some high-profile people. And more than once, these sidekicks went on to become leaders themselves, once their mentors had passed off the scene.
So this morning I’d like us to study the life of today’s sidekick to find out what he did which we might be able to apply to our own lives. Because after all, you and I are day-by-day sidekicks of Jesus. We who believe in Him are his hands, His feet, His voice. And of course we are also sidekicks and supporters of our friends, or our work associates.
I think that one of the New Testament’s most powerful sidekicks was a man named Barnabas. We see him for the first time here in Acts 4.
These were exciting times for that new group of believers who would eventually be called Christians. In Acts 1, the resurrected Jesus ascended to heaven while His friends were watching. In Acts 2, Peter and the rest of the disciples meet together in probably the same room in which they celebrated their first communion, their first Lord’s Supper, with their Savior.
Suddenly, the Holy Spirit descends, and these disciples are suddenly given the ability to speak fluently in the languages of everybody who has traveled from distant countries to attend the feast of Pentecost. And at the end of their powerful sermons, three thousand people are baptized that day.
In Acts 3, the disciples Peter and John heal a man who has been lame since birth, and this gets them into trouble with the priests and other religious leaders, who thought that Jesus’ death would eliminate the nonsense that a Nazareth woodworker could be the Messiah. So Peter and John are arrested, and the priests order them not to speak about Jesus any more. And they respectfully refuse. In Acts 3:20 they say, “We can’t do anything else but speak about what we have seen and heard.”
And then all the disciples gather for a prayer meeting, and rather than praying that they won’t be harassed any more, they instead pray for courage and boldness to tell everybody about Jesus.
And that brings us to within just a few verses of Barnabas. But “Barnabas” wasn’t the name his parents gave him.
Acts 4:32 – 35 [NKJV]: Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
And suddenly through the door walks a man named Joses, or more recent Bible versions call him Joseph. Whether it was Joses or Joseph, that’s the name his mom and dad gave him. But the disciples call him something else.
Verse 36: And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement) . . . .
And here is something very interesting. From this verse on, throughout the book of Acts, nobody ever calls Barnabas by his given name.
I mean, even Simon Peter, who was personally nicknamed Peter by Jesus Himself, is still once in a while called Simon in the rest of the New Testament. But even though Joseph is a respectable name, and was the name of Jesus father, and the name of the man who donated his own tomb for Jesus’ burial—Barnabas is never again called Joseph, but instead he’s called “the son of encouragement,” which is what Barnabas means.
And God even agrees to this nickname too. Over in Acts 13:2, the Holy Spirit specifically calls Barnabas, using not his real name but his nickname, to mission service.
So Barnabas must have really been an encourager, a super-encourager, a mega-encourager. I mean, even Saul of Tarsus wasn’t nicknamed “encourager.” Instead, the nickname “Paul” is a Latin name meaning “small.”
So, what did Barnabas do which was so encouraging? Probably a lot of things which didn’t get written down in the Bible. But we’re going to look at three that I could find. Let’s start back at verse 34.
Verses 34 – 37: Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
So what’s one way Barnabas was an encourager? If you’re taking sermon notes, here comes what you could call Sermon Point One.
What a beautiful spirit there must have been among these Christians at this time. Everybody must have trusted everybody. That seems to have been almost a time of “heavenly living.” Sadly, cheaters and scammers would come along, and everybody would have to become more vigilant. But through it all, Barnabas never lost the spirit of joyful encouragement that had given him his nickname.
Barnabas helped. Our congregation contains an overwhelming number of helpers. In your bulletin is the first reading of our nominating committee’s report, and behind each of those names is a person who has said, “Yes. Count me in. I’ll step up and be a Barnabas.” Thank you for being helpers.
The last weekend in June, some of these listed helpers, and others who may not be on this particular list, will spring into action during our Vacation Bible School, which starts Monday, June 24, just after camp meeting. Thank you to all those who’ll be wearing those VBS “Roar” teeshirts.
If you’re on our church email list, and checked your email last night, you read my email about an anonymous but very generous “help” that was given to me. The guitar I’ve been playing for at least a couple of decades was developing gaping cracks in its body. Somebody—I’m overwhelmingly certain that person is from this congregation—provided me with a new guitar, one which is perfect for what I use a guitar for. Thank you, whoever you are. You saved me a lot of searching—and I wouldn’t have been able to come up with a guitar this good without spending a great deal of time.
Barnabas helped. Barnabas put his faith into action. When he saw a need, he was right there to help with that need. I believe that you and I—as so many of you already do—I believe that we need to keep our eyes open for real, desperate needs, and find a way to help.
For another way Barnabas lived up to his “encouragement” nickname, we’ll need to turn to Acts chapter 9. In the chapters we’re skipping, the church is continuing to grow. Some of the apostles are imprisoned, but during the night an angel arrives and opens the prison doors—and gives some verbal encouragement too. Deacons are chosen, and the deacon Stephen preaches about Jesus. He is arrested, and finally is stoned to death for blasphemy.
And a young Jewish Pharisee named Saul is watching it all happen. He believes that Christians are dangerous heretics, and adopts ISIS tactics to try to intimidate them. But while on a terrorist mission to Damascus to find the Christians there, Jesus speaks to him from a blinding light. And three days later Saul is a converted Christian, and starts preaching about Jesus in the Damascus synagogues. This gets him into trouble, and he has to escape. So he heads for Jerusalem.
Acts 9:26 – 27: And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
So what’s another way Barnabas was such a great encourager? Here comes Sermon Point 2.
Barnabas helped, and Barnabas brought people together.
Interesting point: How could Barnabas have such confidence in Saul? How did he know what really happened to this impulsive young Pharisee, and what had turned him from a jihadist to a Christian? The answer must be that Barnabas must have sat down with Saul and listened to him, just let him talk. And once Barnabas was convinced, he didn’t back away. Instead, he said to Saul, “Come on. I know some people you need to meet. Let me introduce you.”
Barnabas helped, and Barnabas brought people together. Later on he will recruit an even younger man named John Mark, and encourage him to come on a mission trip with them.
It was my privilege to be helped by a Barnabas in the little South Dakota Adventist church I grew up in. I had just graduated with a master’s degree with an emphasis in teaching English.
One of our church’s local elders was a man named George Pierson. George had been watching me for the last several years, and though he said nothing to me about this, his goal was to get me a teaching spot on the faculty at Union College, in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Now, George could simply have suggested to me that I apply to Union and see if there was a teaching slot available. He could’ve sent me Union College brochures, and pestered me to check out the school.
But instead, he took a different route. You see, George knew the head of Union’s education department. Charles Felton had been a pastor in years past, and George had been a member of his Iowa church. Chuck Felton had gone back to school and got more education, and now he was department head. George called him up. And before you know it, I was invited to come down to Union College – not to teach English right away, but to come and work on a task force in case a position should open up.
George couldn’t predict the future, nor could Charles Felton. But both men were encouragers. They were practical guys – they had their feet firmly on the ground – but they were also willing to reach out and help a shy kid from the prairies. I came down, worked on task force for a few months, and sure enough, a teaching position opened up. All because a local Barnabas brought two people together.
If you’ve walked down the hallway by the church office, you’ve probably noticed our new “photo wall.” I’ve always wanted one of these for our church since I saw it in one of the hallways of the Auburn City Adventist church several years ago. I can imagine someone coming up to that wall, gazing at the photos for a while, and saying, “Oh! That’s who that is! Now I can put a name to a face!” I think this wall is a great way to bring people together, sort of a wood-frame Barnabas.
I think the Lord would be extremely happy if each of us resolved to become a Barnabas. And remember, a big part of Barnabas’ method was to get acquainted with people, and listen to them, and gather what he needed to be able to introduce them to other people.
Here’s a challenge. A week from today, when we have potluck, why not – instead of going and sitting with people you know – go instead to the table of someone who sitting by themselves. Strike up a conversation, ask them where they grew up. Share a little about yourself, but let them do most of the talking. And then, when a friend of yours walks by the table, introduce your new friend to your older friend.
It doesn’t take talent to be a Barnabas. It takes realizing that every person is a treasure to God, and then acting on it.
If you’re new here, I have some pastoral advice for you. Get here by 9:30 Sabbath morning, for our Sabbath school feature time. That’s where you will hear other members of this church sharing something about themselves and God. Then, in the Sabbath school class, you will hear people talking about what the Bible means to them. And always bring something for potluck when we have potluck Sabbaths, which are the first and third Sabbaths of the month. Bring a dish, stay, and if it’s the first Sabbath of the month (except for the summer) stay on through potluck and join us at the Evergreen Court Retirement Center, where we do an hour’s worth of gospel singing.
Barnabas helped, and Barnabas brought people together. What else did he do in his role as mega-encourager? To find out, we’ll need to turn to Acts chapter 11. The church is continuing to grow. Peter is summoned by a heavenly vision to go and visit the home of a Roman soldier, a centurion. He tells them about Jesus, and they receive the Holy Spirit in the same way the disciples did at Pentecost.
But after Stephen was stoned to death, this stirred up a lot of persecution against the Christians, so a lot of the believers basically left Jerusalem and scattered in all directions. But wherever they went, they talked about Jesus. Watch what happens.
Acts 11:19 – 20: Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.
According to my Bible reference works at home, nobody is really that sure exactly who the Hellenists were. The general consensus is that these were Greek speaking Jewish people who had to be convinced that Jesus was the Messiah.
But as it turns out, these discussions were successful.
Verse 21: And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
Now this is in Antioch, not Jerusalem. This is actually a foreign country. And when the Christians in Jerusalem heard that the gospel was spreading to the Hellenists and the Gentiles, they figured they’d better send someone over to Antioch to check out what was happening. And guess who they sent.
Verses 22 – 24: Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
So, as Barnabas is doing his best to encourage these new believers in Jesus, guess what he does.
Verses 25 – 26: Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
So, one more time, Barnabas recruits Saul, and the two of them spend an entire year in the mission field.
So what can we say would be another of Barnabas’ encouragement methods?
Barnabas helped, and Barnabas brought people together, and Barnabas loved world missions.
After all, Barnabas himself was from a country which was foreign to Judea. Back in Acts 4, we read that he was thoroughly Jewish – he was from the tribe of Levi – but he was from the country of Cyprus. At some point somebody must’ve come to Cyprus and introduced him to Jesus, and this great encourager loved to pass on the good news.
Right now I’d like to thank those of you who have supported mission work in various ways. You’ve donated to help our teens go on mission trips. You give your Sabbath school offering when it comes by you in your class. Recently on a 13th Sabbath, your giving shot past the goal, and ended up being nearly 4 times as much as had been expected. Every once in a while, we have a Mission Spotlight video program at 930 here in this room, which shows how our offerings are being used.
So keep up this generosity. Keep your eyes open for more ways you can help the word of the Lord spread in the world mission work.
This afternoon Shelley and I will be driving down to the Auburn City Adventist church to attend a memorial service for a man named Jack Kingman. Way back in 1982, she and I had come from seminary, and Auburn City was the place where we would serve a year and a half of internship.
That’s when the Kingman family welcomed us into their heart. If you have eaten at the cafeteria during camp meeting, you have seen Marlene Kingman, Jack’s wife, helping serve the food.
To me, Jack was the ultimate encourager. He was a tall man, with a bright smile, and deeply interested eyes which stared out at you through black rimmed glasses. For years, when I think of him, it seems as though his face was actually glowing with light, sort of like there was a joyous, enthusiastic furnace burning back there.
When people at Auburn city found out I could play the piano, they asked me to play for prayer meeting, and once in a while for church. There came a point when Jack discovered that Shelley and I did not have a piano in our home. So he worked out a surprise with Shelley which was that on a Sunday morning, he and his son would arrive at our house in a pickup, and in the back of that pickup would be a white spinet piano.
Jack told us that his kids were too young to take piano lessons, and we could keep it for as long as we needed it. And when we moved from Auburn city to pastor the Shoreline church, that piano went along with us. And it stayed with us until Shelley’s sister sent her family’s piano down from Alaska. And then we brought the piano back to the Kingman’s.
That’s the kind of encourager I would like to be – the Barnabas kind. Would you like to join me in raising my hand in a resolution that we can keep our eyes open to be encouragers this coming week?