Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they associated with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’. At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
The sentence that stands out for me above all, is the description of Barnabas as a good man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. I can’t think of any better honour than to be thus described. This three- fold description is something we can all aspire to, because they are all choices that we can make.
To be a good man or woman really depends on the choice to stand firm in the Lord. This goes beyond moral choices to the concept of integrity. A good person is one who knows what is right in every situation and who behaves with conviction. Some years ago, we were encouraged to ask ourselves repeatedly, “What Would Jesus Do?” It is a good way to remind each of us always to act in a way that honours the Lord.
To be full of the Holy Spirit is also a choice. It means that we constantly seek the Lord in prayer, asking Him to direct our steps. Christians are meant to be always aware of the Holy Spirit. Developing that awareness of the Spirit goes a long way to being full of the Spirit.
To be strong in faith means both prayer and action. Every issue in our life, every local and national problem should be brought before the Lord in prayer. As we do this, we learn to see that we have confidence in the Lord. We start to pray more bold and faithful prayers. Having prayed and listened to the Lord, we can act confidently, each of us sharing the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, please help me to be a Barnabas: good, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. Amen.
Ann Barton, Church Secretary and Lay Leader at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod