“When he [Barnabas] arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy.” (Acts 11:23)
I’ve been teaching through the book of Acts at church and really enjoying it. It’s been challenging me on a number of levels, but one way in particular has stayed with me for the last week.
We read in Acts 11 that after Stephen’s death, some of the believers scattered and made it to Antioch in Syria, a couple hundred miles north of Jerusalem. They began preaching to the Gentiles with such great success that the leaders in Jerusalem sent Barnabas north to investigate. When he got there and saw how God was moving, “he was filled with joy and encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord” (Acts 11:23).
And we’re thinking, “Of course he’s joyful. Look at all the people getting saved and experiencing the power of God. THAT is a GREAT reason to be joyful.” You’re right. It is. So, are we?
Barnabas was not a Gentile and he was not from Antioch, yet he was exceedingly glad and joyful to hear about and finally witness the power of God working in so many people’s lives. Now, if I tell you that God moved at a church in your denomination so that one hundred people were saved in a revival and seventy-five of them were baptized in water last Sunday night, how many would rejoice in such a movement of God? What if I told you that same thing happened at two different churches in your city, neither of them the one you attend. Are you still as joyful, or are you thinking, “What about us? When is it our turn?” I’ll admit that I’ve thought those things myself.
However Barnabas, who wasn’t a Gentile nor even from Antioch, was still joyful. He was joyful because the Lord’s commandment to go out into the world and preach the Gospel and baptize disciples was taking place. It didn’t matter where it was taking place, for the fact was God’s Spirit was moving and salvations were happening and Barnabas was delighted to see it.
Can we, can I, be like Barnabas? Can we be joyful when God’s Spirit is moving somewhere else? We can all be happy when a father baptizes his children on a Sunday morning, as we saw last week at Journey Church. However, can we also be happy when other churches are baptizing and growing even faster than we are? Do we restrain our enthusiasm or worse, try to conjure up our joy and enthusiasm, when we hear of good things happening in other churches? We all struggle with this in some ways, and that’s why Barnabas is such a challenge to me in this passage. Maybe this is why Paul had to remind us to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15).
I want to rejoice in everything God is doing in every church that calls on His name for salvation. It is not always my first response, but I’m willing to set aside my selfish desires in order to rejoice in what God is doing wherever He chooses to do it. Will you join me in this joy?