The word influence means “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.” The Apostle Paul said it this way in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” From its very roots, Christianity was meant to be passed along. As a matter of fact, a Christianity that is not passed along is not Christianity at all.
Daniel Boone is an American hero. If you don’t know his story I would greatly encourage you to check it out. It’s the story of a man who repeatedly failed, but who also repeatedly chose to not give up. He spent most of his life in debt, and actually died that way as well. However, to read his life as a failure would be to completely miss the point.
You see, Daniel Boone was the man who helped create the Wilderness Road. This road opened up the path to the West, and Americans have been pouring through this area ever since. It doesn’t look much like a wilderness now, but his impact continues to be felt. Sometimes the measure of a man’s life cannot be accounted for in the money or possessions he owns. Sometimes the only way to know the measure of a man is to see the way that he influences the world around him.
Saul of Tarsus was completely lost. He had been knocked off his horse, seen a life-altering vision, and been chased around for preaching the gospel. The only problem was that Saul didn’t have anyone who believed in him. Try as he might, he simply could not convince the Christian church that he was the real deal. In today’s terms, he was a preacher without a license.
And can you really blame the early Christians for not immediately welcoming Saul? No doubt, this man had put some of their relatives in prison, and had probably even killed some of them. He stood by and held the coats of men who stoned the first known Christian martyr, Stephen. By all appearances he had changed, but the reality is that Saul had probably used deception before in order to imprison and kill Christians. No one could be completely certain of his motives.
Enter Barnabas. We don’t know a whole lot about Barnabas, but we do know that his name means “son of encouragement.” If that was his actual name, and not just a nickname, then it is one of the most appropriate names that has ever been given to someone. At a time when Christians were afraid of Saul, Barnabas was willing to take a chance on him. Barnabas stood with Saul when no one else would.
Can you imagine the courage that took? Virtually the entire church stood opposed to Saul, and if the apostles were aware of his conversion it doesn’t even seem as if they were willing to accept it. But Barnabas understood that true Christianity REQUIRES us to love and believe in one another. Barnabas didn’t see Saul as a persecutor of the church. He saw him as a brother who needed help, and that made all the difference.
There is something unique and special about someone who has the ability to see people not as they were, or even as they are now, but rather as what they will become. I am convinced that this perfectly captures the mindset of Barnabas. Without Barnabas, there quite possibly would have been no Apostle Paul. It is possible that God would have raised someone else up, but to me that completely misses the point. We will never know because Barnabas decided to stand with Saul.
Everyone needs a Barnabas. EVERYONE. I don’t care if you are the most gifted public speaker in the world, or if you have incredible charisma. You still need someone who believes in you, someone who will vouch for you when no one else will. I have been blessed to have had many people in my life who have believed in me. There were people who gave me a chance to be involved in ministry, even though I wasn’t the most talented or gifted person. But all it takes is one. You don’t need hundreds of people to believe in you. You just need one person who will stand with you, and that will make all the difference in your life and ministry.
Like Daniel Boone and Barnabas, there are people reading this who reflect this incredible ability to influence the people around them. I want you to know that we see you, but more importantly God sees you. He sees the hours you spend with those young people trying to get them to model the person and character of Jesus Christ. He sees the countless Bible studies that you have taught, and the many prayers you have prayed for that individual. He sees that you believe in that person when no one else does. He sees all of it.
But the crazy thing about Barnabas is that he doesn’t care if he gets recognized. He is perfectly content to sit in the background and let someone else do the preaching. Why? Because he knows that this whole thing is not about him. It’s about expanding the kingdom of God on earth, and it’s about influencing the people all around him. If Barnabas gets noticed for that then that’s great, but if not he is still going to influence people. The church needs the ministry of Barnabas just as much as it needs the ministry of Paul. The ministry of Barnabas is practical Christianity lived out.