Barnabas -one of the coolest people in the whole Bible- if you ever want to emulate another Christian, he’s a good choice- for starters he led the church in the first place where believers were called Christians, and he was a legend at spotting potential- he was the guy who called Saul from his home town in Tarsus and took him on his first road trip… And here they are in Antioch, praying and listening. Asking the question ‘how can we best serve you God?’, and taking it seriously- they were fasting and praying and waiting, as part of a group. Its a really good model for how we make big decisions- in the midst of worship when our hearts are focussed on God, in the context of prayer and with that commitment that fasting indicates (its not about depriving ourselves of food or losing weight, or a health kick thing, fasting is about prioritising time… maybe I’ll write a post about that soon).
Anyway, today, looking at Acts 13 & 14, we see how these two are called to go on another trip, and as we read it we get to see the development of their relationship. At the start its ‘Barnabas and Saul’, then there’s the moment when Saul steps forward, his new name Paul is used for the first time (Paul, derived from ‘small’ in Latin would mean ‘little one’, but it could also have come from his encounter with the pro-consul of Cyprus who became a Christian following their meeting). And then through the rest of the trip, from Cyprus to mainland Turkey and then back to Antioch in Syria, Barnabas takes the back seat- he’s the more mature believer, the more experienced apostle and church planter, but he’s willing to stand alongside while Paul speaks to the Jews in the synagogues, the Gentiles in the markets etc. Often its ‘Paul and Barnabas’ did something- maybe it was a more open discussion, but its always Paul that is reported as giving the main address.
And that is how it is when we’re being apprenticed- whether by a genius like Barnabas, or by the Holy Spirit. God can do all things without us, but chooses to invite our involvement. And as we try to follow him, we find that God is waiting for us, drawing us on, giving us chances to do things we never thought we could… and when we do, when we take those chances, we grow in confidence both in God and in our ability to hear God… we realise we were right to trust God, and so we’ll be better able to do so again.
And that’s key to our own relationship with God, to our flourishing as Christians, and to our engagement in God’s mission in the world.