Changed Lives Change Lives | Wayne Massey
The believers share their possessions
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
Disagreement between Paul and Barnabas
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
How to live a life that changes lives
Barnabas comes up in several places in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, as someone who helps others’ lives to change. What can we learn from his life that might help us do the same?
Firstly we hear that he sold a field and gave the proceeds to the church. He was generous because he had experienced the generosity of God. His sense of identity did not depend on the property he owned; he could use the proceeds for the church family because he was secure in his identity as part of that community.
Maybe we can imagine our life being like an i-phone complete with its Appstore full of apps. Knowing our resources are limited, we download something like ‘success at work’ or ‘a nice car’ since other better ways of finding joy or being fulfilled seem out of reach. But when we discover the ‘Family sharing’ app, we realise that we can access everything that God, our heavenly Father, wants for us. Like Barnabas, we can be generous to others because God is so generous to us. If you are struggling to be generous with your time or money, perhaps it is right to ask ‘Where is my sense of identity and security grounded?’
Secondly, Barnabas was not afraid to come alongside Saul even though he had been an enemy of Jesus’ followers. He knew that nobody is beyond God’s love, and that Saul had a good heart. When Jesus died on the cross, it was for us all. His death and resurrection opened the way for each and every one of us to turn to him and find our way home to the God who loves us. You might look at some people and think they have made their mind up once and for all to ignore God’s invitation, but this would be wrong. You cannot assume that God has written them off, so nor can you. You might even think that you yourself are beyond God’s love, but nothing could be further from the truth. God knows you and loves you.
Lastly, Barnabas gave John Mark a second chance. When Jesus was asked how many times we should forgive people, he had made it clear that there was no limit. Sometimes we can feel a complete failure, only too aware of where we have gone wrong. We expect to be condemned and written off. But God says ‘Let’s go again.’ Similarly when someone lets us down or hurts us, we can ask God to give us the strength to see them through his eyes and say ‘Let’s go again’ to them, however hard that might be.
How can we live a life that changes others’ lives? It begins when we start letting Jesus change us - when we experience his generosity and respond with a ‘yes’. And then day after day, it continues as we meet with him in prayer and through the Bible. A life changed by Jesus overflows in so many ways to others, potentially `transforming communities, towns, even nations.