Paul and Barnabas were part of the first missionary team ever to go out. These two men experienced powerful, fruitful ministry together until a sharp disagreement occurred that would shape both of them going forward.
After Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, he preached Christ in the synagogues and people were amazed (see Acts 9:20-21). But when he went to Jerusalem and “tried to join the disciples … they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (9:26). Paul had killed Christians before his conversion and some believers thought he might be faking. But God had strategically placed a seasoned man of God named Barnabas in Paul’s path: “Barnabas took [Saul] and brought him to the apostles … [and] he was with them at Jerusalem” (9:27-28). So it seems that if there had been no Barnabas, there may not have been an Apostle Paul.
A disagreement between Paul and Barnabas occurred when Paul wanted to revisit the cities where they had ministered on their missionary journeys. A good idea on its face, but the two couldn’t agree on who would accompany them and “… the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another” (15:37-39). These brothers in Christ separated and we don’t hear anything more about Barnabas until six years later (see Galatians 2:13) — and the reference to him is not complimentary. We can only imagine something settled in his spirit that caused him to walk away from his original calling. Perhaps he had unrealistic expectations or he held a grudge that caused a crippling wound in his spirit. Whatever it was, Barnabas ended up in a really bad place.
You may occasionally have a sharp disagreement with someone in your life but Paul said, “If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down without dealing with your anger or you give a foothold to the devil” (see Ephesians 4:26-27).
The only thing that truly heals wounds is forgiveness. Whether you are the offender or the offended, the blood of Jesus covers the sin. How wonderful to know that the Lord is quick to forgive and he will work forgiveness in us if we will allow him to.
Pastor Tim pastored an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years before serving at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years. He and his wife Cindy presently pastor in Lafayette, Louisiana.
The devil does everything in his power to make his voice heard in this world. At one point he even had the audacity to interrupt Jesus while the Lord was speaking in the synagogue: “Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?’ … But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’” (Mark 1:23-25).
Satan had only one purpose in mind when he cried out loudly in the voice of the man and that was to send fear through the entire congregation. He wanted every person within the sound of his voice to believe he had power and authority.
Peter warns believers that Satan will come to them with a loud voice, trying to bring fear: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). If Satan is making his voice known in these last days, showing his power to the masses of lost souls, how much more important is it for God’s people to know their Father’s voice? Don’t think for a moment that the Lord is going to sit by and remain silent while Satan roars. Isaiah said, “The Lord will cause His glorious voice to be heard” (Isaiah 30:30).
From Genesis onward through the New Testament, God made his voice known to his people. Jesus used the example of the Good Shepherd: “The sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out … he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger” (John 10:3-5).
During your time of prayer you may wonder, “How can I distinguish the voice of God? How can I be sure it is God speaking?” One key factor is not to depend on the voice of another person, no matter how much you admire his or her teaching. Go directly to the Lord and commune with him. In his presence, shut in with him alone, you will get to know him — his fragrance, his ways, his heart. And you will learn to know his sweet voice!
Any believer who wishes to please God with his prayer life must first settle this question: “Does God really hear my prayers and will he answer?” While this appears to be a simple question — one that shouldn’t even need to be asked — most Christians would immediately answer, “Yes, of course I believe God answers my prayers.” But the simple fact is, many are not fully convinced.
There are times when we feel that God is absent from our lives, that he is not listening to our cries. Questions and doubts exist deep within us and the Lord wants to settle them in our spirit. In Luke 18:2-8, Jesus spoke a parable about the persistent widow and the unjust judge to teach his disciples “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (18:1).
In the Jewish community, a judge was expected to be impartial, but the judge in this story was incompetent and unqualified for the job. Justice definitely was not being served. According to Jewish law, widows deserve special protection under the justice system, but this judge ignored the widow who came to him. Nevertheless, she refused to give up and came before him so often that he lost patience with her and granted her request.
This widow got the justice she was seeking because of her tenacity! Jesus explains in verse 8 that if an unfit, ungodly judge answers with justice in the end, how much more will our loving, holy Father give what is right to his children?
Many Christians know that God has all they need, and they admit he cares, but they are not convinced he is willing to come quickly to help them. When God does not answer their cry right away, they imagine hindrances and inner blockages in themselves. And they think of all kinds of reasons the Lord must not be willing to come to their aid.
“Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You” (Psalm 31:19). Be assured that God has given you all you need to be free and victorious. Rejoice in the Lord for you are a delight to his soul. Hallelujah!
“You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:10).
Paul was an effective preacher who could stand boldly before people and testify, “My co-workers and I have lived blameless lives before you and God. Our conduct was righteous and pure. I always walk as if his eyes are on me and you are also witnesses to the way I live.” He wanted every believer to have the same power he had in directing people toward God through living a blameless life. But how can anyone live blamelessly, and what characterizes such a life?
The blameless Christian is one without deceit in his heart. Paul asserted that he was not a fraud, preaching one thing and yet living another. But he also warned that certain men were going about claiming to be apostles. “[But] such are false prophets, deceitful workers” (2 Corinthians 11:13). Paul said, “You can’t fake a blameless walk.”
The blameless Christian lives a clean life. “Our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness” (1 Thessalonians 2:3). Paul’s emphasis here is on sensuality, lust. He is saying, “Nothing unclean came out of my mouth. My conversation was pure, coming forth from a clean heart.” Someone whose heart has been cleansed should not tell dirty jokes, make sexual innuendoes or have roving eyes.
The blameless Christian is without guile, which means he is not deceitful or manipulative. There is no hidden agenda with an honest and open believer. “For neither at any time did we use flattering words … nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others” (1 Thessalonians 2:5-6).
What distinguishes a blameless walk is a consuming desire to honor the name of Jesus before all men. Such a Christian would rather die than do or say anything that would bring reproach on the Lord. Although he is not perfect, he is pursuing the righteousness of Christ by faith.
Set your heart to be blameless now — today! Desire it with everything in you and soon you will discover God’s great favor upon your life. Your words and actions will have an impact on others as you find yourself focused totally on Jesus.
With all the talk in the church about spiritual warfare, too many Christians have not learned how to resist the enemy. In fact, few believers know how to stand up and fight, and they become real pushovers for the devil.
The book of Judges tells us, “The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years” (Judges 6:1-2). Every year at harvest time, the Midianites moved over Israel’s land with thousands of camels, sheep and cattle that ate everything in sight, leaving Israel completely impoverished. They were driven to living in dark caves and damp dens, starving, scared and helpless. Then something happened! After seven years of this, the Israelites cried out to the Lord (6:6-7).
A man named Gideon had grown weary and exasperated at the situation. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12). Gideon questioned this Angel: “Well, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? How long should we just put up with it? We’ve been told we have a God who moved for our fathers, but look at us — helpless, living in constant fear.” The Angel said, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the [enemy]” (6:16).
Gideon gathered his army but then God made a strange request: “Send home every soldier who is afraid” (7:3). In other words, God said to Gideon, “I must have men of faith and courage! All others must pray until they develop a backbone.” That thinned out the army considerably. Still, before it was all over, Gideon had an army of strong, focused, determined fighters.
Scripture commands us to stand up, be strong, and do battle: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13, NAS). Jesus has promised us, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). God is looking for believers today who will fight their own battles with faith and courage. He says to you, “Why do you fear? You can trust me to bring victory to your life. You are stronger than you think and, remember, I’m always with you.”