When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” Acts 11:23
These heartening words were spoken by Barnabas to the early church in Antioch.
Barnabas was quite a guy. He was an early disciple of Christ, companion of the Apostle Paul and described as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit. My favorite Barnabas fact is his name. It means: son of encouragement. Our guy was known for encouraging the church and giving it direction. Every church needs a Barnabas. Heck, every life needs a Barnabas.
While reading in Acts chapter eleven, verse three jumped out at me, particularly: “with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.“
In The Webster Bible – among others – it says: “..with purpose of heart cleave to the Lord.” Barnabas implored this brand-new church in Antioch to cleave to the Lord. Webster gives these synonyms for cleave: stick, cling, hold-close, cherish.
Barnabas desired that they purpose in their hearts to stick, cling, hold close and cherish their Lord.
This Son of Encouragement traveled an arduous and painful road in following Jesus. The path to the cross.
Our man Barnabas knew. He knew the church also faced an arduous and painful road ahead and he was right. Heart wrenchingly right.
The path of the King comes with a price. Like you, I have read and seen accounts of the church in the Middle East paying an extraordinary price for their faith. Many have lost absolutely everything on their journey as Christ-followers. Yet, most choose not to deny Him. These precious ones have purposed in their hearts to cleave to God, despite the cost.
As an American Christian, I find it impossible to wrap my head and heart around the suffering-for-Christ our brothers and sisters around the world are facing – unimaginable, harrowing persecution.
As Easter week begins I take this exhortation from Barnabas to heart. You see, he was speaking to us friends. To you and I and our brothers and sisters being martyred, threatened and abused. He spoke to The Christians in Antioch all the way to today in America and all over the world. The church of Jesus Christ – The Family of Families.
We too, walk our own path with Christ. Today, it looks very different from our persecuted family. But someday it might not. Someday American Christians may face similar persecution.
But still, there are challenges on our paths. On mine, on yours, aren’t there? Sacrifices we have made to follow Jesus. Relationships severed? Habits and hang-ups that we don’t want to let go of even though we know He is asking us to? Dislike and disapproval leveled at us?
Reading this passage, looking towards Easter, I feel summoned and heartened by the words of Brother Barnabas to press on in my journey. I pray you do as well my friend. May we see the grace of God as we view the cross and the empty tomb. Join me this Easter week by taking Barnabas’ advice by cleaving to and continuing with the Lord.
Let us purpose in our hearts this Easter week and beyond:
~to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters (check out www.persecution.com )
~to be a Barnabas in the lives of others