Thursday, June 10, 2010

Giving Second Chances to Losers

There are many people who inspire me when I read the Bible. I think of Caleb whose dogged devotion to God’s cause continued even after he reached eighty years. There is Joseph, who remained faithful to God even when the future looked bleak enough to cause despair. Luke is another inspiration, a doctor who could have lived comfortably, but chose to face the perils of the road and sea on mission trips with Paul. There is also Barnabas, the second-chance giver of the early church.

There were some losers that crossed Barnabas’ path but he never labeled them losers. He knew that these people needed a second chance. More than that, he went out of his way to ensure that these people got a second chance and did not remain losers.

Despite Paul’s conversion, many Jerusalem Christians remained apprehensive of him. After all, he had persecuted many Christians and was responsible for many Christians’ deaths. One could hardly fault the Christians for thinking Paul was one leopard that could never change his spots. Yet Barnabas believed in Paul and vouched for the authenticity of his conversion (Acts 9:27).

Barnabas was also responsible for restoring the ministry of John Mark. The first time Paul and Barnabas had set out on their missionary journey, he had deserted them. So when the next mission trip came, Paul refused to allow John mark to go along. In stepped Mr. Encouragement, Barnabas, to stand up for John Mark. So convicted was he that Barnabas was willing to break up with Paul to bring John Mark along.

The effects of Barnabas’ convictions resonate in history. John Mark went on to write his gospel. Paul not only wrote many letters to the New Testament church that became part of our Bible but was also responsible for planting churches on his many missionary journeys. In God’s sovereign plan, Barnabas was the instrument to ensure church history did not take a different turn.

In life, we will meet people who have lost faith in themselves and believe they will fail again. They need others to have faith in them and to tell them so. We can be a Barnabas by believing in them first and sometimes even before they believe in themselves. We can emphasize their strengths and help them see that they have what it takes to succeed. We can help to inspire them when they falter. Not many people are naturally resilient. They need someone to push and encourage them even when they are making mistakes and fumble. We can motivate them by pointing out the hope of the future—that a person is only defeated when he quits in the face of difficulty.

I believe this trait of encouraging the defeated and depressed is much-needed today. In an achievement-oriented society, it is easy to cast our eyes high to look at winners on their pedestals and fail to see those in the dumps. This is not what we should do. The parable of the lost sheep is to remind us that the ones who are strong and secure need less attention when compared to the ones who are weak and lost. This is how God’s heart works—beating for people like these. God needs people who will help others to rise up and walk in victory. If we are honest, we have to admit that once we too were defeated by our fallen nature and laden with guilt and discouragement. It was God who saw our predicament and saved us. He is expecting us now to go out and be his instruments to do the same to others.

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