#335 Barnabas: Serving with Character

October 12, 2022

We have observed several of the actions that made Barnabas an effective serving leader. As we conclude this review of his life, we’ll look below the surface to observe where these actions were rooted. In one of the first mentions of his life we learn that he was a ‘good man.’

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord (Acts 11:22-24, NIV).

Barnabas was a “good man,” the evidence of his character. His character was the foundation from which all the other wonderful characteristics of his life flowed. He shows all serving leaders that serving others begins with who we are.

Character serves by signaling who we are.  

Barnabas was “full of faith and the Spirit.” This was the core of who he was. His good character signaled what he was filled with. Some leaders try to manage what people see and work hard to shape their actions, hoping to cover up the reality of who they are inside. But when the pressure is on, what is inside comes out in a harsh word, an angry look or striving for power. Actions do not determine character, they reveal character. Serving leaders focus on filling themselves with the right content. They are careful about what they read, what they see, and what they think about. They recognize that their character signals to the world who they are.  

Character serves by shaping what we do.   

“…he was glad and encouraged them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” When Barnabas arrived at the church in Antioch, he looked at what was happening and responded with encouragement. Why? He didn’t need to stop and think about what the best leadership response would be. He simply allowed his character to shape his response. He encouraged because he was an encourager. Great results followed, “A great number of people were brought to the Lord.” Some leaders carefully weigh potential losses or gains based on their actions and decide what to do based on how it will advance or hinder their own goals. But serving leaders cultivate good character and then allow that to shape what they do. They do what is right, not what is convenient. They do what is needed, not what is expedient. Their character helps them focus on long term gains instead of short-term wins. They can safely rely on their character to shape what they do.

Character serves by steering where we go.

Barnabas was sent by the church leaders to serve in Antioch. They recognized the goodness of his character and that opened doors for greater levels of responsibility for him. They trusted him because they knew his character. This trust lead to his next assignment. Some leaders seek advancement by carefully aligning themselves with the right people or calculating where they go based on their desired outcomes. But serving leaders cultivate character that opens doors for them and steers them in the right direction. Their character serves as the navigational tool that leads them where they can best serve.

The life of Barnabas is a case study of a man who served well because of who he was. He challenges all serving leaders to develop their character and allow their leadership to flow out of it.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the character of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?
  • What am I filled with? How is this evidenced in who I am at the core of my life? What do I do to stay filled with that which produces good character in my life?   
  • What ultimately shapes my actions? Do I allow my character to shape what is right to do or do I focus on how others will react or how the decision will advance my own goals?
  • What guides my advancement? Is it my own efforts to plot a course that takes me where I want to go, or is it my character that opens doors to serve?
  • What am I doing to strengthen my character? Are there areas of my character in which I need to ask God and others to help me grow?        

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

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