“A man’s got to know his limitations.” Harry Callahan
“As you cannot do what you want, want what you can do.” Leonardo DaVinci
We are encouraged to do big things and address the great problems of our time. Poverty, AIDS and war all cry out for our healing touch and, more often than not, we throw ourselves into projects aimed at eradicating these evils only to get frustrated at our progress. Huge organizations are built to plan the attack, organize the foot soldiers and send them into the field to bring the fight to these enemies. The problems are fought from the top down, only rarely reaching the bottom where the problems truly affect the lives of fellow human beings.
What if you turned your calling upside-down and attacked the problem from the bottom up? Instead of viewing the problem you are called to affect, you realize that your best hope for accomplishing anything is at the individual level, one on one with a person who is affected by the problem. No organization needed, no massive plan of attack necessary. Address one person and find out how to help that person. Revel in the ministry to the individual. Throw yourself completely into the life of that person and be satisfied with any progress that you help initiates in that life. Jesus expended his energies on individuals. He healed one person at a time, looking into their eyes as he did so, even though he had the ability to snap His fingers and cure all of the ills of the world at once. The individuals cured became examples of His power among their neighbors.
We all want to change the world. As DaVinci says, there are things we may want to do but cannot because of the scale or our capabilities or any number of other reasons. We could, however, influence change in one person. Perhaps, we should be reveling in these small opportunities.
When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. (Acts 11:23)
Barnabas, first introduced to us through his selfless charity in Acts 4:36-37, became a close companion and encourager of the Apostle Paul. We know him from this association and their joint ministries, and it is easy to overlook the fact that he was also an encourager of the Church and his brothers and sisters. It was a calling that he fulfilled to the utmost of his being.
This calling remains among us today. It may be lifetime tenure to be an encourager to those with whom you fellowship or it may be a special, more specific call to encourage. Called by God to preach the gospel, you may discover that the Spirit moves you to serve another pastor, to be a Barnabas to his Paul. For a season, you may be called to this support role in which you pray for, encourage, serve, and bear his shield as your way of serving the Lord above and beyond what the congregation is called to do.
Too many pastors are without this Barnabas, going it alone while being attacked from all sides. Many will fail because you or I did not respond to the Spirit’s movement and call to humility. To serve one another in love is our nature. To serve and support the pastor requires another level of selflessness. It cannot be done with the hope of return or in self-aggrandizement, or even in expectation of thanks. It is a calling that requires abiding love, trust in Christ, an expectation of holiness and a willingness to speak when that is absent. Just as one day in the Lord’s house is better than thousands elsewhere, one day called to service is better than a lifetime spent in worldly or personal pursuits.
Grace and peace to you.