God redeems people in partnership with His disciples. By understanding the role of Ananias and Barnabas in Saul’s journey, we are asked to engage in a position of encouragement by coaching and mentoring the people around us. Like Saul, we all need people in our lives that encourage us, especially in our faith journey.
Warm-up Question: Who is a person in your life that encourages you?ACTIVITYRead Acts 9:1-31TEACHING
This was a highly contentious and troubling time for the followers of Jesus. We have accounts in the chapters preceding Acts 9 that tell us of this consistent violent persecution of the early church. Saul’s conversion is an important moment in the history of Christianity as it demonstrates that God came for all people, despite their past sins and reputation. However, despite the dramatic nature of Saul’s conversion, he still relied upon the support and encouragement of the early Disciples to spread the message of Jesus far and wide.
Ananias demonstrates the importance of obedience in posturing ourselves to speak into the lives of others. By being willing to say “yes Lord”, Ananias sees the miracle-working power of God and is able to help Saul gain acceptance into God’s family.
Barnabas also plays a vital role in the encouragement of Saul. Barnabas was a well-respected disciple of the Early Church. He was born with the name Joseph, but he was so good at encouraging people that they gave him the nickname Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement”. The early passage of Acts tells us that he was very generous, so much so that he sold land and gave the profits to the early church to further their work.
It’s through this relationship with Barnabas that we see God start to unfold his plans for Saul in the later chapters of Acts. Barnabas enables Saul to do what God has called him to do.
We already read that in Acts 9:26 Barnabas sees the potential in Saul and helps him gain acceptance in the family of God as well as sponsoring him for mission. Later in Acts 11, which some time has passed and Barnabas brings Paul with him to share the Gospel in Antioch.Read: Acts 11:22-30
A couple of chapters later, Barnabas ministers alongside Paul in Antioch. At this stage Barnabas’s name is listed first indicating that he is still the more senior disciple, he’s still coaching and mentoring Paul.Read: Acts 13:1-4
We then see the names change a couple of chapters later in Acts 15 where Paul’s name comes first and it signifies that he’s now the more senior disciple.Read: Acts 15:1-2
This very intentional coaching relationship, where Barnabas simply takes Saul with him and journeys with him, showing him how, and coaching him to do the work, then ministering alongside each other and then eventually Paul is released to do the work on his own and is able to do this coaching and mentoring for others. Note also that Paul rises to be a more prominent disciple than Barnabas (Paul’s name comes first) – this demonstrates that we must always be willing to let those that we coach and mentor to outshine us for God’s glory.
One of the greatest privileges of being a Christ follower is that God allows us to work with Him so that we can pour into the lives of those around us. God is all about partnering with us and in doing so he teaches us to partner with others. As those made in His image, so too are we called to be a partnering people with others through mentoring and coaching them in their discipleship. What people like Ananias and Barnabas teach us is the importance of coming alongside people and encouraging them forward.Discussion Questions
1. Share how you first came to know Jesus. Who partnered with you and helped you understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus?
2. Have you ever had a mentor or coach help you in an area of your life? What was that experience like for you?
3. Brisita shared about times where she doesn’t assume a posture of encouragement. If God was to search your heart, where are some areas where you could be more encouraging of others?
4. Are there some people in your world where you could take on the role of Barnabas towards them?