In a class on discipleship, I learned about the idea of having a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy, in your spiritual family. I’ve heard this idea in a few different classes now and it’s been on my mind to share. So I’d like to share with you this idea:
Paul– Having this person in your life is much like having a role model or mentor; someone who speaks into your life on spiritual matters. Someone who reflects Christ’s love so much that you strive to echo their actions (with the idea that you become like Christ – not the ‘Paul’) Their actions points past themselves and only to Christ. They are a living crystal- acting as a prism reflecting and refracting the love of God to all they come in contact with. They shine because they are learning and sharing. They pull you behind them, to the next amazing step.
Barnabas– This person will walk beside you, they encourage you to keep reading the Scriptures, to keep praying, to keep on learning. They also are not in awe of you. They see you for who you are and they are not afraid of calling you on your actions. They are your accountability partners. They will speak the harsh truth, but with love. They want you to succeed in Christ. They walk beside you, helping you over obstacles and being a cheerleader for those tough times. They are true friends.
Timothy– This is the person you teach (but they will teach you just as much) this is the person you take under your wing, showing them the ropes. They will frustrate you and amaze you equally. This is the person who might be younger chronologically or spiritually, but they need guidance. You learn how to be a prism of crystal for them – reflecting and refracting Christ’s love for them. You are encouraging them, opening the Scriptures with them. Helping them understand what faith is and how it interacts with the rest of their lives.
You can have many different people who interact with you on these levels. A great place to find them is within your own church- be on the look out for these people:
The ‘Pauls’ of your church tend to be of the older generations. The elders of the church are fast losing their honored positions in our “Be-young-for-life generation,” but these are the people to speak to! They have lived through so many things that can teach us! Learning the ways of how faith can be tempered and made stronger through the difficult times keeps us from losing that faith when we get into those moments ourselves. These people are the ones who are creating change- either in sweeping ways like Paul did in fledgling church or in individual people like Paul did with Timothy- mentoring them, encouraging them, showing them how faith is lived out.
~1 Corinthians 4:16– Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
~Philippians 3:17–Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
~1 Thessalonians 1:6–You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed he message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
Our “Barnabas’s” tend to be those friends (maybe a little older) around us, who have seen what we have gone through. They know us and they are not impressed with what we THINK we are. They love us, but they want us to be better than what we are now. It’s hard to hear criticism from them, but when they speak it is when we should listen the most. They won’t point out our faults to hurt us, but to make us grow.
In Acts 9 we read that because of Barnabas, Paul was brought into the Apostle fold-because the other Apostles only saw him as Saul- the persecutor of the church. But, Barnabas “The Son of Encouragement” saw God’s saving grace and it’s effect on Saul. And even when Barnabas and Paul later split due to a disagreement, he went on encouraging John Mark, because he saw the potential that God was growing in him. He was an encouragement to two men that became the ‘known’ names of the early Christian church.
Our “Timothys” tend to be brand new Christians, or teenagers who are walking a tight rope between being ‘good Christian kids’ or going the way of peer pressure and the world. But, ultimately, they show a passion for God, it is our duty to foster it. They are in that tender ‘age’ that if they don’t get the support and encouragement they desperately are looking for, they fall away. Timothys’ are the people who need a mentor to keep them accountable. These are our future leaders and they are learning, so it is our duty to truly empower them in Christ and the Scriptures. Be like Paul encouraging Timothy to walk in Christ.
In 2 Timothy 1 is a wonderful chapter full of teaching and encouragement towards Timothy by Paul–
2 Timothy 1:3-7–I thank God as I always mention you in my prayers, day and night. I serve him doing what I know is right as my ancestors did. Remembering that you cried for me, I want very much to see you so I can be filled with joy. I remember your true faith. That faith first lived through in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I know that you now have that same faith. This is why I remind you to keep using the gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. Now let it grow, as a small flame grows into a fire. God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self control.
God wants us to encourage each other. He wants us to build each other up as fellow Christians within His Body. He has created these role models/mentor/discipler (our Pauls), friends who walk through life with us and points out the pitfalls and obstacles around us (our Barnabas’), and young Christians who need guidance, where we learn deeper lessons about our own faith when we are teaching them about theirs (our Timothys).
So I urge you- have a well-rounded spiritual life by making sure you have your Paul, your Barnabas, and your Timothy. Pray that God will bring these people in your life, and pray that he will create in you the ability to be one of them to someone else.
1 Thessalonians 5:11- Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.