Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
-Acts 11:25-6 (NIV)
Back when I was single, I was concerned about finding ‘the one’ that I would marry. I have also been concerned about finding ‘the one’ job and ‘the one’ place to live. Right now, I have been researching cars, looking for ‘the one’ car.
I remember when I bought a cassette tape, almost 30 years ago, about finding a spouse. The Bible has a lot of practical advice, but not really the idea of finding ‘the one’. In a sense, who you select becomes ‘the one’ and the two of you become one.
The Bible does not point us to personality tests or compatibility questionnaires. It basically says, “walk with the Lord”, and “marry a believer”.
What about the other ‘the one’s’ in our lives: the one job, the one house and the one car to choose?
Are we guided by God and is there a plan? Yes. But there is a dance, where we make mistakes and encounter opposition and God re-guides us.
Apostle Paul is an example of a man that God had a plan for. And that man did good and did bad. Sometimes God guided and he did not follow. Many times, he was opposed and kept walking with God and rediscovering the plan.
He walked with God through disappointment, broken hearted failure and just being wrung out. But he became for us perhaps the number one theologian about Jesus and God’s plan of salvation. His life’s message might boil down to ‘a man in Christ’. That’s a pretty good epitaph.
What about the the one, perfect job? Did you know that a high percentage of people hate their jobs? Even many pastors say that they would do something else if they could, but they don’t see anything else they could do.
The scripture from Acts 11 is about Barnabas finding Paul and taking him to Antioch. Paul was ‘the one’ who was going to be a prolific Apostle and was going to write a bunch of letters that would be inspired by God and make it into the canon of scripture.
Of course Paul was an amazing person and his life had massive impact. But behind Paul and beside Paul, was this special man named Barnabas. That was actually his nickname. His real name is the very good name, Joseph.
Barnabas was such an encouraging person that he got the nickname ‘son of encouragement’ which is what Barnabas means. He was Paul’s friend, mentor, liaison, voucher and reference.
Paul had about three years of a rocky, wild ride in his ministry, before being ‘benched’ by going back to Tarsus for nine years. At the end of those nine years, Barnabas went to recall Paul and bring him to Antioch. After about a year, Paul went on his first ministry trip, with Barnabas.
Barnabas was a gifted disciple, but he never exhibited a ‘me first’ or ‘I am the one’ attitude. He was simply at the service of Jesus and allowed himself to be empowered and assigned ministry jobs including teacher, prophet and apostle. He neither bossed Paul nor introduced him as ‘the new boss’.
Paul made mistakes and was in sharp conflict with a couple of his apostolic associates later. That did not disqualify Paul or make him ‘not the one’ to write New Testament letters.
Most of us have to choose a car, a job and a location to live. A majority of people choose a spouse. I know many people who have been married twice and a few who are like C.S. Lewis and past mid-life and are still unmarried.
You can be fat and happy or unmarried and content. You can be thin and unhappy or married and discontented. A word for the younger people: money, success, power or popularity do not make you happy. Believe it or not, having a lot of any one of these actually makes you less happy.
Only God can give you happiness. Remember the word, “Blessed are the poor”? That does not mean you must have no money to be happy in God. It does mean that money does not bring happiness.
You actually are positioned better to enter the kingdom if you are not wealthy. Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is the root of all evil.
When I was graduating high school and had to choose a car, I did not know much. Maybe I got lucky or maybe I got blessed and maybe my dad, knew something, and guided me. I selected a Toyota.
It was outrageously reliable compared to all the cars I had seen in my family. I had that car for about ten years. I sold it with a quarter of a million miles on it for five hundred dollars.
Then, I tried to find the car that would be ‘the one’. I thought I was wise in not choosing a German sports car, but ended up choosing a more sporty Japanese car. I ended up having two of these, back to back, that both needed new engines ($$$) after only 50k to 75k miles of ownership.
After those, I actually considered a third try, but then opted for something more reliable, while still being somewhat sporty. And that anonymous car is now over 200k and that is why I am looking for ‘the one’ again.
My two sports cars were so much fun to drive and I miss that, but I don’t miss the cost. Life is a balance of enjoyable thrills within your budget. I have an advice book where the author says you should own a convertible at least once in your life and I can think of three older men I look up to who have owned and ridden Harley Davidsons motorcycles. Did you ever see the picture on the Chuck Swindoll book, where he is on a motorcycle, with his wife?
I did find the one person to marry and to have a family with. And I am confident about the car thing. I know that if I am careful, I can own a car for a year and then resell it with no trouble. The job, career, calling, ministry, vocation thing is more complicated.
In a sense, I am doing my dream job. When I was a kid, I had my own audio equipment: tape decks, microphones, radio transmitters and receivers.
And I also had a movie camera and learned to shoot and edit film. I made a music film to a Toto song in high school and another film to a Tears For Fears song in college. I also made a short film about the end of the world.
From the end of high school through all my college years, I had many opportunities that knocked to work in making commercials, television or film. But I had no vocational mentor or coach. I just had a couple of conservative, electrical engineering career path guys, who supported me in whatever I was going to choose.
And what or who I chose is what or who chose me and that is God. Out of my life that was in chaos, confusion, fear and a longing for meaning mixed with broken hearted unhappiness came a hunger for God.
In my strategic time of the end of high school through the end of college, with all the dreaming and deciding on what to do, as I made the transition into adulthood; God intervened in my life and drew me to himself.
There are many other details I can’t go into now, on how I came to live where I live and work where I work and about the church I joined for about 14 years, and what I learned and inherited and what was developed in me that I posses today.
And after getting settled into my life with God and having a place to call home and a job, I did want to find the one to marry and a better job or a job that was a ministry job where I could do something more kingdom oriented.
I actually tried out two other careers or jobs and did them at the semi-pro level. That happened before I got married. I could not push the river. I did not find her and even though the chorus said, “just pick one”, I felt like I had not found the person that I had been looking for and that God was going to send me.
God actually gave me a word, a prophecy; a promise verse that was about Janine. That verse kind of says that all women are not equal in how they live or choose to live their lives and God will give that woman to the man who receives her from him. I also had an additional prophecy, promise or word about my future that I wrote about, called ‘two-ten in the afternoon
The clue or lesson I have learned in my search for ‘the one’ is my life is God. The search for ‘the one’ comes out of and goes through and back to how God is ‘the one’. God, worshipping God and serving God is ‘the one thing’. God has always and will always be the one for me.
I have discovered that God has a destiny, calling and inheritance for me that is developing and coming. I chose that scripture about Paul and Barnabas because God calls and recalls and uses encouraging people in his calling and recalling.
What was Paul thinking and feeling when he went back to Tarsus for those nine years?
I think that whatever happened to Paul in those nine years was very important and had to do with his internal spiritual formation. I believe he shared his faith and evangelized. I don’t know if he taught people or had disciples.
Being a Barnabas and finding the Paul’s is an awesome ministry and so important.
The last thing I will say is that all of life is an in-between time and we are often in transition. You can ruin the time you are in now by sentimentally looking back or discontentedly looking forward. Remember that, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”.
Not recognizing transition is when ‘good’ becomes the enemy of ‘best’. The old order gets in the way of the new order. It is the wineskin that Jesus talked about. God has new things, new assignments, opportunities, relationships and responsibilities to give us that require new structure. The new structure has God’s design for that new assignment, in you and for you to serve him.
God has our best for us and we have to let go of the good, to receive it. Paul had those three rocky years and then went to the sidelines for nine and then was called back up. God never forgot him and Barnabas got to be God’s representative to get Paul back into what was going to happen.
Imagine the ridiculousness of if Paul never left Tarsus and just stayed there. He instead was open to change and reforming his call. That is a good example to follow.
Are we guided by God and God has a plan. But there is a dance, where we make mistakes and encounter opposition. Then God re-guides us, renews us and recalls us. We will have opposition, but we keep walking with God and rediscovering the plan.
The path to the one is in and through The One. That is the overarching, chief plan of radical union with Christ.