Now we look at the protagonist—the heroine—of the story: Dorothy. As we saw that the scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion each represent a different type of Christian, so Dorothy represents a kind of Christian as well—a type of Christian that is urgently needed today. Let’s consider three New Testament men who can be compared to Dorothy in our little analogy.
BARNABAS: BEING THERE WHEN NO ONE ELSE IS.
FOR SAUL OF TARSUS (ACTS 9:27-29)
When first-century Christians heard the name “Saul of Tarsus,” they saw/felt what you and I see/feel when we hear the name “Osama bin Laden.” Thus, they were leery when Saul of Tarsus showed up at Jerusalem for the first time since he was the ring-leader of a militant, terroristic sect of Pharisees. They all—and not without good reason—thought it was some kind of trick.
BUT BARNABAS TOOK HIM…
— Acts 9:27a —
What powerful words! This is one of the most Christ-like things we read of any mere human doing in all the New Testament! Saul had no one on his side (on earth)—and everyone was afraid and unbelieving. “But Barnabas” looked at Saul and saw something different. He used a different pair of eyes than the other Christians were using. He was looking at Saul through the glasses of the gospel of Christ. He peered right down into the soul of Saul of Tarsus, and took his chances, being there for him when no one else was. He said, “Come on Saul, let me buy you a cup of coffee. I want you to tell me what’s going on. Tell me all about it. I’m all ears, brother.”
Barnabas gave Saul something that no other would give him: the benefit of the doubt. He used all his faculties in doing so:
- His eyes—peering deeply into Saul’s soul;
- His heart—being moved with compassion for him;
- His ears—listening as he recounted the events that had happened to him;
- His voice—vouching for Saul before the apostles and disciples.
And all for an infamous enemy of Christ, persecutor of the church, and murderer of Christians!
FOR JOHN MARK (ACTS 15:39)
Some years later, Barnabas wants to go check up on the congregations they had established on their first campaign, and he wants to take John Mark, and give him another chance. Paul, however, did not want to take John Mark, because he had abandoned last time. He apparently needed a dose of the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:21ff)!
So Paul says to Barnabas: “I’m going, and I want you with me; but I will not be traveling with one who is just going to abandon us and give us more trouble than help. So if you want to go with him, you will have to go without me!”
Barnabas answers with decisive conviction, “Then I suppose this is ‘Farewell,’ brother.”
Barnabas was so willing to be there for Mark when no one else was; so willing to help him become a better Christian, that he was willing to part with his great friend, traveling and missionary mate, and brother, Paul, and take his chances for the sake of his weaker brother in Christ, John Mark.
We know absolutely nothing of Barnabas’ movements from this point forward. But from 2 Timothy 4:11, we learn that they were not in vain in any sense. Paul, at death’s door, had written to Timothy again, and in his final remarks—almost the last recorded words of the dear apostle—he tells Timothy to hurry to Rome, and bring with him some things:
- His cloak that he had left in Troas;
- The “books”;
- The parchments;
But that wasn’t all:
TAKE MARK, AND BRING HIM WITH YOU; FOR HE IS USEFUL TO ME FOR MINISTERING.
— 2 Timothy 4:11 —
I think it is safe to say that this would never have happened if not for Barnabas’ decision in Acts 15:39! Because Barnabas was there for Mark when no one else was, Mark became a better person; a stronger Christian; a greater soldier for Christ! He became one who was not only “useful…for ministering,” in general, but one whom Paul wanted by his side in his final days!
It is difficult to overestimate the power of simply being the person who is there when no one else is. Be the Barnabas in a John Mark’s life!
PAUL: PERSONALLY INVESTING IN OTHERS
1 CORINTHIANS 9:19-23; ACTS 16:1ff; PHILIPPIANS 2:19-22
Paul was not a hypocrite or a deceiver: he was a man who personally invested in others. He knew he was on a mission for the Lord, and he was willing to do whatever it took—in accordance with the Lord’s will—to seek and save the lost! He didn’t just teach them—he invested in them: personally, emotionally, spiritually!
We can follow Paul’s example quite easily:
- Getting to know people more closely.
- Listening to them to learn about them and the things that interest them.
- Becoming interested, or at least educated, in their interests, in order to have “a common ground.”
Never underestimate not only the convenience, but the sheer power of simply having a common interest to talk about with a person. This principle is applicable not only to people we already know somewhat, but to strangers, as well!
- The cashier at the grocery store or gas station;
- The server at a frequently visited restaurant;
- The parents or grandparents of a child on your child’s little league team or class; etc.
In fact, if we take the time to invest in these strangers, they won’t be strangers anymore—and the fewer strangers we have in our lives, the more people we will have in our lives whom we can potentially lead to Christ.
Just think of how much Paul invested in Timothy, and how much Timothy benefited and gained from it! By personally investing in others in this way—the way Paul did—there is simply no estimating what kind of “mountains” can be “moved”! Be the Paul in a Timothy’s life!
JESUS: BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN OTHERS
Among other things, Jesus gave others a higher standard to which they could strive to reach. One of the ways this was done was by giving others a new name. We know the most outspoken of the 12 as “Peter,” but Jesus knew “Simon.”
When Simon made that great confession, the Lord said, “You are Peter—Rock.” But when the Lord said this, Simon was by no means, a rock. In fact, the only thing “Simon” had in common with a rock is that they both sink when you put them in water! But the Lord gave Simon this charge, this standard, this name to live up to, and, with help from the Holy Spirit, he did—Simon became the “Rock” the Lord wanted him to be.
HEBREWS 1:1-4; 2:9–3:14; 12:1-3
But Jesus didn’t just bring out the best in Peter—He brought out the best in all mankind. He showed us the Way—for He is the Way. He taught us who God wants us to be, and who we must be in order to please Him and have life!
HE HATH SHOWED THEE, O MAN, WHAT IS GOOD…
— Micah 6:8 —
Every good trait of every person has come to mankind from Him. Not everyone wants to live as He lived, themselves—but everyone wants everyone else to live as He lived! Jesus brought the best out in others because He cared more about others than about Himself. Be the Jesus in a Simon’s life!
These three men: Jesus, Paul, Barnabas, saw others not for who they used to be, nor for who they currently are, nor even for who they should be. Rather, they saw others for who they COULD be—with their help. These men took it upon themselves to:
BE PEOPLE who
Let us do likewise, and not be surprised when God “gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6,7; cf. Acts 2:47)!