According to the inspired revelation of Acts 11, he was a “good man.” He was a man “full of the Holy Spirit.” He was a man “of faith.” And they? Well they were brand spankin’ new believers. Having heard Jesus preached they believed and “turned to the Lord.” They had become the visible evidence of “the grace of God.” But they were spiritual newborns. Babes in Christ. Didn’t even know what they didn’t know. So what next?
Cue “the good man.” Cue Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36). When the church in Jerusalem heard about this harvest among the Hellinists, and this start up church of start up believers, “they sent Barnabas to Antioch.”
So where do you start if you’re a Barnabas? Tell them to start reading in the book of John? There wasn’t one yet. Tell them to make time in the morning to do some devo’s with the Psalms and Prophets? Uh, not sure there was a scroll in every home. Tell them to pray? Tell them to tithe? What’s the first thing you tell new believers who need to pursue the new life when they have really no clue of what that really means?
Well, if Barnabas is to be trusted (and the church at Jerusalem certainly thought he could be), when it comes to setting up someone to grow in the grace and knowledge of their new found Savior, you direct their hearts.
When [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose . . .
(Acts 11:23 ESV)
Remain faithful, says Barnabas, with steadfast purpose. Remain true with a firm resolve of heart (CSB). With purpose of heart continue with, or cleave to, the Lord (NKJV, AV).
Barnabas gave them first a principle, not a practice. He encouraged them with a life direction and not a daily task list. He pled with them to set their face towards a way before he instructed them on the mechanics of their walk.
Remain faithful, he said. With whatever understanding you have of who the Lord is and what the Lord has done, remain faithful to that. You’ll grow in your understanding, but remaining true to what you know today will be foundational to what you’ll grow into tomorrow. Faithful in little, faithful in much — that’s the way to enter into the joy of your newly owned (and, if should be the case, your not so newly owned) Master (Mt. 25:21).
And the on-going fuel for remaining faithful is steadfast purpose. Literally, a “purpose of heart.” A firm resolve in the inner being to remain true to the God of your salvation, and to His Son who has called you into life, and life to the full. However you understand that today, remain faithful to that with steadfast purpose.
And I think this principle of remaining faithful with steadfast purpose works because of a promise.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” ~ Jesus
(Matthew 7:7-8 ESV)
Those who set their hearts to seek Christ find Christ. Those who purpose to walk in the Way have the Way opened to them. Those who, with Spirit-enabled holy determination, resolve to be faithful find Him faithful.
Not to be overly simplistic, but I’m thinking this is a good starting point, a solid working principle for any believer, new or well-seasoned.
How we need to beware of “the drift.” The waning of the drive for the kingdom we once felt. The atrophy of the burning desire to abide in the Vine. The losing of our first love. Becoming increasingly content with putting our hearts on autopilot. Allowing status quo to displace steadfast purpose.
These new believers didn’t need, first and foremost, a list of what to do, but an exhortation to remain faithful to the One they’d come to desire.
The rest would follow. Obeying the precepts, a result of their heart-focused pursuit. The spiritual disciplines, a result of their simple devotion. The worthy walk, the fruit of their wholehearted worship.
Remaining faithful with steadfast purpose. Not a bad starting point. I’m thinking not a bad principle to return to.
By His grace. For His glory.