The world today is in desperate need of spiritual fathers (and mothers). There are so many confusing voices telling us conflicting information, so many temptations with so little social support to help us resist, so many lives being lived alone, unnoticed, unvalued by anyone except those who want to exploit, so many difficult decisions we face without the wisdom to know which way to turn. In the U.S. were now a couple of generations into the collapse of the role of a father. Many who have had a painful history even distrust the word father, associating it with abuse and abandonment, yet through all their anger, still desperately longing for one.
On this Fathers Day weekend, Barnabus provides us a great model of what it means to be a father, in particular, a spiritual father. Even in these concluding remarks at the end of his letter his fathers heart shows thought. So lets learn from him, but even more lets let his example challenge us to be fathers (and mothers) to those coming behind us in the Lord.
A possible scenario
The following scenario is speculation based on bits and pieces of information recorded in Hebrews, Pauls letters and the Book of Acts. When we do this a very touching picture emerges. We are given a glimpse into the heart of those who are still our spiritual fathers today.
The Book of Acts leaves Paul under house arrest in Rome where he has rented his own quarters for two years (Ac 28:30).
Pauls letters mention places not recorded up to this point in Acts so he must have been released for lack of evidence (AD 62-66).
1 Timothy and Titus were written
Paul re-arrested suddenly at Troas (2Ti 4:13) leaving behind his cloak and books. Apparently Alexander the Coppersmith (Ac 19:33) discovered he was there and came up from Ephesus (2Ti 4:14).
Hes imprisoned at Rome again (AD 66-67).
2 Timothy written from prison, not house arrest (AD 67). He asks Timothy to bring him the cloak and books left at Troas when he was arrested before winter (2Ti 4:21).
Timothy comes to Rome and is also arrested (Heb 13:23).
Paul is executed (AD 67).
Nero dies (AD 68).
Timothy is released (AD 68) and writes to Barnabus (in Cyprus?) describing the spiritual condition of the churches in and around Rome. He offers to come and escort him back to Rome (Barnabus is elderly) because a general backsliding into Judaism is occurring among Jewish believers.
Timothy had been converted by Paul and Barnabus on their first mission trip along with his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois in Lystra (AD 47, 48).
Barnabus writes Hebrews and sends it as a circular to the churches in and around Rome (Heb 13:24).
Barnabus tells the churches he is personally coming to speak to them as soon as Timothy arrives to escort him there.
The author describes his letter as a word of exhortation. The word translated exhortation is derived from parakaleo. The Greek word means to call ones side to help in some way and is translated by various words: comfort, exhort, beseech, encourage and advocate (1Jn 2:1). The same word is used to characterize the Holy Spirits ministry to believers in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. And, if indeed Barnabus is the author of Hebrews (see sermon notes 9/27/08) as I think he is, then this word is the root of the nickname given to him by the apostles (Ac 4:36). They called him the son of exhortation/encouragement (parakaleo). So when we look back over the character of this letter we get the sense of what the early church meant when they used this word. At times the letter is comforting, at times instructive, and at other times it thunders with severe warnings. Yet the motive behind all of it is a loving pastoral concern to come beside people in order to help them live lives that please God (Heb 10:24, 25).
Wisdom from Father Barnabus
1. (v 21) My prayer is for God to work His will in you.
The goal of a good father is to raise children who know and obey their heavenly Father.
Elizabeth OConnor, Eighth Day of Creation, Word Books, Waco, Texas, 1971, p. 18.
I put aside my own ambitions for you and encourage you to please Him (child dedications, Hannah)
2. (v 22) Im coming as soon as possible to answer questions Ive raised. Im not asking you to unquestioningly submit.
Raising children who understand why Gods ways are right
who walk in them by faith, not fear.
3. (v 23) I need Timothy to accompany me. Im old but Im coming.
Fathering is inconvenient and requires time and effort.
Some things cant be learned in groups. People need to be listened to before they can learn.
4. (v 24) The Italians who are with me here (in Cyprus?) join in sending their greeting (embrace) to the churches in Rome.
Youre part of a big family. You have brothers and sisters all over the world (Note Paul: Mk 10:30; Ro 16:1-16, 21-23).
Good fathers dont isolate or dominate their children, they encourage them to be part of Gods family.
5. (v 25) I constantly pray for Gods grace to be with you.
As a human father I know my limitations. Ultimately I depend on Gods grace to cause you to grow.
Five years ago the Lord spoke this word to me. He said:
Young men build themselves, fathers build their own families, but grandfathers build other families.
When people asked me, I answered:
Nobody invested in me, I figured it out on my own, you can do the same.
I dont know how to mentor anybody. No one ever mentored me (except by preaching).
Then a young pastor asked me: Would you give me 30 minutes a year?
I prayed, Lord, you know I dont have a clue how to do this. He said, Start and Ill show you how.
What has emerged? A mentoring gathering with about 15-20 pastors every other month.
Heres the principle Ive observed: whenever fathers, grandfathers (mothers, grandmothers) will take the time to invest in those coming behind them, people come and lives start to change. But its hard to find people willing to take the time (or a lot of people are held back feeling they have nothing to give).
What does this look like?
An LTG partner, a SOAP partner, MiniChurch pastor, RFKC, Stephens Ministry, Kids Club (Wednesday evenings), Childrens Ministry, Mens Ministry (Womens Ministry), Marriage & Family Ministry (mentoring couples), Boy Scouts, Awana, MOPS, Sports Ministry, Youth
Are you willing to turn around and help some of those coming behind you? Because Barnabus was, even though he was elderly.
Are you ready to be faithful over time, to care about other peoples growth and success, to offer counsel but allow people the freedom to fail, to answer hard questions and admit when you dont know either, to give the gift of your undivided attention, to introduce them to the family of God, to pray that God give them much grace? Then this Fathers Day would be a good time to ask God to show you where He wants you to help raise His children.
1. Have you had a spiritual father or mother who invested in you? Tell us about it and how it changed you.
2. If you are investing time and care into someone, tell us who and how. What effect is this having in you?