Robert Jeffress - Helping Others
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Have you noticed that selflessness is a learned trait? We've inherited a sinful nature from our forefather Adam that compels us to think of me, myself and i. But, as we've been looking at courageous people in scripture throughout this month-long series, one thing has become exceedingly clear. True heroes who live courageously are also focused on helping others. My message is titled: Survival Tip #9: "Helping Others", as we continue our series Courageous on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
You may remember Steven Spielberg's academy award winning movie "Schindler's List". It's the true story of a business man, Oskar Schindler, who used his fortune to save thousands of Jews from the Nazi gas chambers. And in the climactic scene of the movie at the end, Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, is fleeing to Russia, and he's talking to his friend, Itzhak Stern, and they are surrounded by more than a thousand of the Jews that Schindler saved. And Itzhak Stern gives Oskar Schindler a gold ring and he says to him, "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire".
In a very real sense we are in a life-threatening situation as Christians. We face a culture that is hostile to the things of God. We face an adversary, the devil, who is out to destroy us. We face the pull of our own inward sin nature. And it's very easy when you're facing a threatening situation to think about your own survival, self-preservation. But today we're going to look at survival tip number nine, and that is to help others. When I think of somebody who models that principle of helping others, perhaps outside of Jesus Christ there's no better example in the Bible anywhere than a character named Barnabas. We don't talk about Barnabas much, but his story begins in Acts 4. Turn there if would. Barnabas, Acts 4. His actual name was Joseph, but his name was actually a nickname given to him by the apostles. It meant Son Of Encouragement, Barnabas.
When people saw Barnabas, they yelled out, "There comes that Son Of Encouragement". That's a better nickname to have. S-O-E, Son Of Encouragement, that was Barnabas. In fact, you look at that word encouragement, it's the Greek word "paraclete". It means to come alongside and encourage somebody. It's the same word that is used to describe the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the paraclete, the one who comes alongside of us to encourage us. Well, that was Barnabas. He was the one who came alongside and encouraged people.
I want you to notice in the book of Acts three ways he encouraged people, through his money, through his mentoring, and through his own ministry. We see Barnabas, the philanthropist beginning in verse 32 of Acts 4, look at this. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul. I mean, we're talking about within weeks of Pentecost, the beginning of the church. And not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land and houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and laid them at the apostles' feet and they would be distributed to each if any had need. And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles, which means Son of Encouragement, who owned a tract of land, he sold it and he brought the money and he laid it at the apostles feet.
Apparently, because Luke notes it, he must have been a man of means. He sold a large tract of land and he gave it to the church to meet the needs of other people. The inference is other people followed Barnabas' example and they were encouraged by Barnabas' encouragement. As the momentum picked up, people said, "We wanna be a part of that, we can do that too". It all started with people who wanted to be an encouragement to others, that was Barnabas. He not only, though, encouraged people through his money by being a philanthropist, he encouraged people by his mentoring of other people, coming alongside individuals and encouraging them.
You know, the church was only a few weeks old when persecution began. First, the imprisonment of Peter and John and then the stoning of Stephen, and then a guy named Saul from Tarsus beginning breathing threats against this church, arresting Christians, having them tortured, throwing them into prison. And you remember Saul of Tarsus was on the way to Damascus to arrest more Christians when he encountered Jesus Christ. And Paul the persecutor became Paul the greatest evangelist the world has ever known. But after that encounter he was blind and for three days during his blindness he prayed and fasted, and remember God told Ananias to go and minister to Paul, which he did. Ananias showed great courage in his willingness to do that. He didn't know for sure what had happened to Saul, that he wanted to obey the Lord. And then came time for Saul to meet the apostles in Jerusalem.
Now, here was a guy who was known for killing Christians. How did they know this wasn't a ruse, that this wasn't some attempt to trick them? They were naturally hesitant about embracing Saul. But looks at Acts 9:27 and 28. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road and that he had talked to him and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. Barnabas was willing to take a chance on this new convert, come alongside of him and encourage him. In fact, when you look through the book of Acts, when anybody needed encouragement, it seems like Barnabas was always there.
Remember Barnabas and Paul were gonna go on their first missionary journey together, and they were gonna take Barnabas' cousin with them, a guy named John Mark. We know him as the author of the Gospel of Mark, but he was Barnabas' cousin, Colossians tells us. And so they went on this missionary journey and about halfway through John Mark got fed up with the walking and with the sleeping out in open places and the insect bites and everything that went along with that, so in Acts 13:13 the Bible says he left them, he deserted them and returned to Jerusalem.
Fast forward, it's time for the second missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas are getting ready for the journey. Barnabas says, "Now, where should I have John Mark meet us"? Paul said, "John Mark? I'm not about to take that snotty nosed kid with us again. Look at what he did, he deserted us". Barnabas said, "That's right, but we need to show him grace, Paul, just like God showed you grace one time". And they had a bitter disagreement. They ended up parting ways and Paul instead took Silas up north and Barnabas took John Mark, his cousin, south. And yet John Mark, because of Barnabas' encouragement, grew in his faith, so much so that when the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome facing his execution, he sent this word to Timothy. He said, "Please pick up John Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service".
How do you see other people? Do you define other people by their failures or by their potential? Barnabas was a mentor who saw people for their potential in God's service. He encouraged through his money, through his mentoring, and finally through his ministry. Look at Acts 11:23-24. When word came to the apostles in Jerusalem that gentiles of all people were being saved in Antioch, they decided to send Barnabas down to check things out. Verse 23 says, "When he, Barnabas, had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord, for he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord".
You know, when I read that, I was thinking, Barnabas could have said, "Well, I know there's that need down there in Antioch for somebody to go and preach the word and minister, but that's just not my thing. I'm more of a one-on-one person. Or, I like to give money, but I'm not too sure about that ministry thing. That wasn't Barnabas, he was on the front lines of ministry. That was Barnabas. In fact, when he went to Antioch, God gave him such success in his ministry the church began to grow so furiously that he asked for help and he asked that new convert, Saul, now Paul, to come and minister with him. And for a while the scripture talks about Barnabas and Paul. Barnabas and Paul. But pretty soon things flipped and it was Paul and Barnabas. He decreased as Paul increased. But Barnabas didn't care, because his job, his ministry was to help others.
As I think about this principle of helping others, it begs a question. Are there people who have been a help to you in your life, that have helped make the way a little smoother for you in your life? We all need a Barnabas, don't we, if we're gonna survive this hostile world? Somebody who will come alongside of us and encourage us. Somebody who's willing to take a chance on us. I encourage you to thank those people who have done that for you in your business, in your Christian faith, as a friend, who've been willing to take a chance on you when nobody else would. When I think about that truth, I'm grateful to so many people.
I'm certainly grateful to Dr. Criswell, who was for 50 years the pastor of this great church. When I was 22 years old he invited me to come on the staff and to be an intern here. And I was an intern for exactly four weeks. And after four weeks the youth minister here left, and so Dr. Criswell called me and said, "You're the youth minister now". So, I was planning to do that. A few days later he called me back and he said, "Well, Robert, we've got some trouble. Some of those youth leaders aren't sure they want you to be the youth minister. So, this is what we're going to do". I was just 22 years old, he said, "This is what we're gonna to do. You meet me Wednesday night up on the second floor of the Christian Education building and we're gonna have a meeting with them".
So I met Dr. Criswell out in that alcove of that assembly room, all the youth leaders were inside, and I was standing out there. And so he said, "You wait right here and I'm gonna go in and talk to them". So he goes in and talks to them. I had my ear up against the door listening to every word they were saying. And they were saying, "We love Robert, he's a wonderful person, but Dr. Criswell, he is so young, he's 22, he doesn't have any experience", which was absolutely true. And so they were giving their complaints. Dr. Criswell's listening to them. Dr. Criswell goes into this diatribe. He starts describing me like I'm the apostle Paul. I didn't even know who he was talking about. So he goes through that, they say, "Yes, but he's so young and he is inexperienced".
Dr. Criswell said, "That's fine. If you don't want Robert, I'm not gonna force him down your throat at all. That is fine, that is perfect, that is wonderful, if you don't want Robert, because if you don't take him, I'm gonna hire him as my number one associate to run this entire church". And all the sudden the people started speaking up and they said, "Wait a minute, wait a minute! If you think that much of him, yes, we want him, we want him". He said, "All right, it's settled". He walks out the room, I'm standing outside paralyzed, I couldn't believe it, he puts his hand on my shoulder, he said, "Son, it's all yours, just don't let me down".
I am so grateful to somebody like that who took a chance on me for no reason whatsoever. I'll bet you've got somebody like that in your life. Thank God for the mentors he has placed in your life. But also, recognize your responsibility to be somebody else's mentor, to be somebody else's encourager. Who around you needs help, needs encouragement? You know, I get calls all the time from pastors who are struggling in their church and having a problem or have a question or wanna talk about things, and sometimes I'll be in the heat of trying to get through the day and meet this appointment and that appointment and carrilyn will say, "There's a pastor on the phone who needs to talk to you". And for a nanosecond I'm tempted to think, "Oh, I'm so busy, I just can't do that". It only lasts a second, til God brings back to my mind all the people who helped me when I needed help. People who spent time with me. W.A. Criswell, Howie Hendricks, Paige Patterson, others who have come alongside during crucial times in my life.
Make sure you're an encourager to somebody else. How do you do that? Final thoughts here, three things. First of all, value other people. Truly value other people. See them as God sees them. There's a running joke among pastors. "Oh, ministry would be great if just weren't for the people". Well, that's what ministry's about, it's about people. And everybody is important to God. I love the words of C.S. Lewis when he said, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, civilizations, these are mortal. Their life is to ours like the life of a gnat, but it is the immortals whom everyday we joke with, work with, marry, snub, exploit". Think about that, everybody you encounter every day is an immortal soul who will last forever. That makes you look at other people differently. Value other people.
Secondly, champion the underdog. Champion the underdog. You may remember the kid on the playground at elementary school who was always the last to be picked for a team. Maybe you were that kid. Maybe you know what the pain is of loneliness or rejection. Champion the underdog, because God does. When you think about it, God so many times would choose the younger person like Abel or Joseph or David instead of the older son to bless. God took that little nothing, small nation of Israel, chose that nation to be his chosen nation rather than a great empire like Assyria, Babylon or Egypt. I agree with Philip Yancey, who said, "As I read the birth stories about Jesus, I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and the powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog".
And finally, offer second chances to people. People are gonna fail you, they're gonna disappoint you, but people deserve your grace, because you and I are the recipients of God's grace. Offer second chances to people when they fail. The late Christian psychiatrist Karl Menninger was asked one time a fascinating question. "Dr. Menninger, if you were on the verge of a nervous breakdown, what would you do"? Without a pause he said, "I would go out and find somebody in need and help them". That's good advice. Whenever we're going through a difficult time, we need to remember to help others, just like Jesus, just like Barnabas, just like Oskar Schindler, who discovered that by saving others he was saving himself.