Be Flexible

Human disagreement is not necessarily wrong. It just proves that human beings see things from different angles.

Scripture: Acts 15:32


Alright, thank you very much. And what a joy it is, dear friends, to bring the Word of God to you day by day. It does a lot for me, and I trust that it really blesses you, as well. We’re studying in the 15th chapter of Acts. Judas and Silas who were prophets, themselves. It says exhorted the brethren with many words, this is verse 32, and confirmed them. Last time we got together, we were talking about the fact that your job is never done, until you confirm the truth in people’s hearts. Not just tell it to them, but make sure that it is part of their thinking as well. And so it says, “After they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles and notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.” Alright, there comes a time when you have to say goodbye, you can’t keep the evangelist with you all the time, you can’t keep the visiting missionary speaker with you all the time. There comes a time when you need to move along in the process of obeying God, and doing his will. Just be sure that before that time arrives, you have done your best, as I say, to confirm the truth and to make it fruitful, in the hearts and minds of the hearers.

Now, what happened with Paul and Barnabas? It says Paul and Barnabas also continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord with many others also. They, again, found their place in the fellowship of believers. A small thought here, you may occasionally be asked of God to do something that is indeed outstanding and unusual. When that outstanding and unusual service has been concluded, should you then start your own institution to perpetuate your own greatness? Many a person does, believe me. The world is full of monuments to people who have long since passed from the scene, who built these monuments in terms of organizations or institutions or whatever in order to perpetuate their own memory on the basis of some great thing that God had done through them. Now, I’m not saying that every institution that men have founded is from this motive. You understand me. Let’s not generalize on this thing, because I think we would be entirely incorrect if we did so. I am saying that it may well be a temptation that we should avoid to try to keep the same, what shall I say, position of importance that we were temporarily given because God had a special work for us to do.

Let’s say you were very ill for a while, and in the midst of that illness God greatly blessed you with patience and grace and a heavenly shine upon your life, so that people by the dozens would come to see you, not so much to comfort you in your illness as to get a little blessing from the Lord for themselves, because your life was so blessed. Now, let’s say the Lord heals you and puts you back on your feet. Should you expect people still to be seeking you out? Not necessarily. Many a person has suffered something of a traumatic experience at this point because all of a sudden, he didn’t seem to matter any longer. I’ve had people say gloomily to me, “Well, nobody thinks I’m important anymore,” you know? Now, what should you do at this point? Just remember, God reserves the right to give you a special assignment now and then, that’s the first fact; second, during that special assignment you may sustain a special relationship to other people. Third, when the assignment is finished, God reserves the right to put you back in the general fellowship of people to do the kind of work that ordinary folk are doing.

Paul and Barnabas were lumped together with the phrase “many others also.” They were not more important seemingly than a lot of other people who were busy preaching and teaching as well, they were just part of the group once again. The greatest missionary of all time, just part of the group once again. A great preacher and theologian, and great brave explorer of heart for God. That’s right, just part of the group at this point. Would you remember that you do not need to perpetuate the atmosphere of your special assignment in order to be in the will of God after that assignment is finished. Give God the right to put you in among other people as an ordinary garden variety human being from time to time. I’ll tell you what it’ll do: First, it will give you more compassion for people’s problems and troubles because you are among them.

While you are on a specialized assignment of some sort, as Paul and Barnabas were first on their missionary journey and second in this church council at Jerusalem, you are in a very special relationship to people, and they treat you that way. Now that the assignment was over they’re in an ordinary relationship to people, they aren’t any more important than anybody else in terms of their coefficient of visibility, let us say on the horizon of the church. They don’t stand out, in other words, any more than anybody else. What does this do? It gives you a chance to interact with people and to understand their needs and problems and burdens as they are. One of our finest teachers said to me the other day, “You know, I spent three years in a local church in such and such a city after having taught for a good many years at such and such a college. “Well,” said this teacher, “Those three years were the most valuable time of my life, because it got me down out of the ivory tower and enabled me to grapple with the needs and burdens and heartaches of people around me. Oh, these were valuable years.”

Well, they must have been because this instructor is one of our finest, I tell you, no question about that. And there is a blessing and a warmth and a joy about that life and a practicality as well that most certainly is of the Lord. How did it come about? Well, God just took the prerogative, which belongs to Him, of giving a little different relationship to that life for a little while.

Would you look for and welcome God’s changes in relationships? I like to think of myself as a kind of a nice guy who is at least a little flexible. And when it comes right down to it, I find that I am very slow to accept God’s changes at least in a major structure of my life. I don’t know how you are, but I know me because I live with me. [chuckle] Now, would you try this for yourself? Would you welcome today God’s will, even though it may involve a change in relationships that might seem, for a moment at least, to take you out of the limelight. That’s a hard thing, isn’t it? Well, just put it over to God, because God wasn’t through with Paul and Barnabas, he wasn’t through with Judas and Silas. The assignment was over, but God’s will was going on. And meanwhile, Paul and Barnabas were just one of the crowd. No more spotlight, a no more special meetings, no more multitudes hanging on every word. Now they were just one of the crowd and they were preaching and they were teaching and they were winning souls; they were busy about the work of the Lord.

Let’s go back to the text. We have a moment or two left in this precious time of fellowship we spend around the word, so let’s make the most of it. He says, “Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch teaching and preaching the word of the Lord with many others also,” they were just one of the crowd. Now, after a while, Paul said to Barnabas, let’s go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord and see how they do. The mark of a real soul winner is concern for his converts, his fruit that God has given him, those babes in Christ that have been born into the new life of the Lord through your ministry. A real soul winner is gonna care what happens to people he has led to Christ. And so as our Lord Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” So if you’re gonna do any shepherding work, you not only see to it that the little lambs are born, but you take care of them as well. And so Paul couldn’t rest really, until he had seen what God was doing with the dear people whom he had brought into faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well, this seemed to be a good idea. But Barnabas had some ideas of his own. Barnabas determined to take with them John whose surname was Mark. Now, the last time we heard about John Mark, as you know, was in Acts 13:13, John departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. My guess is that either he had a girlfriend in Jerusalem or more likely he was offended at the change in emphasis; before it had been Barnabas and Saul, now it was Paul and his company, it was Paul and Barnabas. God had given the leadership of this Gospel team into the hands of Paul and Barnabas was a mature enough Christian to accept it from the hand of the Lord. But John Mark in all probability, I’m just guessing, obviously, but I’ve lived a while, I know how people feel. John Mark, this young man, and completely loyal to his uncle, Uncle Barnabas, he just, he thought to himself, “Well, if that’s the way it’s gonna be, I’m not gonna go on any farther.” And he went on home.

Okay, now, Barnabas hasn’t given up on him. He didn’t give up on Saul of Tarsus, and he’s not about to give up on John Mark. And so he said, “I’m gonna take him with us.” Well, Paul said, “Nothing to it.” Paul thought not good to take him with them, he who departed from them, from Pamphylia and went not with them to the work. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not going to give him another chance to quit on us and leave is short-handed. And so there they were. Now I always remember at this point what Brother Charlton, a deacon in the Messiah Baptist Church in Chicago, which I served during the years 1931-32, and part of ’33 around in there. When the deacons meetings would get a little warm, and there was some disagreement, Brother Charlton, this tall, 6-foot 1 or 2 Welshman would clear his throat and when the room got quiet, he would say as he tugged at one of his long ears, he’d say, “Brethren, great people do disagree.” That would break the meeting up, you know.

Well, great people do disagree and human disagreement is not necessarily wrong, it just proves that human beings see things from different angles, that’s all. You don’t have to agree with everybody else, nor more importantly, need you insist that everybody else agree with you. The will of God for you may be different from the will of God for your brother or sister. Let’s remember that God makes the rules.

Well, we’ll come back to this a little later on when we get together the next time. Now, it’s time to depart for today. Let’s pray.

Dear Father, keep us sweet and flexible toward each other and absolutely yielded to thee. I ask in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. Amen. God bless you, my dear friend, all the way. That’s all for now.

Until I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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