Sometimes God takes us to the wilderness to grow us. Not much fun, but if God took you there and you allow Him to mould you, you come out better. Phil Moore’s excellent “Straight to the heart of Acts” contains the story of Joseph Barsabbus who is a great example of someone who God took through the wilderness twice.
We first meet him in Acts 1:23,26 “So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias… Then they cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias”
Joseph Barsabbus was a follower of Jesus from the beginning. Always there – when Jesus was healing, clashing with the Pharisees, taking avid notes during the Sermon on the Mount and there when Jesus went to pray to the Father for revelation of who the twelve would be. He was on the shortlist, but he didn’t make the final cut. Even Judas got in before him!
But he kept on going – for two years as a close follower. He was there at every point – Acts 1:21 “… one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out from among us...”
He was a witness of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection – but there couldn’t be thirteen. Jesus had chosen twelve disciples – one for every tribe of Israel. Now Judas was dead, his place needed to be filled. Here’s Barsabbas’ chance. He is on the shortlist again, again to have his hopes dashed as Matthias gets the job. As Phil Moore writes “Joseph Barsabbas had once again beeen posed to go down in history as one of the Twelve, and once again God has passed Him by. He had not just been sidelined by the Eleven, but by God Himself. Of course I am speculating about how Barsabbas must have felt in Acts Chapter 1 , but I’m pretty sure it hurt him. A lot.”
The amazing thing about Joseph Barsabbas is that it didn’t spoil him. He let God be God and made a courageous choice of his own. The Church is Jesus’ body, not his. He didn’t manipulate his way into leadership outside of God’s choosing, where it would have been in his own strength. He became one of a great many ordinary heroes from Acts, like Mary who opened her home for an all night prayer meeting, the business woman Lydia whose home became a church planting base in Philippi, Priscilla and Aquila the tentmakers who straightened out Apollos so he could become an apostle in later years and so on. They were all heroes. People who played out God given roles in God’s great drama. The only losers were those who refuse their role, succumb to bitter disappointment and try to play in a position of their own choosing.
So often we can be like Joseph Barsabbas with high hopes of calling and destiny that feel dashed at the moment. God may yet do those things, but first he calls us to serve faithfully in the little things, in the unglamorous and unnoticed sidelines of the Kingdom mission – with the same grace and humility of Joseph Barsabbas.
The epilogue to the story is in Acts 15:22 where Judas Barsabbas ( It could be his brother, but he once had a nickname Justus because he was Just, he may now have the nickname Judas because he was a man of praise). Now Barsabbas and Silas who are leading men among the brothers – are chosen to go prophecy, encourage and strengthen churches at a time of vital need. Because Barsabbas didn’t give into disappointment and bitterness and continued to serve God faithfully in what ever role he was given, he becomes a hero in the book of Acts!
Guard your heart and be and ordinary person empowered by an extraordinary God!
I adapted Phil Moores excellent bite sized insight from “Straight to the heart of Acts” which I read in my daily readings the other day because I relate to Joseph, was challenged by it and want to live in the good of it too. Buy the book (there will be copies available on the welcome desk bookstall on Sunday), but live in the good of the lesson God has for us too!