Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Soft Heart to Work With

Some men were really stubborn.

And then there was Paul. Their leader.

"He's not coming." Paul said. His brow was furrowed, and he had that look in his eye. The look that said, "You thought Balaam's donkey was stubborn, huh? Well, now you've met me."

Barnabas wanted to hold him down and shout reason at him. Paul would have none of it. He refused to let Mark come with them.

"Mark has changed. He's grown so much in the Lord. God will use him mightily."

Paul glowered. "God does not use quitters!"

"But He does use men who make mistakes and sometimes quit."

Paul cast Barnabas the iciest, meanest glare he had ever seen. It could have frozen the whole county. Paul threw his hands up. "If you want him, you take him. He's not coming with me." Paul threw back his chair, and he stormed out of the room.

Paul's ultimatum hit Barnabas in the chest like a knife. He knelt down to pray right in the middle of the empty room. It would be easy to feel like Paul, just like it would be easy to hate Paul for what he had said.

Easy. But not right. He needed to keep his heart soft, and right now, he needed God's help to do that.

Based on Acts 15:36-41

"And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.' Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." Acts 15:36-41

I know, I know. Everybody talks about this infamous squabble. There's a reason for that. There's so much to learn from this fight!

What I was thinking about this time was hearts. In a situation like this, it would be really easy to have a hard heart, kind of like Paul did at the time. You've been abandoned, and you certainly don't want to go through that again! So you say, "No. No way!" I've known a lot of Christians who have done this, and I'm ashamed to admit to all of you that I've done this - sometimes without even realizing it!

The enemy is out to destroy soft, loving, compassionate hearts. He doesn't want us to forgive, forget, or support one another. He wants to drive that wedge between us.

We can't function with a hard heart. And neither could Paul. Eventually he forgave Mark.

"Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry." 2 Timothy 4:11

How much more can we do for God if we keep our  hearts soft, pliable, and ready?  Give second (and multiple) chances. Give love. Give grace. Give God a soft heart to work with.

V. Joy Palmer

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