Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
Many of us entrepreneurs know a lot of people. We make new connections all the time as we do business. We are part of mastermind groups and other various social clubs. But out of all of the people that we know, how many of them would stick their neck out for us? Who is really there for us in our deepest times of trouble?
The truth is, most entrepreneurs don't have many, if any, friendships like this. Is it because we're so busy running our business, we don't have time to form these friendships? Maybe it's because all the business people we're around are focused on worldly gain first, that if we aren't a help to them any longer, they would easily abandon us. There is wisdom in not 'having unreliable friends.' It would be foolish to make the wrong types of friends. But sometimes, because we can't find reliable friends, we give up searching for them. And we close our hearts off to trying to engage to create these friendships.
But the need for deep friendships with like-minded men is still there, and it will always be there.
So who can we share our hearts with? And who can we journey with to fulfill God's call on our lives? What does that even look like?
In the book of Acts, we read about two men who were close companions for years. They went through thick and thin together. Good times, bad times, and everything in between. The impact they had on each other was life-long.
Paul was one of these men. He was a persecutor and murderer of Christians. After his conversion experience, many Christians still despised him, or at best, were very skeptical of him. After he spent 3 years by himself in Arabia, growing in his personal walk with the Lord, he returned to Jerusalem. But most people remembered him as Saul, the persecutor of the church.
The man who would reach the most gentiles and write much of the new testament was looked at as an outsider. Was there anyone who could see Paul's heart for who his newfound identity was in the Father? Was there anyone who could see God's call on Paul's life who could help him achieve his purposes and calling?
There was a man, well respected in the church who saw Paul with different eyes. Instead of writing him off and closing his heart off to Paul, he decided to open his heart, and embrace Paul as a friend. When nobody else believed in Paul, Barnabas was willing come along side him.
Barnabas was a leader among Christians in Jerusalem. Paul had been a leader among the Pharisees. Both had entrepreneurial minds. Both understood how to cast new vision, and change things for the better. How to lead and empower others to rise up in their God-given potential to achieve something new. Paul had obviously been a driven man as a high-ranking Pharisee, pursuing his goal of persecuting the church greater than anyone else. Barnabas believed Paul could become the greatest in sharing the gospel to the Gentiles, and he went out of his way to pursue Paul.
In the beginning of their journey together, Barnabas taught and trained Paul in evangelism. He helped sharpen Paul and helped him grow. Scripture first referred to them first as “Barnabas and Paul,” as Barnabas was the main leader. Ultimately Paul would be the one to later become the leader in ministry as scripture refers to them later as “Paul and Barnabas.” As much as Barnabas would teach Paul, Paul eventually would teach Barnabas as well.
Both men worked in ministry for a long time together. They depended on each other in many ways. Not just physically on their journeys and trials they experienced, but also emotionally, and spiritually. They spent much time fasting and praying together. They stood before high-ranking government officials in multiple regions. They worked hand-in-hand as whole cities came to hear them preach. They shared in joyful times as many souls came to the Lord. They shared in hardship as they were both persecuted and Jewish leaders schemed and attempted to murder both of them from town to town. They saw many healed miraculously by God in their ministry. They themselves were praised as Greek gods only to be arrested as a whole city was ready to kill them. They faced stonings together. They planted churches and appointed and trained leaders in many different places. They bonded as the Lord had them journey together, and they helped strengthen each other. They laughed together and cried together. They knew each other intimately. They were true friends.
Many people ignorantly only remember the fight that Paul and Barnabas had. After many years of working and living together, facing life and death side by side, they had a quarrel. The fight was over John Mark(Acts 17). It seems Paul was upset Mark left them in their ministry work in Pamphylia and didn't want Mark to travel with them. Barnabas disagreed. This was a sharp contention that they parted ways on different journeys. But it would be foolish to think this ended their friendship.
In fact, even in their disagreement, they still continued to help sharpen each other. Although separated in different work for a time, Paul would be humbled and still learn that Barnabas did the wise thing. Just as Barnabas gave Paul a second chance when many others wouldn't, Paul realized Barnabas was right to do the same with Mark. So much so, that when everyone had abandoned Paul (2 Timothy 4:11), Paul asked that Timothy send Mark to his aid. Paul wanted Mark to help him in ministry and personally, even as Barnabas had done. For this change to occur, there had to have been a reconciliation along the way. There was an acknowledgment of wrong-doing on Paul's part, and I'm sure forgiveness. There would have been some sort of restoration of brotherhood.
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity."
Paul and Barnabas always had love for each other, and even more so, were there to sharpen each other in adversity. But as brothers sometimes fight, they knew that they were still family. I'm sure Barnabas and Paul had many more disagreements than just over Mark through the years. But in the end, though they did not always agree, they continued to have respect for each other, learn from each other, and remain friends. I'm sure they recognized how impactful each other's friendship was for both of their lives. And I'm sure they thanked God for that gift of friendship and for helping each other become all God intended them to be.
The reality is, it's hard for anyone to find a good friend, period. But how much more for an entrepreneur that most people don't know how to really relate to?
Who can we share our hearts with, and who can we journey with to fulfill God's call on our lives? This isn't something we find easily in the world today. What does that even look like? I'm not exactly sure what it looks like, but I think the friendship of Paul and Barnabas may be a good relationship for us to look at and learn from to help us figure out how to forge deeper friendships.
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