Working Behind the Scenes
In one of his sermons, preacher Van Morris points to this story from author Richard Phillips:
There are two statues in Washington D.C. that together tell a remarkable story. One is the massive memorial to General Ulysses S. Grant that stands at the east end of the Reflecting Pool, literally in the morning shadow of the U. S. Capitol building. Visitors can hardly miss this majestic depiction of the legendary general atop his war stallion. Grant's military leadership was decisive to the Union's victory in the Civil War, and he is considered a symbol of the force of human will, an icon of the strong man who stands against the storm when all others have shrunk back.
Some two-and-a-half miles away, in a pleasant but nondescript city park, stands a more commonplace memorial. The statue of this lesser-known Civil War figure, Major General John Rawlins, has actually had eight different locations and is hardly ever noticed by visitors. Rawlins had been a lawyer in Galena, Illinois, where Grant lived just prior to the war, and he became Grant's chief of staff. Rawlins knew Grant's character flaws, especially his weakness for alcohol. At the beginning of the war, Rawlins extracted a pledge from Grant to abstain from drunkenness, and when the general threatened to fall away from that promise, his friend would plead with him and support him until Grant could get back on track. In many ways, it was Rawlins who stood beside the seemingly solitary figure of Grant the great general. Rawlins' memorial is modest compared to the mounted glory afforded Grant, yet without his unheralded love and support, Grant would hardly have managed even to climb into the saddle.
How many times have stories like this been told down through the ages? It seems that, for most figures of great renown, there is someone who has been working behind the scenes—a man or a woman either forgotten or unknown by history. But without these encouragers, the person of fame, whose greatness we laud, might never have been known.
This Sunday, as we read Acts 11 together, we’re going to meet one such person. Barnabas (whose name actually means “son of encouragement”) doesn’t have the same reputation as his partner Paul. That’s probably due to the fact that Paul penned much of what we call the New Testament, and we have no such writing from Barnabas.
But, as we’ll see, Barnabas is crucial to Paul becoming “Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.” Without him, who knows how things might have turned out? It takes a special kind of person to do what Barnabas does, with special characteristics. We’ll be looking at them during our worship time.
In the meantime, let me thank those of you who are like Barnabas here at our church. There are many of you who work quietly behind the scenes, who aren’t out for recognition, who are able to let others get the credit. Thank you for that. God bless you.