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“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
There is a dangerous myth floating around our culture that the healthier you are, the more you do not need anyone. In counseling circles, therapists use words like “codependent” and “enmeshed” to negatively label people who are too reliant on others for their own functioning. While there are certainly ways we can negatively relate to and need others, the truth is that a stubborn independence is just as unhealthy. We were created for relationship, and we need others if we are going to live a healthy and fulfilled life.
Having said that, you may have heard the saying in Christian circles that “everyone needs a Paul, a Timothy, and a Barnabas.” In other words, every Christian who wishes to live for Christ would benefit from having three kinds of people in his or her life:
• A Paul – someone who is further along in their walk who can serve as a mentor or an older and wiser counselor and friend
• A Timothy – someone who is younger in the faith, who you can help as a mentor or an older and wiser counselor and friend
• A Barnabas – someone who is about the same place in the faith as you, who can walk with you, encourage and challenge you, and be encouraged and challenged by you
Certainly it is rare for someone to have all three in their life. Those who are older may not have many people around them who are further along the walk than they are. And those who are younger in the faith may not know anyone newer to Christ than they are. And many of us just struggle to find the time to develop even more relationships in our already busy lives. Nevertheless, I find this to be a worthy goal to strive for. At the minimum, each of us should work towards developing a Barnabas-type relationship with someone who knows us and can encourage and challenge us towards holiness. Who knows your deepest struggles? Who is regularly asking you how you are doing in your life and in your faith? Who do you turn to when you need a friend to pray for you? If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, I challenge you to make that a priority this year.
If you have a Barnabas in your life, then develop a relationship with an older, wiser Christian who can serve as a Paul to you. Who do you turn to for advice, for perspective, for wisdom from someone who has been there and seen more of life than you?
Finally, consider who in your life or in the church could use your wisdom and perspective as someone who has walked with the Lord for a longer time than they have. Who can you commit yourself to in prayer, or in support as they navigate their life and faith?
You may not be able to develop all of these relationships at once, but I would challenge you as you grow in your faith to look for a Paul, a Timothy, and a Barnabas in your life.
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