Every student that takes a science class in school at some point learns of Sir Isaac Newton’s famed encounter with a falling apple which led to his discovery and introduction of the laws of gravity in the 1600’s – laws that revolutionized astronomical studies. However, few know that if it weren’t for a friend and associate by the name of Edmund Halley, the world might never have learned from Newton. You see, it was Halley who challenged Newton to think through his original notions. It was Halley who corrected Newton’s mathematical errors and prepared geometrical figures to support his discoveries. It was Halley who encouraged, edited, supervised the publication, and financed the printing of Newton’s great work, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.

With his published work, Newton immediately began to reap the rewards of prominence while Halley received little, if any credit. Halley did, however, use the Mathematical Principles to predict the orbit and return of the comet that would later bear his name. But it was only after his death that he received any acclaim for his work. He remained a devoted and selfless scientist who didn’t care who received the credit as long as the cause was being advanced. Historians consider Halley’s efforts in aiding and helping Newton one of the most selfless examples in the annals of science.

Selflessness is considered one of the admirable traits of the Christian life. In the gospel of Mark, James and John asked Jesus to let each of them sit at his right and left in his kingdom. Jesus explained to them that those places weren’t for him to grant. When the other ten heard about it, they took issue with James and John. It was then that Jesus set the principles and perspectives for position and greatness in his kingdom: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Greatness from Jesus’ perspective are those who don’t seek the spotlight or crave attention or recognition; they simply strive to advance the Kingdom of God. There are many characters in scripture that comprise the trait of selflessness, but Barnabas stands out as a prime example. He is found early on in the book of Acts helping the early church by selling a field he owned to be used to help those in the church that were in need. His name actually means “Son of Encouragement,” and he certainly lived up to his name.

It was Barnabas that brought Saul to the apostles in Jerusalem, explaining how Saul had been converted on the Damascus Road. When news reached Jerusalem about people in Antioch trusting in Jesus, it was Barnabas who was sent to encourage them and help them in their faith. It was Barnabas who went to Tarsus to bring Paul to Antioch to help disciple those early Christians. It was Barnabas that became an important companion of Paul and helped in the spread of the gospel to the known world. It was Barnabas that took a spiritually wounded Mark and helped him to be useful once again. The bottom line is that if it weren’t for a selfless Barnabas, who knows how the story of Paul might have changed.

Barnabas understood greatness from Jesus’ perspective. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as needs are being met, people are getting saved, and God’s Kingdom is advancing. As the writer of Hebrews emphasized, “Let us encourage one another as the Day approaches.”

To His Glory,

Pastor Bill