“Set apart for Me
Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” – Acts 13:2
certain man went to see his cardiologist, and the report wasn’t good. His
cholesterol was high. Several of his arteries were 40 percent clogged. So, the
doctor told him, “You need to make some changes to your diet. You should start
by cutting out red meat.” The man thought that was a good idea … so he promptly
stopped putting ketchup on his hamburgers.
don’t like change very much, do we? But here’s what Albert Einstein said about
change: “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” And the
journalist Sydney J. Harris put it this way: “Our dilemma is that we hate
change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to
remain the same but get better.”
imagine the Christians in Antioch
would have said much the same thing. The Church in that city was firing on all
cylinders. Under the leadership of Barnabas and Saul, the Holy Spirit was drawing hundreds,
possibly thousands, of people to salvation. They were baptizing those new Christians
and teaching them all that Jesus wanted them to know, so they could grow in
their faith, lead many others to salvation and bring glory to God. I can just
imagine a group of Antioch Christians coming out of a worship service and
saying, “This feels like heaven on earth. I hope this never ends!” But a big
change was coming to their church.
For a whole
year in Antioch,
Barnabas and Saul were used by God in an amazing way. People were drawn to that
church, including a few Christian prophets from Jerusalem. One of them, a man named Agabus,
prophesied that “a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world”
(Acts 11:28). The church’s response was immediate: “The disciples, as each
one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and
sisters living in Judea” (v. 29). As far
as we know, this is the first time in church history that a special offering was
taken to help Christians hundreds of miles away. And amazingly, the offering was
collected before the Judean Christians even had the need that would have
prompted them to ask for help. That’s Christian charity at its best: meeting
needs even before a brother or sister in Christ shares the need … at times,
even before the person knows he or she has a need.
The Antioch Church
entrusted Barnabas and Saul to deliver this special offering to the church in Judea, which would have taken at least a couple of months.
That required the church to make some adjustments, because Barnabas and Saul
were a critical part of their leadership team. But soon after Barnabas and Saul
returned, they received a set of marching orders for a much larger and more
important mission: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy
Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have
called them’” (Acts 13:2). God made it clear that their ministry in Antioch was temporary. It wasn’t a final
destination for them—it was a launching pad.
fasting and praying, the Church family in Antioch did what must have been one
of the most exciting yet heart-wrenching things they’d ever done: “They placed
their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3). It probably didn’t make
complete sense to the Antioch Christians. But they were obedient to the leading
of God’s Spirit.
Here are a
few life lessons we can take from these world-changing events:
Life Lesson #1: Christ calls us to be cheerful givers
who give freely and generously to God’s work. And the most generous givers
don’t wait to be asked to give. I find what the Antioch Church
did in Acts 11 to be SO inspiring. Perhaps Paul had the Antioch Christians in
mind when he wrote in Philippians 2:3-5, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or
vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of
you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of
others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
Life Lesson #2: As Chuck Swindoll once said, “Let’s
be willing to release gifted men and women without reluctance. And when you are
called by God to go to a place you would never have expected to go, there’s no
need to be afraid of change…. Faith and risk go hand in hand.” Sometimes God
calls Christians to leave one church and go somewhere else. We need to be okay
with that. And at whatever point God calls you or me to go, we need not be
afraid. God knows what He’s doing.
Life Lesson #3: In the words of missionary Henry
Martyn, “The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get
to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.” Regardless of whether
God calls you to go or to stay, He is calling you to be a missionary.
So, if you
are growing in your faith and deepening in your relationship with Christ, but
you are not impacting more people around you for Christ, there’s something
wrong. Wherever you are, make sure you are sharing Christ with others.
and Saul left Antioch, they had probably talked
about where they were going. But I think it’s safe to say the Holy Spirit
doesn’t give them a detailed road map. Much as He did with Abraham, He simply
said, “Go.” And they obediently went. A big change had come to the Church at Antioch, and I am so thankful that they were smart enough
and—more importantly—obedient enough to accept it from the hand of God.
Dane Davis is the pastor
of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday
services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook
Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.
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