Lesson 8 -- fourth quarter 2008
October 26, 2008
© Copyright 2008
I like to break molds. Paradoxically enough, though, I also tend toward living life cheerfully in my own comfortable grooves and ruts. I find one way of doing something, and that's how I continue to do it. The one way needn't be the best or most logical way, but it continues to be the way I do it. I shave in a certain pattern, I drive to church via a certain route, and I eat my bread a particular way. Predictable but, as I said, comfortable.
While God is a God of order and design, today's lesson text illustrates again that He does not do His work in a single, lock-step fashion. Notice how He used various ways to get His people out where they could spread the Gospel.
Persecution scattering. We observe again how God's people, even when fleeing persecution, continued to preach the word of the Lord Jesus. It seems most of them limited themselves to preaching to Jews only (at least in the initial stages), though some of them were notable for giving the message to non-Jews also. Lesson text illustrates again that He does not do His work in a single, lock-step fashion. Notice how He used various ways to get His people out where they could spread the Gospel.for us: Should persecution drive us from our home communities, let's not leave the message of the Gospel behind or under wraps!
The church sending. Word eventually got back to Jerusalem that these scattered believers were successfully scattering the Gospel with them. The Jerusalem church heard the news that "a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord" (Acts 11:21), so they responded by sending Barnabas "as far as Antioch" (Acts 11:22). The church sent the "son of consolation" on a mission of encouragement and edification. Lesson for us: When the church determines we are the ones to do a given task, let's do it in the name of the Lord Who sends us!
Leaders calling. Saul was in his home town of Tarsus; why, we do not know. It is possible persecution drove him there, just as it is possible the church sent him there. But we don't know. We do know that Barnabas left Antioch and headed for "Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch" (Acts 11:25,26). Barnabas had seen that Saul was needed in Antioch, so he saw to it that Paul got there. Lesson for us: If someone in the Lord's service sees a role for us there, let us not despise the call and the opportunity just because it didn't come through some board or committee.
The Spirit choosing. In an unmistakable sense, the Spirit does the calling the previous two categories mentioned. In Acts 13:1,2, though, we see a specific mention of the Holy Ghost Himself calling out those whom He would send. Whether the Spirit spoke to them audibly or in their spirits really does not matter. The critical thing here is that He told them clearly and specifically what they were to do. And they did it...promptly. Lesson for us: When the Spirit confirms His calling in our hearts and in the hearts of others, let's be prompt to do His bidding.
The mission of the Church with the Gospel far exceeds the initial proclamation. And it goes way beyond the successful claiming of another soul for Christ. Our mission includes discipling and encouraging new believers. Sometimes those new believers are folks who came to Jesus before we arrived on the scene. Do you see that in today's lesson? Did you know that we and our congregations have some wide open doors to minister to other believers, new and otherwise? God forbid we turn our hearts from such calls!
"Work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13:2). It is true that God had an unusually special task to which He had called these particular men. We must be careful, though, to not conclude that if we do not get such an assignment, we do not have any "Work whereunto I have called them." I firmly believe that had God not had a particular assignment for redeemed Mark Roth, He would not have had me born. I also believe the same is true for you, no matter who you are! Pining for someone else's job despises God's wisdom and sovereignty . . . and leaves my job undone.
Whether Barnabas and Saul, or you, or just Mark Roth, our job description could be outlined as a sub-point to
I. Go into all the world and make disciples
We are here on assignment! We must avoid at all cost the foolish fallacy of being distracted by the things of this world. When I worked as lead man on an assembly line, part of my assignment was quality control. If, while I was inspecting the line, I was distracted by others or my own extra-curricular thoughts, I would miss needs here and there. On a much grander scale, if my own pursuits and thoughts distract me from my heavenly assignment, needs around me will go neglected and unmet. So let's pay attention! Unfaithfulness on the assembly line would have cost me my job and my future pay. Unfaithfulness on the Redemption Beat will cost us our job and our future reward.
"John to their minister" (Acts 13:5). Barnabas or Saul, that's what I want to be. Did you ever feel that way? I want to be a well-known, well-loved, well-whatever writer or preacher or seminar leader or teacher or something. Just so it's well-!! Surely you know what I mean. But how many are willing to aspire to "John to their minister"?
When I served in Mexico, I had some special help -- co-workers who willingly and purposefully did what they could to make my load lighter. They worked at "menial" things so I could give myself more fully to the "big" things. I was in the limelight and they were "John to their minister." For their faithful service I am deeply grateful and profoundly indebted -- Ruby, Margy, Karen, Brian, James, Caroline, Jim, Jean, and others. Now I am in the States and God wants to use me as "John to their minister" for others who are now doing the "big" things. Am I as willing to serve as I was to be served? May God develop in me and in you the spirit of the house of Stephanas who "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints" (1 Corinthians 16:15).
"They sent them away" (Acts 13:3). This is so important in the life of missionaries. To go on their own authority is a dangerous thing. But there is safety in being sent by the church. If you ever feel that God has called you to a task but the church is not sending you, be extremely careful about proceeding on your own! Notice that in the verse immediately after stating that "They sent them away," God makes sure we get a wider picture -- these missionaries were "sent forth by the Holy Ghost" (Acts 13:4).
"How He had opened the door" (Acts 14:27). How ashamed these missionaries would have been to return to Antioch if their report would have been: "The Lord opened doors, but we weren't comfortable going through them. So we didn't." I am challenged again by the fact that when God presents us an open door, He expects us to go through it. I have peeked into many such doors . . . and moved on. God help me to be more faithful in the future!
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