For most of us, quarantine is turning two months old, and I wonder if it is getting to you. The daily news reports about the number of infections and deaths can weigh heavy on us. Are you feeling it? You might not be jumping for joy like the guy in the picture.
As we continue learning how the Christians in Acts 11 were reaching out, we have a couple inspiring stories that just might be the encouragement we all need at this time! If you haven’t read the first two parts of this five-part series, you can start here.
In verse 19 we read the sad news that the Christians were still persisting in telling the story of Jesus only to Jews! This is an important detail, because of what we heard last week in chapters 10 and 11. God wanted the story of Jesus to be told to the whole world! Not just Jews. Peter’s dream was the confirmation of this.
So in verse 20, men from Cyprus and Cyrene go to Antioch and, finally, begin to tell the message of good news of Jesus to non-Jews! Antioch is a city in modern-day Turkey, just north of the border with Syria. So these guys traveled a long time to get there. And we read in verse 21 that the Lord was with them.
Can we learn from these unnamed missionaries? Absolutely. Think about what they did and how their choices could relate to us.
First, they ordered their lives around the mission of the Gospel. It was their priority. They were available.
Second, they crossed cultural and ethnic lines that, previous to this, were not supposed to be crossed. But the mission was their focus, and that wanted to obey Jesus’ instructions to make disciples of all people.
Likewise, we can order our lives around the mission, sharing the good news of Jesus to all, inviting all people to become disciples of Jesus. For that to happen, though, the mission of God must be the central focus of every day of our week, not a tack-on at the end. Not a “maybe we’ll get to it if there’s nothing else going on.” How can it become a regular part of our thought life, a part of what our heart is all about?
What will it look like for the mission of God to spill out onto everything else you do? At work? Still on the mission. At school? Still on the mission. Watching TV? Still on the mission. We can cultivate an attitude of “always on the mission” in our thinking. How can our hearts, our attitudes, and our thoughts more quickly transition from a focus on ourselves to a focus on Jesus and the things that He is all about?
Is that something that has been more difficult or less difficult during this time of quarantine? One aspect of quarantine that has made being on mission more difficult is the feeling of loneliness many of us have experienced during quarantine. Let’s remember we’re not alone, and we see that in the passage.
We read that the Lord was with these guys. He is with us, too, as we make his mission the center of our lives! He has given us his Spirit! We are not alone. He is with us even when we feel loneliness, He is with us when we feel desperate. He is with us when we feel frustrated. He is with us when we feel purposeless. How can we remember that? In the Identity series, we talked about how we have the living God, the Holy Spirit in us and with us! These circumstances have not changed that. How can that be more in the forefront of our hearts?
In the next section, the author of Acts brings up a second person connected to the phrase “great numbers,” and it is a person we’ve met before. Look at verses 22-24.
Leaders in Jerusalem send the right man to encourage the new disciples in Antioch, a guy named Barnabas. Remember him and his nickname? “Son of encouragement.” In chapter four he encouraged the Christians in Jerusalem by giving generously to those in need. In chapter 9 the Christians in Jerusalem were rightly suspicious about Saul’s supposed 180 degree change from being a Christian killer to now being a committed disciple of Jesus. Barnabas stepped in, vouching for Saul, and the Christians accepted Saul because Barnabas stuck his neck for him.
Now Barnabas is back at it again. When the Apostles in Jerusalem hear that God is at work in Antioch, they know exactly who to send. Barnabas. True to form, Barnabas loved the new church, encouraging the people. We read that he was full of the Holy Spirit. Once again, a great number of people are brought to the Lord.
Barnabas was a wealthy man. He could have easily enjoyed the fruit of his labor, but he kept his focus was on the Kingdom of God. He used his wealth to help him stay on mission and traveled to Antioch. How about you? How is your focus on the mission? How are you using your life, your resources, your time, your energy to pursue Jesus?
Furthermore, Barnabas reaches out to the third person connected to the phrase, “great numbers.” And we’ll find out who that is in the next post.