What were you created to do? Do you know? What gifts, abilities and aptitudes do you have? Are you using them for a mission in the world? In this post we learn about how God wants all to be on mission, and how he has equipped us for mission!
In the previous post, we learned two stories of people that were encouraging. One of those was a guy named Barnabas. As we continue studying Acts 11:19-30, in verses 25-26, Barnabas sees that the new Christians in Antioch need more teaching, and what is fascinating is that he, Barnabas, thinks beyond himself. He thinks about who could help with this mission. He knows exactly who is the right man for the job. Who might be a man associated with Barnabas, a man that has a sharp mind and a passion for teaching?
Saul. Barnabas knows Saul has the perfect gift mix to help the church in Antioch, so Barnabas travels to Tarsus in search of Saul.
I wish we had more details about Barnabas’ trip. It’s not like he could send a text message to Saul, giving him a head’s up: “Hey Saul, I’m on my way with a proposition for you!” Instead Barnabas likely had to make the trip having no idea if all the time and expense was going to be worth it. Yet he knew enough about Saul, I suspect, to make an educated guess as to what the outcome would be. Still, was it hard for Barnabas to find Saul? How long might this trip have taken? We don’t know. We know the outcome though! Saul apparently jumps at the chance to be on mission with Barnabas again, and who wouldn’t after Barnabas had been such an encouragement to him back in Jerusalem, as we read in chapter nine?
The mission of Jesus was the center of Saul’s life. Whatever he was doing in Tarsus had to stop so that he could pursue the mission. Knowing the kind of guy Saul was, he was probably involved in important Kingdom work there too. He was a tent-maker by trade, so maybe he was employed in that profession, likely preaching Christ and making disciples at the same time. When Barnabas shows up, though, Saul is on the ready to serve. And not just for the day or the weekend.
Saul and Barnabas return to Antioch where they met with the people for a for a whole year, and taught great numbers of people. When you think of Saul and Barnabas teaching, they were making disciples. Take a look at the last sentence in verse 26: the Christians are described as disciples, and they were called Christians. In other words, these are men and women who Saul and Barnabas taught how to be followers of Christ.
The result? Another great response. Not numbers this time, but a gift. Look at the rest of the chapter, starting at verse 27, where the church in Antioch gives generously to the church in Jerusalem.
Interestingly, this gift is a lot like Barnabas’ generosity in chapter 4. I can imagine Barnabas telling the story of how people in the church of Jerusalem sold off property to support those in need. Now the Christians in Antioch do likewise. They give generously to those in poverty in the mother church in Jerusalem. That generosity is embodied in the ministry funds we give to our denomination every month.
In Acts 11:19-30, we have seen three sets of people, and three situations where the church grew. One group of people started the ministry, Barnabas encouraged it, and Saul deepened it. See what is happening? One group of people who live life on mission help other people to live life on mission. Each one had value. Each one had purpose. Just like us. We all have value and purpose in the Kingdom of God.
The result, when people use their gifts and talents and purposes for Jesus, people became his disciples and focused their lives on his mission. And you know what? This story in Acts holds true for us! God designed each one of us for a missional purpose. Do you hear that? God designed you for his mission. Furthermore, it is such a joy to center our lives on the Kingdom of God. He does not promise ease, doesn’t promise it won’t be frustrating or hard, but it will be fulfilling and it will bring Joy.
What gifts do you have? How can you use them to reach out in the mission of God? I know this, it will never happen if we do not make the mission the center of our lives. If the it is not already the center of your life, how does the mission of God become the center of your world? Your calendar? Your heart?
I’m not saying that we don’t need to take care of ourselves during this time. But let’s look to Jesus as the best example for how to do just that! He took regular time away, quiet time by himself to refuel and refresh. What was he doing during that time? He was sitting with His Father, He was in nature and talking to God. The mission was even at the center of his refueling of his care for himself. So let me try to give you a vision of why commitment to the mission of God is so important.
Commitment to the mission is so important because God uses us to change lives for his Kingdom! Commitment to the mission is so important because he loves us! He knows that when we live on mission, that is also the best life for us. God is good. And he knows we feel good when we know we have value. We are at our best when we know we have a purpose and we are doing something with our gifts and talents. Some of you are feeling the pain of that now because you can’t be at jobs where you felt like you were able to use your gifts and talents. We are designed to be on mission, on his mission! Don’t let the pandemic and quarantine get you down.
We learned in Acts 11 how people became disciples of Jesus because three groups or people reached out for the Kingdom. Do you know that God wants to do the same still today in your community? In fact, he looks at you and he smiles and says, “Yup, you’re just right for the mission!”
You might look at yourself and think, “How is that possible?” When the Lord is with you, and when you are full of the Holy Spirit, the Lord will do great things through you! Imagine the joy you will feel as lives are changed as God is at work in you and through you! Imagine the fulfillment you’ll have knowing that you gave your life to things that matter. Imagine the peace and satisfaction you’ll know hearing God say, “Well done good and faithful servant!!!