In this chapter, we see Paul (Saul) and Barnabas getting called and sent out to spread the gospel from the church there in Antioch:
1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 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.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
They preached in Cyprus, Paphos and Perga. Everywhere they went, the Gentiles seemed eager to hear and many people believed and were saved. Also, where ever they went the Jews became increasingly aggitated and were continually trying to start protests and uprisings against these men.
Because of their determination and their calling, these men continued, undaunted by the Jews and their attempts to thwart what God was doing.
I was especially encouraged by these verses:
49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
No matter what the Jews threw at them, they simply shook off the dust and moved on, filled with joy.
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t make enough noise in the big picture to get the attention of many established religions. I’m not hunted down by religious leaders who are trying to discredit me and get me thrown out of cities.
Yet, I do have an enemy who is trying to discredit me and ruin my faith. He sends naysayers and sloths in my path to discourage me and divert my attention. He somehow uses those closest to me to distract me and try to throw me into depression and despair.
Yet, like Paul, I want to be so focused on my calling and so filled with the Holy Spirit that none of that can deter me from accomplishing what God is wanting to do in and through me.
My thoughts return to that opening paragraph – where God told the men at Antioch to set apart Paul and Barnabas. They were given a very clear direction and mission. They were prayed over with the laying on of hands after fasting. This was a very deliberate calling and mission. It was clear to these two what they were to do.
We don’t see too much of this today, with the exception of those called to do missionary work. What is my mission? What is my calling? Do I have people sending me out – and intentionally praying for me? I can see how, with such a clear calling and team of prayer warriors back home, these two could more easily retain the joy of the Lord and a keen sense of relentless pursuit, in spite of the difficulties.
Hmmm…lots to think about here.