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February 21, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“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.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”—Acts 13:2–3 (NIV)
Have you ever been in a situation where life seems to be going great, but God still calls you to another task? Sadly, it seems as if our culture assumes that someone who steps out of a position to pursue another must have had something go wrong. Although this can be the case at times, our focus on stories that follow such a narrative has caused us to falsely believe there must be some sort of issue or complication for us to make such a change. However, the commissioning of Saul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey depicted in today’s Scripture paints another picture!
The Greek word used to describe their “worshiping the Lord” in verse 2 is leitourgeō, which means to minister in the church. If we look into the context of this Scripture, we read that the church in Antioch, which is where they were currently ministering, was birthed out of the scattering that happened after Stephen’s persecution (Acts 11:19-20). As the church grew by the Lord’s hand under the leadership of various new believers, Barnabas heard about them in Jerusalem and decided to visit (Acts 11:21-22). When he “saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23 NIV). He eventually left to find Saul and bring him to the church, which resulted in them spending a year there ministering (Acts 11:25-26).
Now let’s redirect ourselves to today’s passage. In the middle of serving at a prospering church, seeing the hand of God move in powerful ways, and worshiping the Lord in obedience and fellowship, the Holy Spirit urges the congregation to prepare Barnabas and Saul for another work. Although comfort is certainly a blessing God gives us, He gives it to us as we follow Him through the darkest valley (Psalms 23:4) and trust Him to be a merciful and constant “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3 NIV). Therefore, our comfort does not come from our circumstances. It comes directly from the Lord!
When the Lord called Saul and Barnabas through the Holy Spirit to leave where they were and take on a new adventure, a new mission, a new path—all of which probably seemed uncomfortable and scary—they responded in obedience and reverence by praying and fasting before being sent off. I pray that our response to God’s various commands in life would be the same worshipful and obedient response as theirs because God will move us even when we feel good about where we are in order to grow our dependence on Him and test our faith.
PAUSE: How might God be asking you to take a step of faith by letting go of one thing to pursue another?
PRACTICE: If you can identify what that challenge is, do something to respond with obedience today.
PRAY: Father, it is scary to think about change and discomfort, but I know that You grow us and remain constant through those scary and uncomfortable experiences. I ask that You would grant me courage to embrace discomfort, clarity to hear Your voice, humility to submit to You, and comfort in the peace only You can offer. I praise You Jesus. Amen.