One of the themes running through the book of Acts is how it is not the effort of the disciples, but the unstoppable power of the Lord that is building the church. We have previously seen how it is the Lord who adds to their number (Acts2:47), and that spiritual wisdom says ‘if their plan or purpose is of human origin it will fail, but if it is from God you will not be able to stop them’ (Acts5:37-38). We see this happening again in Acts 11 where some men start preaching to non Jews in Antioch and we read that ‘the Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord’ (Acts11:21), and that Peter’s conclusion to the surprising event of the Holy Spirit being poured out on the Gentiles is ‘who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?’ (Acts11:17b).
We could conclude from this that we have no part in the work of the church, after all God is doing His thing and we can’t stop or change it – who are we to think we can stand in God’s way? However, as we read Acts 11 we see Barnabas modelling how to be a part of what God is doing. Barnabas recognised God’s grace in action and was glad (Acts11:23), He then went on to encourage them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts, and, having done that, he goes to find Saul whom he brings to Antioch and they both stay to teach these new converts for a whole year. In short Barnabas saw what was happening, recognised it was God at work, and then joined in with what God was continuing to do.
Barnabas’ example serves as a good illustration on how we can live in our local church context.
We could sit and dream up our won plans, but they will fail.
We could bemoan that God isn’t doing here, in our church, what He seems to be doing in other local churches or other parts of the world, but if that is the case we need to consider whether we need to move to where God is doing these things!
Or we can ask the question, what is God doing here and now, and how can I throw myself into it?
Questions for reflection
What is God doing at the moment in our church?
Who is God reaching and touching at the moment through our church? This question can be answered in terms of types of people and geographic areas, as well as identifying specific individuals.
How can you join in with what God is doing in our church at the moment? Think about answering this question in different ways that include direct and indirect involvement.
Do you sense the Lord starting new things in our church? If so what, and what are you going to do to join in with God?
(You can also apply these questions to your individual situations ie friends/neighbours/work/family etc.)