At the core of human existence lies a deep need for purpose—a driving force that motivates us to get out of bed each day and live our lives to the fullest. While our ancient ancestors primarily focused on the basic instinct of survival, they eventually began to question the "why" behind life. This pursuit of a higher meaning led humanity toward religion and spirituality. However, it wasn't a one-sided endeavor; humans sought to understand greater powers, while these higher powers sought to reveal themselves to humanity. In Christianity, we believed that God has always desired to make himself known to us, inviting us to join him in the grand mission of being his partners in ruling the world. This, we believe, is our purpose.
However, because of human rebellion, humans have walked away from their purpose. Until Jesus. He invites us to return to our purpose, to join him on his mission, and along the way to share his mission and our purpose with others. While we do this, the question becomes, will we succeed? As Act 13 is explained, we see this question addressed through the story of Barnabas and Saul.
In Acts 13, we witness a pivotal moment in the early church—a moment guided by the Holy Spirit, illustrating how surprises and resilience are intertwined on our journey as we live the mission of Jesus.
I. Responding to the Holy Spirit's Call to Mission:
Acts 13 opens with leaders in the Antioch church discerning the Holy Spirit's call to send Barnabas and Saul on a mission. This marks the beginning of a new frontier for the mission of Jesus.
While it's easy for us to idealize the call to a distant land, we often forget that more stayed than went. This teaches us that everyone has a unique mission field. Not all are called to embark on extraordinary adventures, wherever we are becomes our mission ground. Some are sent, while others stay, and both roles are vital in advancing God's kingdom.
II. The Surprising Success of Mission
Barnabas and Saul set out on their mission, which leads them to the the island of Cyprus where they meet the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus and his Jewish, sorcerer, advisor named Bar-Jesus. An unexpected twist occurs when Bar-Jesus opposes them, but Sergius Paulus comes to believe their message. This confrontation demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about remarkable transformations, in the face of opposition, even in the most unexpected ways.
Furthermore, the narrative reinforces the reality that not everyone who hears the gospel will accept it. Success in missions often involves overcoming obstacles, resistance, and often failure.
III. The Inevitable Challenges and Failures of Mission:
As their mission continues, more unexpected challenges arise. First, John Mark, a member of their team, decides to leave.
Then, challenges escalate, when Paul and Barnabas face resistance at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. Despite initial positive reception, they encounter opposition and are ultimately expelled from the city. However, they persevere, and move on to Iconium, illustrating the importance of resilience in the face of failure.
Acts 13 offers valuable insights into the dynamics of living our lives on mission for Jesus, the surprises it brings, and the need for resilience in the face of challenges and opposition. It reminds us that our mission is not solely about grand adventures but also about embracing our mission wherever we are.
As we heed the call of the Holy Spirit and navigate the unpredictable journey on the way of Jesus, we must be prepared for the unexpected. Not everyone will accept the gospel, and challenges and failures are inevitable. Yet, like Paul and Barnabas, we are called to persevere, shake the dust from our feet, and continue sharing the message of Jesus with boldness and resilience.
On the way of Jesus, as we live on mission for the king of God, let us embrace the lessons from Acts 13: discern the Holy Spirit's call, anticipate surprises, and remain steadfast in the face of challenges and opposition. Just as God worked through the early Christians in Acts, he continues to work through us as we live in the footsteps of Jesus. May we not forget that not all will believe, we will encounter failure, but our call remains the same. Go forth in the Holy Spirit, to live the way of Jesus and share his message with all.