Acts 13:1-3, Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 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.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
The first church in Antioch was an incredible example for us today! Already we have seen willing preachers of the Word, repentant recipients, and world changing discipleship given by a church in its infancy. Acts 13 reveals another key attribute for church growth and survival – leadership.
Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul were all prophets and teachers in the church. You might notice Saul was listed last. These men were not all, simply, important men in the church; they each held a distinct passion for the work. While they were worshipping and fasting, the Holy Spirit instructed them to send Saul and Barnabas on a mission to take the Gospel into unknown territory. If a leader is going to be effective, they have to listen to God! These men were listening.
God’s timing is perfect. In Galatians 1:15, Saul explains how he was set apart at birth. (10 AD) He wasn’t redeemed until 36AD. His ministry began somewhere around 46 AD. Once begun, not a second was wasted. In that time prior to his ministry, Saul was being trained. Barnabas was proving his effectiveness among both Jews and Gentiles. Once the timing of God was fulfilled, both men were ready to be the team God wanted for this work. Acts 13:3, “(3) Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” If leaders are truly going to be men of God, they have to move when God has indicated they should.
Saul (Paul) and Barnabas became the first international missionaries. There have been many who have followed their example. They left the security of home, family and familiarity to venture off into the great unknown for sake of the soul saving Gospel of Jesus. Missionaries, Ministers, and their families give every second of every day to the lives of those they attempt to effect with the Gospel.
Their efforts may go unnoticed by man, but God will never ignore the noble efforts of His children. In their absence, there are graduations, weddings, birthdays, holidays, and all sorts of special occasions often taken for granted by those who are present. When they are present they are constantly distracted by the ongoing concerns of the Church and the Lord they so lovingly serve. Life work balance can be especially challenging when the work you choose is also that which gives you life. We may never know the magnitude of the sacrifice they have made, but we should always honor the efforts they make.
Saul and Barnabas labored diligently for the Gospel. Saul (Paul) seems to have paid a really heavy price. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28) He had to continually defend the ministry demanded of Him by God. (i.e. Acts 14:19) They planted, and God grew the church using their efforts to do so. (1 Corinthians 3:6) Many new relationships and friends are a blessing of ministry. (Acts 16:14) There are, also, many heartbreaking goodbyes. (Acts 20:35-38) In ministry, as we see in Saul’s and Barnabas’ efforts, there is blessing, nobility, and heartbreak. It is not for everyone, and everyone doesn’t have to be a missionary or local minister to be what God wants them to be. But those who have taken on this mantle and have made that effort, some for a longer time than others, we love and appreciate each one of you. As surely as God spoke the Gospel into existence through the Word, He stands by those who labor in His vineyard. May God bless us all to be His servants in every capacity that we can.