There have been many times when we hear a story someone has told us and we say, “That is hard to believe!” Our disbelief can only be satisfied by seeing for ourselves what has taken place. That is what happened when the Jerusalem church heard what God was doing in Antioch.
“And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch” (Acts 11:21–22). Barnabas was the right man because he had seen God work in unusual ways before and knew what to look for. Notice how he evaluates what was taking place in Antioch: “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad” (11:23). It was the “grace of God” not the work of man that had stimulated this growth in the church. When we seek God’s hand to be upon us instead on depending on trying to engineer church growth, we see growth happen.
Notice how Barnabas handled the situation with them. “He exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (11:23). The faithfulness of these new believers was not to be on those who brought them the gospel, but “to the Lord.” The mark of any honorable servant is that they direct loyalty to the Lord, not themselves. This must be done with “steadfast purpose!” The faith of any new disciple must be anchored in the right place to start with, otherwise we will fall into the error of 1 Corinthians 3:4 where new believers follow a man, rather than Christ. “Steadfast purpose” is not aimless, but a planned way of fulfilling the will of God.
Let’s review these principles that must be used when we hear of a work taking place somewhere:
1. Make sure it is the result of God’s grace.
2. Have you rejoiced in the work of God?
3. Do you strengthen God’s work by exhorting them to remain faithful to the Lord with purpose?
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