I love reading Acts, it is so full of the exploits of the early church and of the mighty things God did for and through them. The church today seems very different, but I can’t help thinking that is not right. Yes the world is changed, cultures have changed, and time has moved on, but God had not changed and nor have his words, his promises or his desire to see people come to know him.Today’s passage is no different in that respect and it tells of three mighty weapons (and they are just a few in God’s arsenal) that are at our disposal to make Jesus known to all around us.
1.Encouragement – Acts 11:19-26
When the apostles in Jerusalem hear that Hellenists (Greek converts to Judaism) are becoming Christians they send Barnabas (meaning son of encouragement) to Antioch. There he encourages the believers, and then goes to find Saul, who shortly will become Paul, and encourages him to use the gifting that he sees in him, in Antioch. Together they teach (encourage) the church in Antioch for a whole year. The result of this is a church that is at least as influential as the Jerusalem church, if not more.
I want to challenge you to become a Barnabas, an encourager. This is something everyone can do. Find the gold in people and draw it out. Concentrate on the good you see in people and the results will be beyond your wildest imagination.
2.Prophecy – Acts 11:27-30
From the next couple of verses it becomes clear that the early church puts great importance on prophecy. When a word is brought, they act on it. (Remember Paul is part of the leadership of this church, and they will have weighed the word.) In other places in the New Testament, especially Paul’s letters, we see that prophecy is for all believers, and can be useful in all aspects of life, including evangelism.
Prophecy is strongly linked to encouragement. When (not if) you first start prophesying stick to words of encouragement, but do it, don’t hold back. Speak encouragement into people life, you’ll get it wrong at times, but it trains you in listening to God’s voice, in stepping out in faith, and it blesses those you prophesy over. This is a weapon both to encourage people, believers and unbelievers alike, and to undermine the plots and strategies of the enemy. Be bold, step out.
3.Prayer – Acts 12:1-11
We all know in our head that prayer is important, but is it really in our hearts?
Here the early church has reason to pray: They are about to lose one of their strongest leaders and they are powerless to do anything about it. So they pray, and they pray earnestly. However their reaction to the prayer being answered makes me wonder if they really expected an answer. This passage shows us two things:
- God answers prayer.
- The answer does not depend on our expectation, but on God.
Now that does not mean we should pray without expectation, I would say the opposite is true. However it does show us that prayer is important, and whether you have faith for an answer or not, it is still important to pray.
Of course prayer in this context is corporate prayer (not taking away the importance of personal prayer), and I want to encourage you to join one of the existing prayer teams, or if none of them are right for you talk to Paul and Pat and ask them to start another team that would suit you. Prayer, in this case corporate prayer, is so important. If you want to change the world, and who wouldn’t, prayer is the first weapon you reach for.
So these are the lessons from today’s passage: pray, prophesy, encourage. Why not start right now?