By Chuck Griffin
Acts 11:19-26 (NLT)
Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.
When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
There are a lot of memes on social media saying things like, “May there never be another year like 2020.” I get it. This year has been a relatively miserable experience, particularly for those who have lost loved ones.
Our current situation makes me appreciate the story of the early Christians who fled persecution, but then continued to preach the truth that got them persecuted in the first place. The resilience of this first generation of Christians, and some generations that have followed, is amazing.
The early Christians who went to Antioch are especially worth remembering. They transported the Christian message into a new culture, the first step in making our faith a global religion. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!
Christians of 2020, we are in a time of testing. Will we be numbered among the resilient generations, or will we fold?
The answer lies in our commitment to the same principle that drove Generation One. As we exit this year and pass through the next couple of years, time will tell whether we grew as disciples and made disciples of others.
Did we cut through the fear and political chatter and get to the main point: In good times or bad, Jesus Christ is Lord! Were people so taken by the message that they were baptized and absorbed into the life of Christ’s holy, universal church?
Christ’s message of love and forgiveness gives us hope in this life, and hope is what we most need when we feel times are tough. In many ways, nonbelievers should be more ready to hear this powerful message now than ever.
Enough of us have to be ready to deliver it, though. We know that within Generation One there were several who fell away because of hardship and discomfort, ending their commitments to the fledgling movement. Enough stood strong to change the world, though.
Will we change the world once again?
Lord, even if we as your church prove to be a remnant, may we be filled with your Holy Spirit, a seed that will sprout in mighty ways for your kingdom. Amen.