Part Two: Under Attack
Oh Lord that Grace be Evident and not just talked about.
Oh Lord that Grace be Evident and not just talked about.
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
The Christian church in Antioch had begun. What was the secret of its birth or beginnings?
v. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them”.
With no New Testament written, surrounded by hostile Jews and Romans, no benefit from legalized religion or formal church buildings, no apparent source of income, no printed materials, sound systems, choirs, seminary training, anonymous believers started one of the most dynamic congregations in Christian History.
What we are given is this statement “The Lord’s hand was with them” and because of God’s blessings, this church led multitudes of people to the Lord in repentance and faith! It didn’t matter what was against these believers because God’s was with them and his favor in a remarkable way.
When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
Barnabas saw the evidence that God was blessing and at work in special ways. The church in Antioch had no facebook page or publicity department to sing its praises, but it needed nothing of the sort. You see when unbelievers are repenting and turning to the Lord, when mass water baptismal services have to be scheduled, when there are strong congregational prayer meetings, when there is a spirit of love and unity among believers - that’s what you call a little bit of heaven here on earth!
The whole impact goes right back to v. 21 - The Lord’s hand was with them. What is even better is this: what occurred in Antioch two thousand years ago can also occur today. No matter where we are we can experience God’s blessings. We can accomplish more for God’s kingdom than we have ever dreamed if we learn the secret of asking the Lord to stretch out His hand and do what only He can do in our midst.
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
Our main calling is to live in fellowship with Christ and to labor with Him in extending his kingdom. To miss out on this is to forfeit the deep sense of fulfillment and joy that comes only when we are partnering with Jesus. It also means we miss our on life as God intended.
and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
If we enjoy the blessings of God and labor for the cause of Christ this has significance for now and eternity.
Satan knows the vital role the local church plays in the building of God’s kingdom. He suffers much loss when congregations have properly connected with each other and with the living Christ. Because of this Christian churches are Satan’s special target. He uses every device possible to try to make us ineffective.
He uses things like church is a place you only attend on Sunday’s if you can spare the time. He tries to bury congregations in traditionalism and lifeless ceremony. He tries to stifle and discourage prayer, instigates strife and division, gossip and fighting. There are all things that grieve the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.
He tries to neutralize churches through false doctrine, emotional fanaticism, or harsh attitudes.
Today we desperately need not only need spiritual revival in our churches but also an awakening to the importance that Jesus places on every Christian congregation.
In looking at the church in Antioch this evening this spurs on my spirit for our assembly. As we start here my prayer is that v. 21 “The Lord’s hand be with us”.
If God can pour abundant grace upon Antioch amid such hostile limited circumstances what is so impossible about our church and community?
So tonight in this meeting that’s our focus:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
We are going to stand firmly - strength
We are going to stand together - unity
Armed by God - Armor of God equipped and being led by the Holy Spirit
Stand against the enemy and His schemes - Defeat the defeated foe once again due to the Lord’s hand being with us.
Even at the start of our fresh start do not be surprised when the enemy tries to come in and snuff out the fresh, new thing God is preparing to do. This is the time where we need to stand stronger than ever and keep our ground as He increases our territory.
We must understand that the enemy fights hardest when the greatest spiritual breakthroughs and blessings are just around the corner.
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
I end with the Psalm:
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Father take away discouragement and fear so we can serve you with boldness!