Our church is currently studying the book of Acts. We've been in the first missionary journey of Barnabas and Paul. While I was preaching on the end of Chapter 12 and beginning of Chapter 13 I thought about how these men listened to the Holy Spirit as they were sent out to reach the entire world!
Listening to the Holy Spirit is a tough thing. We live in such a fast paced world with so many distractions that it doesn’t matter if you’re a brand new believer or a seasoned believer, it can be tough to hear to the Holy Spirit. Even if you've never been to church did you know the Holy Spirit wants to speak to you?
The church in Antioch gives us some encouragement about listening to the Lord. If we could talk with them, I think they would encourage us not to rush when the Spirit speaks. They might tell us how they were patient and stayed the course until the Holy Spirit spoke. The Antioch church would also tell us to make sure there is unity when the Spirit speaks. There is no hint of division here in Acts 13; it is clear the leaders were unanimous because they all laid hands on the leaders to send them on the mission God called them to fulfill:
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with 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.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:1-3The church would also probably encourage us to live lives that are marked by worship, prayer and fasting. Worship is not simply singing songs but a lifestyle of praising God, and prayer is something we can partake in all the time. Fasting is also a discipline for those who follow Christ. When all these factors become a lifestyle, then we hear the voice of the Lord more clearly.
We often think that we need more training if we are going to tell others about Christ. But we don’t need more training, we need to spend more time worshipping our Lord. We need to deny our own inclinations and listen to what the Holy Spirit says to us. We need to reject distractions and increase our listening ears. We need to be surrounded with amazing people who encourage us to follow our Lord wholeheartedly. And we need people who will pray for us to take bold steps of faith.
You don’t have to go to seminary to tell someone that Jesus loves them. You don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Ministry to tell someone that God created them. All you have to do is have a willingness to listen to the Holy Spirit just like the men in the Antioch church did. It takes faithfulness in worship and a commitment to Christ for this to happen.
There is something special about Saul and Barnabas that we will see later in the book of Acts and let me tell you what that is: these men loved people in an extraordinary way. These men cared for people the way that Jesus cares for people. Ken Baugh once said: “One of the primary reasons that the early church took off is that Barnabas and Paul loved people the way that Jesus loved them, unconditionally and sacrificially.” These men knew lost people matter to God.
How have you slowed down to listen to the Holy Spirit lately?
How can you slow down this week to listen to the Lord?