Scattered Seeds

Hello, my friends!

Isn't it amazing how God works in ways we least expect? As we journey through the book of Acts, we see time and time again how the Lord orchestrates events to spread His message of love and grace to all people. Today, let's dive into a pivotal moment in the early church – the expansion of the gospel to Antioch and the incredible growth that followed.

You know, it's easy to think that the spread of Christianity was all carefully planned and executed by the apostles in Jerusalem. But the truth is, God was moving in ways that were completely beyond their control! After the persecution that arose over Stephen, believers were scattered far and wide. Some ended up in Antioch, initially preaching only to Jews. But then something remarkable happened – a group of bold believers began sharing the good news with Gentiles too. And guess what? “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21).

Can you imagine the mixture of excitement and apprehension the Jerusalem church must have felt when they heard about this? They sent Barnabas to investigate, and what a perfect choice he was! The Bible describes him as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he didn't come with a critical eye or a rulebook. Instead, he “saw the grace of God” at work.

Friends, how often do we miss what God is doing because we're too focused on our own expectations or traditions? Barnabas had the wisdom and openness to recognise God's hand at work, even in unexpected ways. He encouraged the new believers to “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23). This is such a beautiful picture of grace – not burdening new believers with rules and regulations but encouraging them to stay close to Jesus.

The story doesn't end there. Barnabas realised the potential of what was happening in Antioch, and he knew just the person who could help nurture this growing church – Saul (later known as Paul). Remember, God had specifically called Saul to minister to the Gentiles. So, Barnabas went to Tarsus, found Saul, and brought him back to Antioch. For a whole year, they taught the church, and it was here that believers were first called “Christians.”

Isn't it interesting that this name, originally given by outsiders, stuck? It speaks volumes about the Christ-centredness of these early believers. Everything they did, everything they taught, revolved around Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. Oh, how we need to recapture that focus today!

As the church in Antioch grew, we see a beautiful picture of the body of Christ in action. When a prophet named Agabus foretold a severe famine, the believers in Antioch immediately decided to send relief to their brothers and sisters in Judea. They didn't need to be coerced or guilted into giving – it was a spontaneous outpouring of love and generosity. This is what happens when we truly grasp the grace of God – it overflows from our lives to bless others.

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, the church faced intense persecution. King Herod had James executed and Peter imprisoned. But even in the face of such opposition, the believers didn't cower in fear. Instead, they gathered to pray fervently for Peter's release. And oh, how God answered! In a miraculous turn of events, an angel freed Peter from prison, leading him past guards and through iron gates that opened on their own.

You know, it's easy to read these stories and think, “Wow, those early Christians were something special.” But friends, we serve the same God today! The same Holy Spirit who empowered them lives in us. We may not face the exact challenges they did, but we're called to the same mission – to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a world in desperate need of His love and grace.

This reminds me of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” The early church understood this profound truth. They knew that their salvation, their growth, and their mission were all rooted in God's amazing grace. They weren't trying to earn God's favour or impress Him with their good deeds. Instead, they were living out of the overflow of what they had received in Christ.

Isn't it liberating to know that our relationship with God isn't based on our performance, but on His finished work? As it says in Colossians 2:10, “and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” We don't need to strive or struggle to earn God's love – we're already complete in Christ!

This truth should inspire us to live boldly for Him, just like those early believers. They faced persecution, hardship, and uncertainty, yet they pressed on with joy and confidence. Why? Because they knew that their lives were hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). They understood that no matter what happened, nothing could separate them from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

As we reflect on these events, let's ask ourselves: Are we living with the same boldness and faith as those early believers? Are we open to seeing God work in unexpected ways? Are we allowing His grace to overflow from our lives to touch others? Remember, “The word of God continued to increase and spread” (Acts 12:24) not because of human effort alone, but because of God's power working through ordinary people who were willing to be used by Him.

What would happen if we, as modern-day Christians, embraced this same mindset? What if we truly believed that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10)? How might our churches, our communities, and our world be transformed if we lived in the full assurance of God's grace and the power of His Spirit?

You know, sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by the challenges we face. We look at the world around us, with all its problems and complexities, and wonder how we can possibly make a difference. But let's remember the story of the church in Antioch. It didn't start with a grand strategy or a massive evangelistic campaign. It began with a few scattered believers who simply shared the good news of Jesus with those around them. They were ordinary people, just like you and me, but they were filled with an extraordinary message – the message of God's grace.

And that's the key, isn't it? It's not about our abilities or our resources. It's about the message we carry. As Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” The gospel itself is the power. When we share it faithfully, in word and deed, God's power is released to transform lives.

Be blessed today, my brothers and sisters. May we, like Barnabas, have eyes to see the grace of God at work around us. May we, like those early believers in Antioch, be so centred on Christ that His name becomes synonymous with who we are. And may we, like the praying church in Jerusalem, never underestimate the power of fervent prayer. Let's go forward with confidence, knowing that the same God who worked mightily in the early church is still at work today, using us to turn the world upside down with the glorious message of His grace!