Set apart for me Saul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them, (Acts 13:2).
Do you know God’s will for you life. By that I refer to his plans and purposes for you. Sometimes figuring out what God wants us to do can be confusing. But how tragic to go through our entire life without a sense that we are doing the things God created us to do.
First, let me say that God’s major purpose for your life is to make you like Jesus. It is a process that takes a life-time, and even then is barely beginning. In other words, God is much more concerned with who you are than with what you do.
Second, most of God's will for our life is clearly stated in the Bible. We know God does not want us to lie, steal, murder, or commit adultery. He will never lead us to do those things. We know we are to be caring, kind, and generous. We don't even have to ask about doing acts that reflect those qualities. But given that fact, what does God want you to do? What is his “will” for you.
Today’s text marks a turning point in the lives of several men that were instrumental in the life of the early church. The most famous of the men is a guy named Saul who will shortly take on the “nickname” of Paul. After being converted to faith in Jesus on the road that leads from Jerusalem to Damascus, Paul spent most of the following seven to ten years making tents in his hometown of Tarsus. That is not to say that he wasn’t doing lots of important things, and even telling people about Jesus, but to a certain extent, God had put him "in the keg". (I differentiate between God putting someone "on the shelf" because they have really screwed things up, and God putting us “in the keg” to let us mature to the extent that we are ready for our next job.)
Sometime around 45 AD, Paul’s old friend Barnabas came to Tarsus and got Paul to return to Antioch in Syria with him. During his time in Antioch, Paul had a small group of brothers that he met together with to share his life. At least five of them were praying together when God spoke through the group: “Set apart for me Saul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them.” That “work”, for which God had laid hold of Paul to begin with, was to begin to take the good news about Jesus to the Gentile world. I suggest that the world we live in today would not exist apart from the events that follow this call and Paul's faithfulness and tenacity to carry out God's will.
Notice that God’s will was revealed in the context of a small “band of brothers.” There is a danger to living a Lone Ranger spiritual life, and that is doubly true when it comes to figuring out God’s will. Some very crazy things have been done by men and women who think they hear God’s voice and don’t run what they are thinking past some mature and honest people who know them well. In this case, Paul and his buddies prayed, and fasted (indicating a degree of time from the call to the execution) to make sure they were hearing God correctly.
Do you have a small group of believing friends you get together with on a regular basis? If so…do you pray and share your lives together at a deeper level than you normally would? It is one of the great gifts of being part of the body of Christ. Later in his ministry, Paul will write, “Submit yourselves to one another.” I wonder if he was thinking about this moment in Antioch that changed the course of his life, and the course of human history.