Plans Can Change In An Instant

Especially when you let the Holy Spirit lead.

Acts 11:19-26 (ESV)

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

This is a wonderful passage, full of action and progress. But right in the middle, Barnabas does something impulsive. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. Why doesn’t he stay where he was sent?

He was sent to Antioch because it’s a gentile city where a great number who believed turned to the Lord. When he got there, he saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose. … And a great many people were added to the Lord.

But Barnabas’s reaction is to think, “This needs Saul,” and then to dash off and fetch him. Why?

Remember, the Lord said in Acts 9:15 that Saul “is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles.” Barnabas is very perceptive, especially concerning Saul. (He’s the one who got Paul in past the Apostles’ fear in Acts 9:27.) So, when he sees the mass conversions of the Hellenists in Antioch, a light bulb goes on. He recognizes this as Saul’s calling and he bolts.


Notice that Barnabas doesn’t get anyone’s permission to do this. This illustrates one of the most exciting aspects of Christianity – the boundless creativity we get from the Holy Spirit.

Many Christians are afraid to do what the Spirit tells them. We want to do something “safe” like join an existing ministry or follow someone else’s directions. Thus, we ignore promptings that don’t “fit.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we should listen less to advice and promptings from our brothers. I’m saying we should listen more to the surprising things the Holy Spirit tells us. And yes, these things do need to be tested and discussed with others. Still, the mistake lots of Christians make is to blow off any idea that seems to pop up out of nowhere.

Ask God to help you learn to pay attention to these inner promptings. Also, pray for someone you can honestly discuss these things with.

We’re more dangerous to the enemy when we’re unpredictable.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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