Focus on Praise Not Problems

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

—Acts 14:27

At the end of Acts 14 Barnabas and Paul gave an account of their first missionary journey. While I am sure they shared much from their trip the thing the Bible emphasizes is that they praised God for what He had done in opening opportunities to share the Gospel.

It must have been an easy trip. Surely they didn’t have any problems and were blessed to preach and see hundreds saved. It was an ideal mission trip. Right?

Well, no.

At the beginning of Acts 13 they were sent out by the Holy Spirit from Antioch to start their first journey. It was during this trip that John Mark left them. They did see many Jews begin to follow them in Antioch in Pisidia (Turkey) after preaching in a synagogue. However, the next week when the Gentiles gathered to hear what Paul and Barnabas had to say the formerly friendly Jews became angry. They didn’t think the Gospel should have been preached to the Gentiles. They kicked them out of their city.

The team packed up and moved on to Iconium. The Bible says many Jews and Greeks believed on the Lord. Not all believed however. The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and planned to stone the missionaries. They moved on to Lystra. Though worshiped a short time as gods, they were eventually stoned in that city.

Yes many were saved, but there were hardships as well. They retraced their steps encouraging the ones who were saved in their first visit. They returned to the church in Antioch in Syria from which they were sent.

Verse 27 is essentially their prayer letter/mission trip report. Did they focus on the problems they had? The Bible says they told what had happened, but then it finishes the verse with them telling “how He [God] opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”

In their missionary prayer letter they focused on praise to God, not on the problems which came their way. As we share with our friends about the ministry opportunities God gives us we should focus on the praise and not the problems. Yes, there will be problems, but we should view them in light of God advancing His ministry through them.

Was Paul Called or Sent as a Missionary?

Isn’t it funny how you can read the same verses again and see something different in them the next time around? Recently the first few verses of Acts 13 struck me in a new way.

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

—Acts 13:1-3

In Acts 13:1 it says that there were many teachers and workers in the church at Antioch. Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were two of these men.

We often talk about being called to the mission field. I don’t know if that is a bad thing to say. However, here it appears that Barnabas and Saul were not called, but sent. They were already serving in the church. They were already teachers and preachers in the ministry. They were sensitive to the Lord’s leading. They were spiritually mature. In that environment, the Holy Spirit moved within the people of the church to send Barnabas and Saul out to start other churches. They did not come down to an alter and “surrender their lives” to the ministry. They were already surrendered. They were already involved.

Are You Called?

We’ve probably all heard stories of missionaries and pastors who said, “I wasn’t sure I was called, but I wanted to serve the Lord.” As a result they continue to say that as they got involved in serving in their local church then God clearly led them into the ministry. I think God often works in that way.

First Steps

Often I get the question, “I want to be a missionary, what should I do first?” This is usually by people whom I have never met and know nothing about. My first response to them is that they should speak with their pastor. Their pastor knows them better than I do. He knows their spiritual maturity and current involvement. He can give them much better information than I can based on their current spiritual condition. And, I submit, that he probably will know if someone is called to the ministry before that person even knows. Though Saul and Barnabas were already involved in ministry at this point, it appears that God first moved in the hearts of the other pastors, teachers and church members to send these two men out for missionary service.

Called or Sent?

Should you be called or sent? The result is the same. I believe that if you are serving the Lord where you are right now, then God will show you, and those around you, what you should be doing in His ministry.

A Church Focused on World Missions

Philippians 4:10-20

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

In verse 19 God promises to bless churches that have the right focus on world missions. We see that from the very beginning the church at Philippi was concerned for Paul and the missionary effort.

Photo of a world globeA church that is focused on world missions has a concern for others. (v. 10)

The church at Philippi had a concern for Paul and the work he was doing. They were a church that looked for opportunities to be a blessing to those who needed the Gospel. Paul says that they were full of care for him and the ministry, but they didn’t know how to give and help.

A church that is focused on world missions is content in the Lord. (v. 11-13)

Paul said that he did not need anything from the church because the Lord gave him the strength and ability to endure the ministry. There were times when the ministry was easier than other times. Paul was content in the things the Lord brought to his life. He was teaching this great missions-minded church to be content in the things they are called to do.

A church that is focused on world missions is committed to the work of Christ. (v. 14-16)

This church partook in the ministry of Paul. He had traveled from place to place and this church looked for ways to be a help and a blessing to him. They were committed to the Great Commission. They were as committed to the cause of world evangelism at the time Paul wrote this as they were when Paul started his ministry. The church at Philippi was consistent in their commitment.

A church that is focused on world missions has credit in God’s accounting. (v. 17, 18)

The Philippian Christians would benefit from the work Paul was doing. Paul said that he was thanking the church for their gifts to him—not because he wanted more stuff from them, but because he wanted them to have fruit (rewards) to be added to their account in God’s eyes. Paul said that their offering was a sweet and acceptable offering to God.

A church that is focused on world missions exists to see God and Christ glorified. (v. 20)

The whole point of this passage is not to glorify one church or to lift up the missionary, but to bring glory to God.

Are you missions-minded?

Are you:

  • concerned for others?
  • content in the Lord?
  • committed to the work of Christ?
  • receiving credit in God’s accounting?
  • glorifying God?

[This is adapted from a message preached by Daryl Wilson at Faith Baptist Church in Jefferson City, TN.]