Lord, encourage my heart as I read your holy Word.
In this powerful chapter, we see God at work in the lives of Peter and Saul (who would later be called Paul). In each instance, God provided encouragement as they sought to serve him. Members of the Jerusalem church were spreading rumors that Peter had been associating with Gentiles—the “wrong” type of people. Even back then people liked to gossip! Some finally did the right thing and confronted Peter about the rumors. Peter explained that God gave him a vision to encourage him to share the gospel with those who were not Jewish (in other words, the “wrong” type of people). As if that were not enough confirmation, as soon as the vision was finished, three Gentiles came to Peter saying that God had sent them to hear the gospel. Upon hearing the gospel message, they gave their lives to Jesus. The Jewish Christians who confronted Peter were moved by God’s encouragement to Peter, and now understood that salvation was offered to all people, not just to one race or people. Hopefully, they also stopped gossiping!
Although we wish it didn’t happen, Christians can find themselves criticized, even by other Christians, for doing the right thing. This is often rooted in misunderstanding. It is at those times that the persecuted Christian should seek guidance from God’s Word. It is important that Christians continue to be obedient to God, who sends encouragement and signs to keep them on the right path.
This leads us to the second example, that of Saul. So many people in the city of Antioch gave their lives to Jesus that they started a church. The Jerusalem church therefore sent Barnabas (his name means “son of encouragement”) to Antioch to encourage this new church. In fact, it was at this very city that those who followed Christ were first called “Christians!” Barnabas was so overjoyed by what he found at Antioch that he traveled to find a relatively new believer named Saul. Together, they taught the Word of God to the Antioch church to ensure that the new believers would grow properly in their faith. This encouragement and mentoring from Barnabas helped Saul to mature and later become a great missionary.
Sometimes we are concerned that we are too young in our faith or that we do not know enough to make any difference in God’s kingdom. It is important, then, that we connect with someone who is more mature in their faith and who will encourage us in our growth. We should pray for the Lord to send someone our way who will be our spiritual mentor. Then, we need to pray for humility and wisdom so that we can grow as God directs. God has a calling and purpose for each and every one of us, just as he did for Peter and Saul. And God provides encouragement for our journey with him, often in surprising ways.
Is there something that the Lord is encouraging you to do for him? What is keeping you from being obedient?
Pay close attention today and this week as God provides direction and encouragement for your life. Pray especially for someone who will come alongside you to provide spiritual guidance.
My loving, heavenly Father, thank you for giving me guidance as I live my life for you. May I always be true to your holy Word.