Acts 11:19-26:God gives the growth.
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.NIV UK
A long time ago, my sister gave me a card that said, ‘What appears to be the end may be a new beginning.’ It is the way of God in the world to use bad stuff for good purposes. What men intend for harm God works for good. The persecution that broke out ‘’in connection with Stephen’’ (19) did not stop the church, or silence the church. Rather it served to spread the church. The persecution did not destroy the church; it created a whole lot of missionaries. Disciples of Christ (or ‘’Christians’’ as they were nicknamed at Antioch) cannot grow the church. That is not our job; it is not our prerogative. What we can do is ‘tell’ people about Jesus (19, 20). We can open our mouths and speak. We can encourage those who become Christians ‘’to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts’’ (23). However, God gives the growth (21, 23). When a church is planted, and when that church grows, let God be given all the glory for it is surely His work. But may we not fail in our responsibility to feed the flock of God (25, 26)
So a new and effective church was born in Antioch. It was the result of mission activity; it was to become a launch pad for further missionary outreach, as we will see. But you can argue that it started with the martyrdom of Stephen. On the face of it, that was a terrible thing to happen. It was grotesque; it was a tragedy. Yet it set off an essential chain reaction, propelling the church further and deeper into its calling; it was an ‘explosion’, blasting the people of God into higher orbit.
PRAYER: Sovereign Lord, give me eyes to see you, and faith to trust you, in the negative experiences of life.