Love him or hate him, the Apostle Paul is a powerful figure in the Christian faith. One of the things that I have gleaned from Paul is his missionary spirit. He was always on the road, again. As we read through the book of Acts, we are treated to a look at three separate missionary journeys of Paul and his companions. Chapter 13 is part of the story of the first, and it reads like places on a map:
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. Acts 13:1-14
Up to this point in the New Testament, we had seen God at work in Galilee (in places like Nazareth, Bethsaida, and Bethany.) We may have also become familiar with Bethlehem and Jerusalem and other places in Judea. But then as we find the Holy Spirit saying that it was time to “set apart Barnabas and Saul for their work, and they were sent off, the places where the Gospel was to be shared in word and deed were limitless. Places like Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis, Paphos, Perga in Pamhylia and Antiochin in Pisidia.
As this devotional is being read by people in and around Winter Haven, a group of Christ’s followers from our church have just returned from sharing the Gospel in word and deed in Tegucigalpa, Nacaome, Zuniga, and Puerto Grande (all in the country of Honduras.) That’s where the Spirit sent us this summer. Ask those of us who were sent off, and we will be glad to share stories of how amazing the Holy Spirit is.
Wonderful God, let me view this day as a day to be sent out in mission. Show me how I can share the Gospel wherever I find myself on the map (in Winter Haven or Waverly, Auburndale or Alaska, Bartow or Banner Elk, along the ridge in Polk County or looking at the ridges of the mountains in Georgia, North or South Carolina ………..) In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.