June 26, 2016
John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
Today we look at the movement of God, where God is calling us to change. Just like Paul and Barnabas who were sent out from the Antioch church to start a new church (Acts 13:1), we too must learn to recognize and cooperate with God’s movement.
God’s movement sometimes comes in a painful package. When God is hard to find or confusing, that is often when He is working most powerfully in our lives.
In Acts 13:1-3, 14 years after Saul’s/Paul’s conversion, God moved in the Antioch church which Paul and Barnabas had helped establish, to send out these two men to spread the Gospel.
Observations of God’s Movement in Acts 13:1-3:
1. God moves His people.
Historically in Scripture, it has always been this way: from Abraham and Moses and later to Paul and Barnabas. God will move us as Christians, and change us as well – moving us or the people we love. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to put ourselves at His disposal where we can expect movement in our lives from time to time.
2. God moves His people His way in a variety of ways.
This movement is not always what we expect. In Acts 13:1-3, we see the traditional “Sunday School” version of God moving when the Holy Spirit directly called out Paul and Barnabas after the church had fasted and prayed and laid hands on them.
Yet in spite of a couple of similar stories in the book of Acts about this traditional movement of God, Scripture shows us that it is actually very rare that God moves this way. Usually it is stranger and more confusing, such as God using famine, storms, even shipwrecks to move His people. Some of God’s movement involves injustice, persecution (wrong and evil), and even conflict among Christians; example include Paul being sent to Rome to spread the Gospel but put on trial for his life, and the later argument of Paul and Barnabas over Paul’s nephew, which sent Paul and Barnabas in different directions.
In fact, God can and will use all things to move His people and get them to do what He wants them to do. Even, and especially, in the midst of chaos, confusion, suffering and injustice (Acts 4, 5, 8 and 10), God loves us and is moving. He is moving here at Grace Community in the lives of the elders, the staff, the members and John Ulrich’s family.
We should not be resentful and angry, but instead realize that God is doing something beautiful in our lives all the time. He is working for our good and is fully capable of sorting out injustice, suffering and chaos later.
3. We are clearest on God’s movement when we are focused on Him.
Just like the early church at Antioch, we are best focused on Him when we are on our knees: “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’” (Acts 13:2). Here Luke pointed out that they had clarity about God’s movement because they were fully focused on God.
Although God can surely work in our lives whether we know it or not (e.g., Noah or the conversion of Paul), His movement is most clearly seen when we are focused on Him. Suffering, persecution and injustice make us focus on Him!
We must be people on our knees. Are we praying? Confusion is OK, but are we praying? Are we desperate enough to fast? Or are we making our own plans for our lives instead of relying on the power to serve God, which comes from the Holy Spirit who speaks to us in prayer?
4. Wherever we move, we take the Gospel with us.
The value of the Gospel has been costly, painful and hard in the death and resurrection of God’s own Son. It must have been very difficult for Paul to leave the church at Antioch and later to suffer persecution for the Gospel.
This moment at Grace Community Church, as John Ulrich departs as Senior Pastor, has been hard and it hurts. Yet we know that God sometimes uses a lot of pain and heartache in moving His people.
It’s worth it! Why does the church persevere? Whenever God moves us, we take the Gospel with us and it spreads to others. Our lives are not our own. Of utmost importance is the spread of the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why should we have it and not share it with other people?
The spread of the Gospel is more important than our comfort or plans. God is moving now, and the life-giving Gospel will grow in our lives and spread.
Pray that God will clearly call the Ulrichs to their next ministry. Some of our members have recently received the Gospel in their lives in the last few years. We must share it. When God is calling us to step up in our lives, we must do it.
God does move people in a variety of ways. Although following God’s way is sometimes costly, it is worth it because whenever He moves us, we take the Gospel with us and spread its precious Truth: that we are loved in our brokenness, and when we turn our will to Him in belief and repentance, we are adopted as God’s children here on earth and eternally, through the death and resurrection of God’s own Son.
Prayer: Lord, meet us. As Christians, we have and do experience Your movement. Speak to us. Help us to see Your work and yield to You. Although sometimes it gets rough when You, Father, move in our lives, we pray for the spreading of the Gospel.