THE CHURCH IN THE ARENA
SERIES: Unstoppable – The Book of Acts
Sunday, July 30, 2017
- Teddy Roosevelt, “The Man in the Arena”
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
19 Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. 22 When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) 27 During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) 29 So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could.30 This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem. – Acts 11:19-30 (840)
13 Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. 2 One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” 3 So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. – Acts 13:1-3 (841)
- Antioch: Primary of 16 cities named Antioch (named by Syrian Emperor Seluecus for his father Antiochus) – third largest city in Roman Empire – 500,000+ people – today it is Antakya, Turkey – 310 miles from Jerusalem
- Scattered church still sticking mostly to Jews – this changes at Antioch
- Many converts – Paul comes to teach them – church is growing – Luke tells us that they were the first people in this Jesus movement to be called “Christians”
- When these people in Antioch became “Christians” what did they believe that meant? Were they joining something? What was in it for them?
- Luke tells us some things about the Antioch church that show us that they saw themselves as people in the arena. In other words, they were committing to a movement rather than joining a group.
To the church in Antioch, it wasn’t about them and what they would gain, it was about the mission that Jesus had uncorked in Acts 1:8 when He commissioned His followers to go change the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit. For them, the church wasn’t about consuming, it was about contributing.
- Are you a contributor or are you a consumer?
CONTRIBUTORS VS. CONSUMERS
- Contributors give freely while consumers guard what’s theirs.
- Acts 11 – hear about coming famine, determine to send relief to others.
- Contributors believe what Jesus said as quoted by Paul in Acts 20:35 (849) “It is more blessed to give than receive.”
- 3 weeks ago: Generosity leads to joy – what do I mean by joy? – sense of accomplishment
- Consumers can never get enough (ad agencies, stores, and manufacturers are counting on it) – contributors experience satisfaction
- Contributors give their best while consumers give what’s left.
- Acts 13 – Luke lists the top leaders in the Antioch church, and the church gives them away by sending them out
- This wasn’t a quick trip, they would be gone for months and months, which means they wouldn’t be there to help the Antioch church. But they sent them anyway, they gave their best, not the most convenient or the least likely to be missed
- As a church, I hope we will always be willing to give the very best when we sense God is leading us to give or get involved with something
- Contributors look out the window while consumers look in the mirror.
- I don’t know what the church was praying and fasting about in Acts 13, but if I had to lay money on it, I would guess that they were praying about the need for other cities, nations, and people to hear the same message that had changed their lives. And in response God said, “Set apart Barnabas and Saul”
- Individually (me and you) and corporately (as a church) are we going to look out the window and see the opportunity to change the world – or at least someone’s world – or are we going to look in the mirror and focus on our wants?
- What did you get out of church today – vs – what did you give at church today?
- Ephesians 4:11-12 (to equip you for ministry), Luke 19:10 (not be served, serve)
- YOU: Are you a contributor or are you a consumer? You can change that today (opportunities) – Where can I make a difference?
- US: Let’s keep looking out the window and asking God to make it bigger