“…and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.”
Paul and Barnabus began their first missionary journey from the city of Antioch. Chapter 14 describes their effectiveness in several places – time and again they were run out of town. Arriving back in Antioch at the end of their journey, we might think such a trip would have left them worn out, disappointed, discouraged and vowing to ‘never do that again’. We can almost hear them saying to those who had sent them out, “We tried this, but it didn’t happen. We attempted that, but it didn’t go anywhere.” Yet, for all of the opposition to doing what God had called them to do, Paul and Barnabus never caved in and never gave up. Verse 7 indicates that while they had a multitude of encouragement to quit and go home, they didn’t – “they continued to preach the gospel.” And now, back in Antioch with those who had sent them out, verse 27 tells us they maintained their attitude of faith throughout, for “… when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”
One of the lessons we learn from this chapter is simply not to give up and quit when it’s difficult. Whenever God calls us to a task, we too need to finish what we start. And when it’s all said and done, to end with the expectation that God is going to take our small efforts and turn them into something greater. Such endurance is evidence of our faith. We should remember that it was Jesus himself who taught us to “always pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1 ESV).
For those pursuing the kingdom, there are several things that we can expect as we labor for Christ. Let me just share a few from Paul’s experience in this chapter: (1) evil opposition – mark it well, when seeking to get the gospel out, the world, Satan and even our own selfish nature will get in the way to oppose it. No matter, we must move beyond all of those hindrances to envision the possibilities with God in the picture, (2) our listeners’ confusion – in spite of the best intentions, there will always be those who don’t hear the message clearly, and we must work to explain God’s way of things, and (3) God’s intervening grace – in spite of the difficulties we face, we should look for God’s grace to show up to help us. Psalm 37.5 says, “Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.“
Craig Larson tells us that way back in 1972, “NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. The satellite’s primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter’s magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target.
But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet in November 1973, Jupiter’s immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; Neptune at nearly three billion miles; Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun. And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. “Perhaps most remarkable,” writes Jaroff, “those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth.” The Little Satellite That Could” was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years. But it kept going and going until January 23, 2003, when it passed out of our solar system and beyond our ability to track its course. By simple longevity, its tiny 8-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible. So it is when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord. God can work even through someone with 8-watt abilities. God cannot work, however, through someone who quits.”