June 7, 2021
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) 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.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
The Holy Spirit commanded the church in Antioch to “set apart” Barnabas and Saul for the Lord’s work. In my youth, reading a verse like this made me long for a “setting apart” experience like Paul had. Some sort of a moment I could look back on and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what I was supposed to do for God. In the charismatic churches of my childhood, traveling preachers and prophets would come for a conference or special service and I remember sitting in my seat fervently praying that they would have a prophetic word specifically for me. Whether you believe in prophecy or think it’s bunk, whether you’re asking for prayer about a decision or searching the scripture for guidance, whether you’re looking for a new job or trying to figure out when to marry, we all experience the desire for clear direction from God. And it sure would be nice if that direction came as clearly as the church in Antioch experienced.
But here’s a question on my mind this week. What about everyone else in the church in Antioch? Sure, Paul and Barnabas knew what to do next. But what about the Georges, Sallys, Jeffs and Alices? It doesn’t look like everybody got marching orders as clear as Paul. And I don’t know about you, but if I’m busy looking for God’s handwriting on the wall, I can often miss the subtle ways He guides and directs.
Most importantly, just because you haven’t been struck by a sanctified thunderbolt of insight doesn’t mean you haven’t been set apart. Take comfort in these words from Peter, who wrote a letter to “everyone else.” In it he wrote these words, not to the superstars or miracle workers, not to the preachers and missionaries, but to ordinary people like you and me – going about our days, desiring to see and know God more, and desiring to be a part of His miraculous work.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. I Peter 2:9-10
Let that change your inner monologue to reiterate just how special, how “set apart,” you are.