Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Antioch Encourager

“When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with a firm resolve of heart.” (Acts 11:23)

Persecution erupted in Jerusalem following the martyrdom of Stephen. The earlier good will toward Christians following Pentecost evaporated, especially when Christian preaching and faith repeatedly butted heads with the Jewish religious establishment. Stephen’s preaching caused resentments to explode with fury, resulting in his death. Jerusalem became a place of danger for Christians, so with the persecution that ensued Christians scattered. Some went as far as Antioch in Syria. There they witnessed to Jesus first to Jews only but then later to Gentiles as well. An evangelism explosion in Antioch brought many Gentiles to faith in Jesus.

The Jerusalem church got wind of the Antioch phenomenon. This event represented an “out-of-the-box” kind of development. To look into it, they sent Barnabas. Good choice. Son of Encouragement. After he arrived and saw what was happening, he was ecstatic. Marvelous, this grace of God was. He encouraged these believers to remain true to the Lord with a firm resolve of the heart.

A firm resolve of the heart: that is the key to faithfulness. Resolve is what a pilot has when he throttles up his engines for take-off. Firm resolve is what he has when he passes an imaginary line beyond when there is no turning back.

The heart is one way to describe the human will, and actually it can be translated at times as “will.” The will to remain true at all costs is thus how we define our calling to a life of faithfulness, a life of heart-resolve. Be encouraged this day to follow the Lord with a firm resolve of heart.

Lord, We humble ourselves before You, and we resolve in the depths of our hearts that we will follow You as You lead. Amen.

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