3 Days of Prayer and Fasting (2021/08)

Acts 15:36-16:10 (ESV)
15:36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
16:1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Day 1: Loving God
Paul wanted to go to Asia Minor to proclaim the gospel, but was “forbidden by the Holy Spirit” from doing so. After that door was closed, Paul “attempted to go into Bithynia,” but, once again, “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” We are not told why the Holy Spirit prevented Paul and his companions from going into those areas, but we are told twice that it was the Holy Spirit who closed those doors. Paul and his team were being redirected by God Himself.
The rare phrase “Spirit of Jesus,” teaches us two things. One, the Spirit who belongs to Jesus is the same Spirit who belongs to the God the Father. This is an unmistakable statement of Jesus’s deity. Two, Jesus Himself is still involved in the missionary work of His followers. When Jesus commissioned His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20, He promised them, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This promise is fulfilled by the presence of His Spirit. The “Spirit of Jesus” is orchestrating the missionary work of the early church.
Successful Christian ministry is never a calculable result of man’s ingenious methods and meticulous plans. It is always the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Paul is not so rigidly attached to his plans that he charges into Phrygia and Galatia anyway after being forbidden by the Holy Spirit to do so. Paul remained pliable to the will of His Master. Let us also be completely disposed to the will of God, totally expendable, and, therefore, ever attentive to the voice of the Spirit.
  • Confess the ways in which you have put your plans before the Spirit’s promptings.
  • Pray that God would reveal areas of your life that are not fully submitted to Him (e.g. unforgiveness toward someone, bitterness about what has happened in your life, sin you are not willing to stop, etc.), and release them to the Lord in prayer.
  • Pray that God would make you more attentive and sensitive to His voice.
  • Pray that God would fill you more and more with the Holy Spirit.

Day 2: Loving One Another
Paul and Barnabas were not engaging in soft-spoken, gentle debate. They were engaged in a “sharp disagreement” (15:39). There were emotionally-charged statements, bitter arguments. Two dear friends and Christian comrades simply could not see eye-to-eye on the issue of whether or not to take Mark with them on their missionary journey.
Note that their disagreement was not a matter of truth and error, of orthodoxy and heresy. They were both trying to apply Biblical principles. While Paul wanted to protect the missionary work, Barnabas wanted to care pastorally for Mark. Sometimes, even godly Christians simply disagree. It’s not necessarily the case that one of them is in sin. It is sometimes the case that one of them is simply wrong. And this kind of disagreement will happen until Christ returns and our faith is turned to sight. Only then will we know perfectly. We are finite. We are not all-knowing. We are all susceptible to faulty thinking and erroneous judgments.
And God did, indeed, work through even this disagreement. The outcome of this disagreement is that now, instead of one, two missionary teams are sent out for gospel ministry. With the loss of Barnabas and Mark, new leaders, like Silas and Timothy, are raised up and equipped, and more churches can be planted. It’s also not hard to imagine the humbling effect that this disagreement between Paul and Barnabas would have had on everyone involved. Paul’s tough love probably humbled Mark and helped him to realize what a grave thing it is to abandon his missionary comrades. After seeing how seriously Paul took that, I’d venture to say that Mark probably never did such a thing again. Not only that, Barnabas’s graciousness toward Mark probably made him more grateful for the privilege and mercy of being called to the ministry of the gospel. Likewise, Paul’s emphasis on steadfast commitment likely made Barnabas more watchful and perhaps less indulgent of Mark, his cousin, and Barnabas’s emphasis on grace likely made Paul more patient and compassionate toward others in his later years.
  • Think of a sharp disagreement you have had with a fellow believer recently, ask God to humble you, so that you might not impugn sin or bad motives on the other person.
  • Pray that we would be a church that is quick to confess our sins to, and forgive, one another.
  • Pray that we would abound in love for another as a church.
  • Pray that those who are on the margins and hesitant to become members, get baptized, and/or commit fully to the church would take the step of faith to do so.
  • Thank God for the provision of Cambridge Community Center for our meeting space!

Day 3: Loving Our Neighbors
Notice, after Paul receives the vision of the man of Macedonia, he and his missionary comrades do not ask, “what are we supposed to do once we get to Macedonia?” Or “What does the Macedonian man mean by ‘help us,’ what do they need help with?” No, they already know the answer. Their greatest need is salvation. The help they need is the help of those who preach the good news of Jesus Christ. And that is our mission also: to proclaim the good news of Jesus as we are led by the Spirit of Jesus. The Christian life is all about Jesus. Because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. Because there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Because Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead. Because He alone can offer forgiveness of sins. Because He alone promises eternal life and resurrection of the body. Frederick Buechner, an American novelist and theologian, once famously said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” For Christians, our deepest gladness is Jesus Christ, our Savior, and the world’s deepest hunger is for Jesus Christ. Proclaiming Jesus is precisely where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meets. How can we orient our lives around this mission? Are you willing to drop what you’re doing, to lose what you value, in order to pursue this calling?
  • Pray that we would not be complacent as a church, that we would not lose sight of our Great Commission from the Lord.
  • Pray that God would send out more laborers into the harvest, both here and abroad, especially, this month, for Thailand, a nation we have been praying for throughout August.
  • Pray by name for your unbelieving family members, friends, and neighbors. Pray that you might be filled with the Holy Spirit to bear bold witness to Jesus.
  • Pray that the Spirit of God would direct our church as we plan outreaches, evangelize, and send missionaries. Pray for the Spirit’s leading for Bailey, Mariah, and Mattea, as they take steps toward full-time, foreign missions work.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

Leave us a note or prayer request and we'll get back to you!

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search