13 1 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. 2 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.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”
Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
The church was worshipping, fasting, and praying when they felt the Holy Spirit give them direction. How often do we want direction from God, yet fail to spend time in communion with God? We want answers, guidance and direction without actually seeking God. We often expect God to be on the ready with whatever we need, but we don’t spend time listening. If you want to know God’s will, seek God, not just in the moment, but in concentrated, focused time set aside for that purpose.
After hearing from God, the church sent Barnabas and Paul to Cyprus. There they encountered a Roman official seeking to know more about Jesus. But they also encountered opposition from a magician. This is important as a reminder that following God’s plan does not mean there will not be obstacles. The text makes clear this mission was from the Holy Spirit, ordained by God. The church, including Barnabas and Paul, had spent time earnestly seeing direction from God. And they received clarity. They prayed over the pair of missionaries and sent them on their journey. They were doing everything “right,” but they still encountered an opposing force. It would have been easy to give up, to question if they had heard the God correctly. Instead, Paul found confidence in his faith, strength in the Holy Spirit, and he confronted the magician head-on. He called him out for his deceit and trickery, This left the sorcerer blind and the Roman proconsul amazed.
Sometimes, we modern-day Christians want to take the easy route. We go about our lives, calling on God when we need something, and then ignoring God if the answer leads to struggle or a challenging path.
When and how do you seek God’s will? What do you do when you encounter obstacles in your path?
Wesley Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own by yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.