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Out Of The Comfort Zone

Acts 11:19-21
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. (NIVUK)

Stephen's martyrdom was not a tragedy; it was all part of God's plan (Acts 8:4). The new believers realised that they were no longer safe in Jerusalem: the honeymoon of the church was over (Acts 2:47). Friends and relatives could not be trusted, and the religious police (organised by Saul) imprisoned people who trusted in Jesus (Acts 8:3). But the uncomfortable disruption experienced by the church was part of God's plan to bring the gospel to the world.

As the believers moved their families out of the city, many made their way to the more cosmopolitan coast or to the island of Cyprus. Wherever they went, they took the gospel with them (Acts 8:35). Perhaps, when they were asked, "Why have you come here?", they may have replied, "We believe in Jesus but some of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, who crucified Him, also want to silence us". And so Jesus became a topic of conversation in the towns they fled to. As almost all of them were Jews, they wanted to worship in the local synagogue: there, they also taught about Jesus.

Some of the refugees had originally been born in Cyprus or Cyrene in Libya and were used to being on the move. They decided to go to Antioch in Syria (now Antakya in central southern Turkey). In that city, bustling with merchants from many countries, they spoke about Jesus to Greek-speaking Gentiles. Soon, it became a fruitful mission field. Many people believed and a sizeable church congregation was formed. Later it became the mission-sending centre (Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:26-28) which eventually reached out into what is now Turkey, Greece and Italy; and probably further.

God knows what He is doing. He allows our discomfort, in order to bring the comfort of Jesus to people who do not know Him. He moves us from where we are settled, to a strange place, because He wants to build His kingdom there. He moves His message by moving His messengers. Sometimes they move through threat of persecution, sometimes because they know He is calling them. Our time on earth is very short: it is not only our preparation time before being with Him for eternity, but also the opportunity for us to introduce other people to Him. So when you face that next job, relocation, business trip, holiday or disrupted travel plan … realise that the Lord is also sending you on a mission. Talk about Jesus and let Him draw the people you meet into His kingdom.

Father God. Thank You for the people who You sent to tell me about Jesus, and those who have helped me to grow in obedience to You. Forgive me for the times I have resented my change of circumstances and failed to see that Your hand was upon me to be a gospel-messenger and witness for Jesus. Please help me to be ready and willing to be Your servant wherever I go, for whatever reason. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams