Today we will look at Acts 13:1-12
13:1 Now there were these prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen (a close friend of Herod the tetrarch from childhood ) and Saul. 2While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.
4So Barnabas and Saul, sent out by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5When they arrived in Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. (Now they also had John as their assistant.) 6When they had crossed over the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7who was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. The proconsul summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 8But the magician Elymas (for that is the way his name is translated) opposed them, trying to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9But Saul (also known as Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit, stared straight at him 10and said, “You who are full of all deceit and all wrongdoing, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness – will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11Now look, the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind, unable to see the sun for a time!” Immediately mistiness and darkness came over him, and he went around seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12Then when the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, because he was greatly astounded at the teaching about the Lord.
“Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.”
Paul, Barnabas and John were sent off with prayer and the laying on of hands, that part does not seem unusual to me. We often to the same for missionaries or other workers in God’s kingdom. What surprises me is that they fasted. I would normally fast when I am seeking God’s direction, not afterwards. Why is that? Could it be that I think I have to somehow pay a price before God will stoop to speak to me? Do I think I have to somehow earn my way into God’s favor or somehow attract his attention? If so I am dead wrong.
A gift of focus and sacrifice as an offering of thanksgiving is really the more appropriate way of behaving. I can’t earn any favor before God, but if he calls and sends me out, that is an opportune time to give thanks.
I do not think that I actually thought that I could earn favor with God by my fasting or anything else that I have done, and I don’t want to suggest that it is wrong to fast when seeking him. Those are good and healthy practices. Just don’t fall into the tempting train of thought that we are earning his favor or catching his attention in some way by doing so. The best we can achieve at those moments is to focus our thoughts on him so we can hear him speak.
In his thankful service.