Summary: How does the church serve God and seek His will? How do we hear His voice for our present day needs? Certainly scripture is the primary tool to know God's will, but how we apply it takes wisdom and Spirit led help. How do we discover those?
The Church in Antioch – the first place where the disciples were called Christians – was a team building church. Earlier in Acts 11 we hear of how this church began and how the gospel began to spread outside the borders of Israel into the Gentile world as certain brave souls began preaching the gospel to Gentiles as well as Jews. God was opening the door and this shift in evangelism rocked the church all over. The news reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas to investigate. Good ole Barnabas! When he came he saw the grace of God and joined in with them. As the group grew he sees the need to build team leadership and he goes to Tarsus to get Saul.
Acts 13 begins with a list of names. Look at this team of prophets and teachers! I can’t help but think of the team of leaders and workers God has brought together here at Signal Mountain! God has brought together many gifted and talented members right here in this church!
What was this team in Antioch doing?
Look at the first part of verse 2. It says that they were ministering to the Lord and fasting. Perhaps you have “worshiping the Lord and fasting.” What is going on here? They are getting God’s attention!
I heard an illustration about a 5 year old praying at dinner. He said, “Thank-you God for the pancakes.” His parents were puzzled because they were having chicken! When the boy finished praying his dad asked, “Son, why did you thank God for pancakes?” The little boy just smiled and said, “I thought I’d see if he was paying attention tonight.”
Well, here in Acts 13 we may not know why they are fasting or what exactly is going on, but we know one thing: This church at Antioch has God’s attention.
That’s exciting to realize. Because when you have God’s attention and God’s favor you can do great things for the kingdom. I believe we here at Signal Mountain have God’s attention! Just look at what he has done among us! Think of the blessing of growth we have enjoyed and the wonderful workers he has brought to this church! You are a part of a congregation that has God’s attention today! And that means to me that it’s time to pray and get ready for a greater calling! We must prepare ourselves for what God wants for us by prayer and… can I say it? Fasting!
The book of Acts is filled with prayers. As we studied last week in Acts 12 about how Peter was delivered in answer to the prayers of the church. Now here in chapter 13 God will use a praying group of prophets and teachers to begin a work that will further change the world for Jesus. It is through people like this that God works to turn the world upside down for Christ.
Again… in the church at Antioch, they are not just praying, but they are praying AND FASTING. This second element of fasting is mentioned in Acts for the first time right here. Why is it mentioned? What makes this important for us? Well, I’m glad you asked!
This second element of seeking God, not just through prayer, but also through fasting seems to have been an intensifying element. It demonstrated a more serious and searching attitude. It seems that there are some in the church today that are just not very serious about who they are and what God calls them to do and be. Some seem to have forgotten that “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.” May we never go there!
This church in Antioch gives us a great model of dedication, one that we would do well to follow. But fasting? This is a foreign thing to many of us today.
In the Bible people fasted for many reasons:
For sickness- King David fasted and prayed for his dying son (whom Bathsheba bore), saying, “Perhaps God will have mercy.” It was a serious attempt to beg for God’s blessing for sickness.
For forgiveness- Daniel is a great example of one who fasted and prayed not just for forgiveness for his own sins but for the sins of the nation. We would do well to heed his example today.
When seeking God’s protection- Esther and Nehemiah are great examples for this.
When preparing for ministry- Jesus in the wilderness, appointing elders (Acts 14:23)
When seeking guidance- Here in Acts 13
We don’t talk about fasting much today. We need to rediscover the blessing of getting closer to God for guidance and strength through prayer and fasting.
As the church here grows and gains more talented members we need more and more to realize God’s attention and receive his guidance!