19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 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.
21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea.30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Today our devotional is a prayer that incorporates truths about God’s character and love that we see displayed in Scripture. This prayer is based on Acts 11:19-30.
God, As we think back on the persecution of believers in the first century, we are reminded to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who suffer persecution today. As they seek to share the good news with those around them, give them boldness, protection, and endurance. Please provide them access to Your Holy Word and if they have been rejected by family and friends, please give them new Christian “family” to support and encourage them.
In light of Your generosity to us, help us to give freely of our gifts to help them, remembering the words of our Lord Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Even though we may not be persecuted for our faith, we do identify with suffering. Sometimes, we cannot understand why You allow persecution and suffering in the lives of Your children, but we do cling to Your promises that You will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Give us fortified faith in suffering that trusts in Your goodness and Your power, even if it isn’t displayed in the ways we see fit.
Encourage our hearts with the example from Scripture today where we see that, in light of the persecution, the gospel was spread and a great number of people believed.
When we cannot see the bigger picture, help us to trust in You as our strong tower, our righteous Father, and our constant Friend.
Root in our lives the evidence of Your grace, so that we might be full of the Holy Spirit and of faith and follow in the footsteps of Christ, our namesake as Christians. Amen.
For more on how to pray for and support the persecuted church, visit The Voice of the Martyrs website (www.persecution.com or www.icommittopray.com) and reference the article “How to Pray for the Persecuted Church”.