Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers... 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.Acts 13:1-2
The turning point in the book of Acts began with a group of Christians in the church in Antioch who are exercising the spiritual gifts that were given to them. Listed here are certain prophets and teachers; men who had the gift of prophecy, and others who had the gift of teaching. While these men were performing their gifts, busy doing what God had equipped them to do in the church, the Spirit of God spoke to them.
There are many people who are looking to God to lead them in some dramatic way. They think they must go away and hole up in a cave somewhere to commune with nature in order for God to speak. Once they get away on a mountain somewhere then he will speak in some dramatic fashion and send them back with a great sense of call. Perhaps some here have been waiting thirty or forty years for that to happen, and it has not happened yet. It's probably not going to happen at all because God does not call us that way very often. Sometimes he does, but usually his call comes when one is busy exercising his gift where he is. These men were busy employing their gifts, and, in the midst of their activity, the call of the Spirit came.
I do not know how he spoke. It may have been through a prophetic utterance of one of these prophets as they were gathered worshipping and ministering. Or it may well have been that he spoke as he speaks to many today in what we have learned to call
insistent unanimity, i.e., a deep conviction shared by everyone in the group that the Spirit of God desires a certain thing. This is often the way God works. He spoke to men who were already at work doing what they knew. You can steer a ship or a car if it is moving, but it is very difficult to steer it when it is sitting still. God loves to see people at work in what they know to do, and then he will give them further direction.
Notice also two elements of the Spirit's sovereign choice: He chose the men, and He chose the work. He said,
Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. He did not tell the church what that work was although he had told Barnabas and Saul what it would be. We do not find out what it is until we read on and see what they did. But the Spirit had spoken to these men, and had laid on them a deep concern to reach out to the world around; then he said to the church,
Now set them aside for this purpose. That is the way the call of God came in this initial thrusting out toward the uttermost parts of the earth.
Dear Father, make me an obedient follower of the strategy of the Spirit. Teach me to use my gifts in serving you and to trust that you will lead me.
Is the strategy of the Spirit the operating principle for how we observe and obey his calling? Do we serve with the expectancy that God will make clear his choosing of persons and their gifts and calling?