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Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, and Missions Collide // God rewrites our stories

#2- God rewrites our stories

How Jesus chooses and trains young leaders is profoundly important to the Antioch story and it is important to what God is doing across the earth as He is raising up Antioch Sending Centers”. These communities of prayer and worship are the “greenhouses” where God is cultivating laborers for the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the promise of the global harvest. There are leadership lessons that every young leader must learn if they are going to carry the weight of the much fruit that God intends to display through their lives for His glory.

Jesus is looking for something dynamically different than the world is looking for in leadership potential. Men are enamored with giftedness, intelligence, charisma, skill, and strength. Jesus is looking for purity, love, humility, and a willing spirit. Our destiny and assignments are dynamically affected by how we respond in the grace of God to Jesus’ leadership in every season of the journey. In this school of leadership there is promotion and demotion, fruit and pruning, favor and testing. Each season is an invitation to greater intimacy with Him and authority in the Spirit. He is forming leaders to be able to carry the weight of what He wants to release on the earth in the generation of His return. Each promotion and each test is sovereignly orchestrated by the Lord to address the deep issues of pride, ambition, fear and carnal wisdom that is currently operating in our souls that we cannot fully see outside of His help. Jesus is a tender leader, he walks with us gently. He does not show us the sin issues hindering our destiny all at once. Instead, He leads us through seasons, allowing us to cooperate with Him in grace. In the tests of delay and promotion, Jesus pries our grip off of what we imagined the fulfillment of the promises over our lives would look like so that we don’t reject the promise when it comes. In the delay, Jesus addresses the levels of our identity and self- confidence that are wrapped up in what our “dreams” and our “callings” are supposed to look like so we can be useful in stewarding what he actually wants to release. He breaks down all the confidence in what we think qualifies us and produces a brokenness that is a sweet fragrance to God. Many of you have already taken a few courses in this leadership school and know full well what I am speaking about.

Jesus is more committed to our destiny than we are.

He is currently developing the wisdom, humility and love you need to actually steward the fullness of the anointing and favor He wants to give you. If we remain unoffended at His ways, even when they seem contrary to our good and opposite from the prophetic promises given to us, we graduate each season. Soon we come to realize that the fulfillment of the promises are never like what we imagined and the fruit of obedience is not our primary reward, it is actually the intimacy we experience with Jesus on the journey that deeply satisfies us. He is our reward.

Jesus prepares apostolic vessels in the fiery furnace of delay. Those who won’t turn to the right or the left emerge as voices.

Peter declares to us that, if necessary, fiery trials are part of Jesus’ leadership over our lives to expose those hidden areas hindering our destiny. How we respond to those tests will determine how long and how often they are necessary. These fiery trials often have to do with the things that are closest to our hearts and emotions.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:6-7

Once, as a young leader, Peter had confidence in his own giftedness and zeal. He could remember firsthand what it felt like to go through Jesus’ leadership school.

Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night…” Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” – Matthew 26:31-35

Fast forward, Peter is utterly broken and quitting on his calling on the shores of the Sea of Galilee after denying Jesus three times. In his greatest hour of brokenness and need, Jesus, the tender shepherd, meets him and redeems his worst moment. Then and only then was he ready to “feed the lambs” and “tend the sheep”. Only about a month after this, Peter is standing up on the day of Pentecost, preaching with power and authority.


When God rewrites your story, He takes your worst moments and makes them the doorway into your destiny.


Here in Antioch, one verse changes all of history, “so Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Paul and he found him and brought him to Antioch.” (Acts 11:25) God, the great Author, was weaving a myriad of stories together in this one verse to bring about a historic moment. What happened in Antioch, like a earthquake in the spirit, sent shockwaves around the world that are still rippling throughout the global church today.

Without Barnabas, without Antioch, without those that were scattered, we do not get the greatest contributor to the spread of Christianity throughout the known Roman world, the majority of New Testament Epistles, our understanding of ecclesiology, missions, and Christian doctrine- we do not get the Apostle Paul. Yes, Antioch was the catalytic moment that launched the apostle Paul and therefore it stands as one of the most historic moments in church history. Before there were churches covering Asia Minor, letters written that would be read by countless men and women throughout history as inspired Scripture, there was a young anointed man with a historic calling on his life going through Jesus’ school of leadership.

God had to rewrite his story.

Barnabas went and searched for the young man, Paul, whom he had met a few years earlier in Jerusalem. Paul had all but quit. He was living back in his parents house trying to pick up the pieces of his broken life after a seemingly failed launch. Three years in the wilderness of Arabia, mistreatment by brethren, no acknowledgement by leaders, the disappearance of favor, dimming of vision for his ministry…. Not to mention everything he had was stripped away until he only has one thing left…. Jesus. The church in Jerusalem at that time did not want to associate with Paul and ended up sending him home to Tarsus. Back home in Tarsus, Paul had run out of ideas and opportunities to get his ministry up and running. He was back at his mom and dad’s house, trying to get a job as a tentmaker and trying to make sense of the last 10 years of his life.

But he was enrolled in the Lord’s leadership training program…

Barnabas finds him broken and discouraged. He was ready for one last leadership lesson from his gentle Instructor in the school of leadership. God uses even our worst moments and redeems our stories. 


The moment that Saul of Tarsus walked through the door at Antioch, God caught everyone into a glorious revelation of His divine plan and the goodness of His gentle leadership.

I don’t think we can appreciate the dynamics of this situation. The church of Antioch existed because of the persecution led by Saul against Stephen. (Acts 11:19) They were those that were scattered when they arrived in Antioch. And now, the man who was responsible for their persecution and the scattering of their families, driving them from their homes as refugees on the run for their lives, walks in the door behind Barnabas.

Antioch is where God rewrites our stories.

God brought Paul to the very place that was the consequence of his worst moment. His darkest hour- when he was a persecutor of the church and oversaw the systematic torture and imprisonment of every believer in Jerusalem- was now staring him in the face as he walked into the room.

God brought Paul to Antioch not only to launch him into his ministry but also to heal him from that orphan lie that constantly reminds him of the shame of what he has done and causes him to over compensate, over perform, and place unrealistic expectations on leaders and friends alike. He needed a father like Barnabas and a community like Antioch to walk with him as he begins to lean into a confidence that would carry him through the difficulty of his apostolic assignment. From this moment on he would know without a shadow of doubt…

Everything is Grace.

The Father doesn’t just redeem the good parts about us, He redeems even the parts we are most ashamed of and uses them for His glory. He doesn’t use us in spite of our weaknesses, He use us because of our weaknesses. He does He doesn’t choose men and women because they are talented, skilled or gifted. He uses whom He chooses and He chooses the weak things. Paul had to learn this  lesson before he could carry the kind of power and authority God intended to entrust him with.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7

Luke doesn’t give us any indicator that it took any amount of time for the leaders of the church to embrace Paul. Not only did they embrace him, but they put him in leadership in Antioch. Through their difficulty, their suffering, their displacement, and through their hardship they had too discovered something about the cross. So much so that when Paul “the former oppressor” walked through the door, they didn’t see him as the monster whose past disqualified him from his future. No, instead they hugged his neck saying, “God has redeemed our story just like He has redeemed yours”. In that moment, as the elders and families of the church in Antioch embraced him as a brother, I can imagine there were many tears as both persecutor and victim experienced the washing of the love of the Father knowing that all along– the pain, the confusion, even the weakness and sin of others was part of His divine plan, “to work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) Freedom from shame, unforgiveness, and hopelessness becomes the doorway to our destiny.

Every leader that God raises up to shepherd His people has to learn this lesson and it’s usually through much pain, brokenness, and difficulty in relationships. 

“On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses– … But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. – 2 Corinthians 12:5, 9-10

Paul could own his past, not in a condemning, self hatred or shameful way. He could own even his worst moments because they cannot disqualify him from his destiny but instead exalted the grace of Jesus. Now Paul can walk in confidence knowing that his past does not define him but only the call of God through the finished work of the cross.

Later Paul writes to Timothy, hopeful that his spiritual son would take these same classes in Jesus’ leadership school so that he too can carry the weight of being a faithful and gentle shepherd.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent… the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” – 1 Timothy 1:12-16

This is the foundational bedrock for the prophetic and praying community that sends apostolic laborers: A family who gets healed together, carries assignments together. When we say that Antioch communities launch apostolic messengers, I don’t think we have even begun to scratch the surface of what that means for the hundreds of thousands of young “Paul’s” who are right now back in their “Tarsus”, disillusioned and discouraged, sitting on world changing callings and don’t know that they are in Jesus’ leadership school. They need a Barnabas and they need an Antioch. I will tell you this, Antioch has a lot to do with God redeeming the stories of people that we don’t think are qualified to be missionaries yet. 

 

R.A. Martinez