Mission versus Permission
“1 But as the believers[a] rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). 6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.
7 So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.” Acts 6:1-7 NLT (emphasis mine)
Throughout the Gospels, it seems like Satan tries to attack the church from the outside. Religious leaders (like those who crucified Jesus), Pharisees (those who sought to trap Jesus), government leaders (like Herod who tried to have Jesus killed as a baby), and the list goes on and on.
In the book of Acts, the church is starting to grow and Satan tries a new tactic (or maybe not so new as he often did this with Israel in the past). Instead of attacking the church from the outside, he tries to divide the church from within.
Verse 1 says, “…there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.”
David Guzik observes from these verses, “Satan loves to use an unintentional wrong to begin a conflict. The Greek-speaking believers were right in their hearts, and the Hebrew-speaking believers were right in their facts. These are the perfect conditions for a church-splitting conflict!”
In Acts, when Satan tried to divide the church from within, I find it interesting that God Himself did not speak. Rather He allowed His chosen leaders to have an “idea”. Being in church leadership I have been advised numerous times by very well intentioned believers, “be careful only to do what God is leading you to do”, or “pray about it and do only as He says.”
Here is my unedited response. “What if He doesn’t say anything? What if I don’t hear from Him? It is not that I am not spending quite time with Jesus or doing my devotions, but sometimes, I just don’t hear God give me an audible answer or even a prompting on my heart. I spend great amounts of time in prayer, fasting, and still He remains silent. What now?”
Acts teaches me today not to over-spiritualize things. The disciples went through a time when they had some internal challenges in the church and God didn’t say anything either. So what did they do? Here it is; the formula for the Acts 2 church as they had conflict bubbling up from within.
“2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” Verses 2-4.
Is that it? They came up with an idea that sounded good, and they tried it! What if it failed? Did they not hear from God? He didn’t speak. What would they do next? Come up with another good idea and try that! They would have to keep on doing that until God supported their decision and blessed it.
Sometimes I can over-spiritualize things and want God to speak into every hard decision I make. The reality is that sometimes He does not speak and I must be creative and come up with my own ideas. Does that mean I am following my own will over God’s? No. Does that mean I am not hearing from my Lord? Not necessarily. If I fail, I need to try again. If it goes well, God’s message will continue to spread. I think the apostles understood that they needed a MISSION from God, more than they needed PERMISSION from God.
Jesus gave them their mission earlier. “19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)
Did they need permission for every decision they made? No. Instead what they needed to do was to keep their MISSION on their hearts and do their best to accomplish that.
Too many times I end up seeking PERMISSION from God and He wants me to know that I don’t need PERMISSION, because He has already given me a MISSION to accomplish.
Lord You give wisdom by allowing me to learn from decisions I make. You teach me dependence on You by allowing me to function on my own wisdom and learning how insufficient that really is. Thank You for PERMISSION to fulfill the MISSION You have already given. Amen.