11:27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Acts is in a sense the painting of a picture. The painter is the Spirit of God. The portrait is the character of God. The canvas is His people. The book opens by painting the Spirit onto the canvas of His people. Added to the Spirit is boldness, a boldness rooted in love. A boldness that refuses to give up on others regardless of the personal cost. At first this loving boldness is restricted but the Spirit of God keeps painting. Added to boldness and love is the growing realization that no man is common or unclean. This realization was rooted in the seeds that Jesus planted. Prompted by His Spirit and clarified by visions they remembered that Jesus never played favourites. They remembered that He crossed borders and knocked down walls of prejudice and division. Suddenly the canvas reflected the impartiality of Jesus. Suddenly the message began spreading not only geographically but across cultures and colours and genders.
Now the Spirit is again adding to the canvas in two ways. The gift of prophecy is growing in the church. It seems the wave began in Judea and they too are travelling out across the map. One of these who has the gift of hearing messages from God and sharing them with His people is Agabus. He has been given a specific message. A famine is coming that will impact the world.
The response in Antioch is swift and amazing. Though affected by the famine themselves and historically victims of Jewish racism and prejudice they gather relief and send it with Saul and Barnabas to Judea. Not only is the church growing numerically and geographically, it is becoming more and more like Jesus. To Spirit filled, bold, and impartial is being added self-sacrificing generosity even for their "enemies".
How different might the news stories be and the world be if the character of Jesus were more vibrantly painted on the canvas of those who profess to be His in our day! If the west were known for sending relief to those in need instead of exploiting the world to maintain our high standard of living. If we were known for bold love, and impartiality. If we were truly filled with His Spirit and had a living connection with heaven. Instead we lead the world in domestic violence, in drug abuse, in pornography production and consumption etc...
How we have fallen from grace. How desperately we need to be painted again. If I am learning anything from Acts it is that His people then had many issues as we do but they were growing to become more like Him while we seem to be shrinking and becoming less like Him. They began by waiting on Him. Perhaps we need to humbly wait on Him as well.