The Grace of God Uses Suffering
In other words, the good news about Jesus Christ came to Antioch because of persecution. Barnabas saw this and called it the grace of God, and it made him glad. God’s grace becomes visible when it makes the anguish of persecution a means of spreading the good news of Jesus.
If anything is clear from the Bible it is this: the grace of God does not spare his people suffering in this age, but rather uses suffering to bring people to himself. The Son of God himself suffered to save people from condemnation. And now he turns suffering again and again for our good both in this age and in the age to come.
God’s Grace Among Koreans in the 1930s
God has been showing his grace in our own time the same way he did in Acts. For example, in the 1930s thousands of Koreans fled what is now North Korea when the Japanese invaded. Many of them settled in the USSR around Vlapostok. Many of them were Christians and so by the suffering of the Koreans the gospel of Jesus was being carried into central USSR. But the grace of God was just beginning to be visible.
Joseph Stalin saw the Koreans around Vlapostok as a security risk to the weapons manufacturing center. So he relocated them to five areas around the Soviet Union, spreading the Christians even farther into the Muslim areas of the USSR (just like the persecuted Christians that went to Antioch).
One of the places they were sent was to Tashkent the center of the 20,000,000 Muslim Uzbek people who had violently resisted western efforts to bring Christianity. Over the next decades these Koreans became an accepted part of Uzbek society. Then, with Glasnost and Perestroika, on June 2, 1990, the first open air Christian meeting in the history of Soviet Central Asia happened. God used this meeting to awaken the Korean Christians especially, and the upshot was that the decades of acceptance by the Muslim Uzbeks and Kazaks has allowed the spread of good news about Jesus far more widely than it could have with merely western influence.
In other words, the grace of God was at work in all this. God hasn’t changed. This is the same grace of God that used persecution to get good news from Jerusalem Jews to Antioch Gentiles.