Since we finished our chronological reading of the Bible a couple of weeks ago, I have picked up my personal study of the book of Acts. I just finished Acts 4 last night so I wanted to share some thoughts about the 2 chapters and how I hope they change and shape my life. In the meantime, if you are looking for All Things New updates, please click on either of these 2 links (Business Sponsorships or Jacksonville Fundraiser) to stay up-to-date on the latest news.
I want to write this blog in a way that is not overly complicated, not overly verbose, but still communicates some thoughts about these 2 important chapters in the book of Acts. For that reason, I am going to use bullet points a lot to communicate. Let’s start with the 3 big events that happened in these 2 chapters:
- Peter and John healed a man who had been crippled for over 40 years.
- Because of this healing and their subsequent description of how the healing took place, Peter and John were imprisoned.
- After 1 night in prison, they were released and were able to go back to their friends to figure out how the church should move forward under these conditions. (The main condition I am referring to is the fact that they were arrested and jailed simply for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ)
This is definitely an oversimplification of what the 2 chapters tell us, but please feel free to pick up a Bible and read these 2 chapters to more fully understand what is going on. Anyway, this is a description of the basic narrative in the passage, so let me break it down a little bit more and compare the way these things were handled to how “we” most likely would have handled them. What “we” probably would have done will be subheading “1” and what John and Peter and the early church actually did will be subheading “2”.
- The Healing.
- If I were able to perform this type of healing miracle, I would make sure everyone around knew about my capabilities. I would give glory to GOD and make sure everyone knew that the power was from Him, but at the same time I would make sure that people knew I was His instrument. It is kind of like small group prayer request time. We really want people to pray for situations, but at the same time we want to gossip and make sure everyone else knows what we know. I would become famous, and while my hope would be that GOD would be glorified, I would ensure that my name was in lights and headlining events.
- Peter and John immediately turned the entire discussion to Jesus Christ. They did not take one shred of the credit but forced everyone there to see where their power truly came from. In fact, instead of trying to make friends and become famous, they told the powerful religious and political leaders that they killed the man, Jesus, who gave them the power to do these things. Not only did they not seek after fame or power for themselves, they did things to ensure that they received absolutely no credit at all. They did and said things to ensure that GOD received all of the credit at the expense of their very freedom.
- Peter and John’s Imprisonment.
- If I were imprisoned for healing a man and then presenting the Gospel, I would immediately try to get word out that I was being treated unfairly. How could anyone see what I did and then throw me in jail? I would get the word out on social media, through my friends, and I would do whatever possible to be released. The Gospel would become secondary and the lack of fairness in my circumstance would become the number 1 aspect of my story. When the political leaders told me that all I had to do was stop proclaiming the Gospel, I would have jumped at the chance to not have to be in prison anymore or face the political opposition that was clearly in my future. In fact, if I had been commanded by these men to stop, I probably would have just said “ok.” Anything to get me out of prison and on with the rest of my life.
- Peter and John immediately give glory to GOD! In fact, as soon as the leaders ask them whose authority they are under, they tell them Jesus Christ, but they do not stop there. They actually say, the man you killed, Jesus, has since raised from the dead and He is the source of our authority. Then, when these same men tell them to stop, they basically just say no! Can you imagine that? They are actually in court, for their freedom, and they are given a simple task. Basically if they stop proclaiming the gospel everything goes back to normal and they say no! But they don’t stop with a simple “no,” they tell the leaders that they can decide what they would do, listen to men or listen to God. They were released in the end because the leaders could not figure out how to punish them, but they did not go away quietly.
- Peter and John’s Release and Subsequent Meeting with the Church.
- After my release, I am going back to my friends and my church and we are going to sit down for a strategy meeting. We would come up with a mission, a vision, and then a plan to implement it so that this same thing would never happen again. It may be running, it may be a marketing campaign against the corrupt leaders, or even a plan to move forward secretly and out of sight of the political and religious leaders. Don’t you always feel better after you have a plan? I know I do. I love when I see a problem, strategize with other intelligent people, and come up with a plan that I just know will work!
- As soon as Peter and John were released, they told the early church what happened, and do you know what they did…THEY PRAYED! Immediately and fervently, they lifted up their voices together in prayer to GOD. They were in an emergency situation where action was needed because they were truly in danger. So they performed the only and best action that was available to them…They prayed! They prayed together in one voice and the lifted up their GOD as the only GOD in the universe. The creator of the world who truly controlled everything, and they asked for boldness to preach the Word. They did not ask for protection or wisdom on when to move (true wisdom is immediately moving when and where GOD calls us), they simply asked for boldness and power. They knew what they were supposed to do and they knew when they were supposed to do it (just like we do most of the time if we are honestly seeking GOD). They just needed the boldness and courage to do it. And guess what…they got it. In fact, just to make sure they knew He was listening, GOD physically moved the place where they were meeting and they were all filled (not for the first time, just a renewal of the filling of the Holy Spirit they received when the came to know Christ) with the Holy Spirit and their request for boldness was granted.
The truth is, I am not sure how I would have responded in this situation. I hope I would have responded differently than I what I wrote above, but I really don’t know. I do know that these men were in a tough situation and they were somehow able to put their trust in GOD no matter what. There are, however, some principles that I pray guide my life in light of what GOD showed me in these passages:
- How can I do whatever is necessary for more people hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what the cost!
- This was the overarching goal of the early church and the Apostles specifically.
- How can this be the goal of my life as well?
- When challenges arise, prayer is my most powerful weapon!
- Having a vision and a mission and having strategy and planning sessions are very important. But they should not guide my ministry, my church, or my life. These things should all be secondary to me falling on my knees in prayer and should come as an overflow of these times. As an analytical, logical thinker I struggle with this idea from time to time and my go to is problem-solving rather than prayer. I am still trying to learn how to turn this around.
- GOD listens to our prayers and provides us with boldness and power!
- No matter how difficult the situation, GOD is in charge and he will provide us with what we need.