As I have mentioned in previous posts in the past, I like to read my Bible front to back. Other than when I am studying a particular topic, I like to read from Genesis to Revelation in order it has been placed. I am once again back in one of my favorite books of the Bible, the book of Acts. When I go through this book I like to take it slow and savor every word and chapter. If you haven’t done so recently, I highly recommend that you reread the complete book of Acts!
Yesterday I was reading Acts 4 and was so encouraged. The Apostles and all those present in the Upper Room had been filled with the Holy Spirit. No more would Peter be afraid to admit to being a follower of Christ as he had previous to receiving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit provided all they needed to be able to complete the work that Christ had called them to do. With the experience at Pentecost, God had equipped His children to continue to share the good news with the rest of the world, Jews and Gentiles! He also equipped them to cast out demons and heal the sick in the name of Christ.
Just prior to chapter 4, the Apostles, now filled with the Spirit, had just healed a man in the name of Jesus, who was about fourty years of age. This man had been lame right from birth. Because of the miracle, many became followers of Christ! Because of the miracle there was also a new threat of persecution. The Jewish rulers, elders and teachers were not happy to have Peter and John healing the sick and teaching about Jesus, whom they had crucified. They wanted them jailed and silenced. I couldn’t help but think of all my brothers and sisters in Christ, worldwide, who are now going through the same thing. They are being threatened with prison or death if they continue to follow Christ and share the gospel with others.
When I read the following verses I was so encouraged and blessed! When faced with the threat of persecution or death, the Holy Spirit will provide the boldness and faith any true follower of Christ will need!
Acts 4:8-31 NIV 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected,which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. 23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
I have often wondered, Lord, how exactly should we be praying when faced with opposition for our faith or for those who are enduring persecution. At times I have prayed for deliverance from the situation, I have prayed for the Lord to provide courage to endure, I have prayed for safety and I have prayed for God to intervene and stop the persecutors. However, after reading this chapter this time around I feel encouraged to now pray as Peter and John prayed. “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness! Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus!” Every follower of Christ is blessed with the gifting of the Holy Spirit! We too can call on the Lord for great boldness and signs and wonders through Christ!
God does not want us to walk in fear and trepidation when faced with opposition or persecution but wants us to call on Him in every situation and to use every situation to further His Kingdom! I am believing, just as Peter and John did, that God will hear me and give me great boldness when I cry out to Him when i am faced with opposition for my faith. I am also believing that when I intercede on behalf of my brothers and sisters suffering for the faith that God will give them great boldness! It is the same Spirit in us that raised Christ from the dead! He will provide the power His church needs to stand and be bold. The Holy Spirit is as important in the life of the church today as He was on the day of Pentecost!
Lord, You have not left us without providing all we need. You have given us the Holy Spirit to equip us for every good work that You want us to fulfill! You have given us the Holy Spirit for signs and wonders! You have given us the Holy Spirit to comfort us! Thank You for His presence in our lives! Remind us to allow Holy Spirit to move through us and teach us all things! Give us a hunger for Your Word and keep us close to You as we fulfill all that You have called each of us to do.
In the beautiful name of Jesus, Amen.