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.
BE BOLD, BE STRONG!
In Wednesday’s devotional we noted how when the Spirit of God gets moving and the good news of the gospel is taking root, that one of the outcomes up this is opposition. In our reading from Wednesday it was described for us the reaction to the liberation of a man who had been lame for 40 years. Some rejoiced, but others, those of the religious leadership did not rejoice but rather had Peter and John arrested and threatened and told them just stop speaking in the name of Jesus.
Today’s reading answers the question “How does the Community of Jesus respond to threats and opposition?”
Stop Reading for a moment and pause to think about how you answer that question. How do you respond in moments of threat and opposition, how ought Jesus’ followers to respond? Do you have your answer?
Read on …
We notice in our reading today what the early community of Jesus did.
They gathered together … “went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. ” Acts 4:23
They prayed together … “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” Acts 4:24
That is Christian Fellowship in action.
Let us observe a few things about their prayer that may just instruct us about our praying too.
Notice they begin with acknowledging their surrender to God’s purposes and not the threats of the Sanhedrin and council. “Sovereign Lord,” they prayed. A term or title in which they acknowledge that they are subject to a higher authority and they will obey God rather than humans. Further, notice that before they bring any petitions or requests to God there focus is on who God is.
1. The God of Creation: “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
2. The God of Revelation: “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant … David. The words from Psalm 2, that talks about the opposition to the Lord’s anointed are quoted, “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one."
3. The God of History: “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. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Notice even opponents of God’s way, who thought they were in charge, were not.
This was the early Church’s understanding of God, The God of creation, revelation and history. The actions of this One they worshipped are summarized by three verbs, “you made”(24), “you spoke” (25) and “you decided” (28).
Now that their attention is focused on God and who God is, they break out their petitions. Even the petitions, at least to me, are not what you would expect. I would expect a prayer for God to remove this challenge, its likely what I might pray. The petition they bring is God consider these threats, God just keep these in mind, but more than anything “enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." And, they ask God to perform “miracles of mercy,” they pray “stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Could it be that as followers of Jesus we need to be reminded and to remember that it is God’s business to heal and work signs and wonders in Jesus name? It is the community’s business to speak with boldness in the midst of God’s mighty acts.
The place, we are told, is shaken, God has answered, and once again the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and they are given boldness to declare the Gospel. There is a clear relationship declared between Worship and Witness. To quote William Willimon “in this rhythm of action and speech, witness and worship, the church discovers the source of its life.”
“How does the Community of Jesus respond to threats and opposition?”
They turn to God the creator, the God who holds all things together by his mighty power. The same power that brought the world into existence. Which enables the community to worship and who will also be with the community in its times have opposition, struggle and even persecution. It is this truth that fills us with hope and courage and a supernatural boldness.
Makes me think of Romans 8, and the Apostle Paul’s words there,
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
So often, when I face a challenging situation, my reaction is one of fear or self-reliance. The example of the disciples in this passage encourages me to seek boldness, strength, and power from the Holy Spirit alone. I am encouraged to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).