Throughout history the church has faced persecution: Christians thrown to wild animals, crucified, turned into human torches, and tortured in all the cruel ways evil men could devise. Instead of destroying the church, however, persecution merely served to purify and strengthen it.
Today, the church in America is rarely faced with physical persecution. Satan’s attacks have become much more subtle, aimed at our selfish pride, need for acceptance, or status. In fact, letting believers live self-centered, complacent, worldly lives is much more effective in keeping people from the Christian faith than killing them. Acts 4, 5, 7, 8, and 12 record persecutions in the early church.
We read again that the holy heavies were “greatly disturbed” that the apostles were telling people about Jesus and many were believing! So they toss Peter & John in jail. The next day the question them and Peter & John basically tell ‘em that THEY (these religious leaders) are the ones who killed the only source of salvation! So these holy heavies tell ‘em to stop talking about Jesus, to which they basically reply “we can’t!” And not only that, but they pray, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” In other words, were not stopping no matter how rough it gets! How awesome is that?!~
I love verse 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.” Yeah – they were buffoons, but because they spent time with Jesus, He transformed them!
Verses 32-37 are another reflection of the amazing, sacrificial devotion & unity in the church already discussed in 2:42-47. They mention a guy named Joseph who was part of this community. Apparently he had such a reputation that they called him Barnabas – Son of encouragement! That wasn’t his name, but that’s what they called him because it defined him!
*Are you being persecuted for your faith? It should come as no surprise, Jesus warned us to expect it (Jn 15:18-20, 2 Tim 3:12, 1 Peter 2:21). The real issue is how are we responding? Often times when we are told we can’t talk about Jesus, either at school or in the workplace, we just don’t because we don’t want to get in trouble. But there are times when we must respond like Peter & John who declared, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Could there be consequences? Yes. But the rewards for faithfulness to God in eternity far outweigh them. Twice I was asked to speak on career day at my son’s school. It was me, the policemen & the firemen – I love it! Each time I shared the Gospel of Jesus and handed out Bibles to each kid! They asked me to be there and tell them what I do and so I did - in KISD! Was I a bit nervous about what consequences I might face? Ummmm………………..more like freaked out! But I prayed & went for it. And I say to you too – PRAY & GO FOR IT!
*How’s transformation going in your life? Verse 13 gives me hope because it is proof that God can do a lot with not much! But it WILL mean spending time with Jesus! This “260 in 2012” is meant to help us do that. As our relationships with Jesus grow, more & more transformation will take place!
*When was the last time you were “Joe Encourager” to someone? As I meet with students & parents I am amazed at how many hurts there are, and how far a kind word or an encouraging remark will go. Call, text, email, fb, or write someone right now and encourage them! Do it! And hey, maybe you’ll get some back as well!!!