Covered: Acts 2-9
Scripture Memory: Guilt – Proverbs 28:13 // 2 Corinthians 7:10
I don’t know about you, but I am jacked up coming out of our readings about the Resurrection! The Resurrection of Jesus is the single-most-important event the world has ever known. Everything we believe as Jesus followers hinges on this one event because it not only validated who Jesus is, but it also solidified His victory over death that we get to participate in if we say YES to Him.
Apparently, I am not the only one who got excited about the Resurrection, because in our reading this week we saw the birth of the local church! Peter and his posse (after being filled with the Holy Spirit – see Acts 2:1-4) went out preaching in the city of Jerusalem and the first day over 3,000 people were saved. It was crazier than (the real – stop it Clemson) Death Valley on Saturday nights.
Well even though there were a lot of people who were incredibly excited about and energized by the move of the Holy Spirit across Jerusalem, there were also some very upset people – the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Sanhedrin – religious leaders who had the Romans put Jesus to death. When they start to hear about the growth of “The Way” (what Christianity was called in the early days) and what Peter (and his posse) was preaching, they begin to devise a plan to shut them down.
This all culminated one day when Peter and John healed a man who was handicapped from birth and then began teaching in the Temple (Acts 3). The religious leaders arrested Peter and John and took them to the high priest to stand trial. When the high priest asked them by what power they did the miracle, Peter who was full of the Holy Spirit responded, “It is by the name of Jesus that this man was healed – for salvation can be found in no other name under heaven” (Acts 4:12 paraphrased). The court was astonished by Peter’s boldness because they recognized he and John were uneducated fisherman, but it caused them to notice that these men had been with Jesus. After much discussion the court decided that since the man had indeed been healed, they could not hold Peter and John in prison, so they threatened them and commanded them to never speak the name of Jesus again and kicked them out.
Peter and John headed back to where all their people were located and shared with them what happened. Now, this is where I want to insert what I would’ve done next. I would’ve started to make plans to head to Mexico (or Egypt for their location), hired a bunch of guys who looked like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in black suits and earpieces, rented a bunch of black escalades, and straight-up gotten out of town. My life had just been spared, and there would be no way I was about to put it back in jeopardy.
But thankfully, Peter and John didn’t respond how I would have responded – they prayed. But they didn’t pray for safety, deliverance, security, death of the court, etc. they prayed for boldness. Look at Acts 4:23-31 ->
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. (Acts 4:23-31 NIV)
Are you kidding me? Boldness? I think what they had just done in the court setting was pretty dang bold in and of itself. What in the world are these guys talking about?
Peter and John understood the urgency of the Gospel message, the imminent threat in front of them, and the overwhelming nature of their own fear. So what did they do? They prayed for boldness to overcome the obstacle. Look back at verse 23-28. Peter and John knew how big their God was, so they prayed an incredibly big and risky prayer. And as we read the rest of the book of Acts, we see God answered their prayer – probably in a greater way than Peter and John ever even imagined.
So, what is there for us to learn from Peter and John in this passage?
I believe it’s that we need to remember how big our God is and how big our prayers should be. We serve THE Creator God of the universe – who did all what was described in 23-28 and who made everything by just speaking. Yet…we pray incredibly small prayers. I honestly believe God is waiting for us to ask big things of Him! He tells us in Ephesians 3 that He has immeasurably more planned for us, yet our prayers sound something like this -> “God help the sick.” “God give us safe travel.” “God, I ask for a hedge of protection around my friends and family.” Are we serious? I mean, what in the world is a hedge of protection anyway?
We serve an unfathomably HUGE God who loved us enough to send His own Son to die to make us right with Him, yet we pray as if He’s limited. I don’t know about you, but even if God answered all of my prayers, the world wouldn’t really change much. A couple people would be healed, I’d be better at golf, my wife’s school would be free, and we would be safe. That’s about it.
As I read this passage, I can just hear God speaking the words of James 4:3 -> “You don’t have anything because you haven’t asked Me for anything!” (Paraphrase) “Ask Me! I have this ‘abundantly more’ that I am just waiting to give to you, you simply have to ask.” (Paraphrase) God is waiting for us to ask Him to reveal Himself to our world.
Can you imagine what might happen in our world if we began to pray like Peter and John? If we truly began to pray big prayers to our Big God? If we began to pray for boldness, for the courage to act, for a spiritual awakening, for the opportunity to share Jesus with those in our lives who don’t know Him, for _____________.
Can you imagine what might happen if we prayed this way? When Peter and John did, the world was never the same. ………………………………..
Written by: Andrew Bates
Photo Credit: Will Van Wingerden