What do you fear most about the future? Sometimes I fear growing old. I’m glad I got the whole going bald thing out of the way already, so I guess that’s one less aging issue to deal with.
Sometimes I fear technology. Maybe I’ve watched one too many movies but Skynet doesn’t seem as far fetched as it used to. On a serious note one of the things I fear is the direction our culture is heading. I’ve lost sleep over it. What will things be like in 10 years? What will things be like when my kids are trying to live for Jesus in 30 years? I don’t feel so bold in those moments. The temptation is there to water down my faith. The temptation is there to stop engaging culture and hide. In this series of blogs so far we’ve established that we can’t water down our message and we can’t stop engaging culture. We’ve seen in Scripture that we must obey God rather than men. We’ve seen clearly why we must obey God rather than men. Obeying God rather than man protects us from the brokenness that comes from doing what is right in our own eyes.
You may be thinking “that sounds great and all Doug, but I’m scared to death to do that. I don’t know how that’s going to work! I can’t promise that no matter what, I’m going to obey God rather than men.” Well if that’s how you’re feeling I don’t think you’re alone in that! In this blog we’re going to talk about what to do when you’re afraid to boldly follow Jesus. As we talked about in blog 2, Peter and John were imprisoned for healing a blind man in Jesus’ name and for preaching about Jesus. If you recall, the leaders told them that they must stop talking about this “Jesus” guy. Their response was, “We must obey God rather than men.” The leaders that had arrested him didn’t like that answer. They threatened Peter and John and then released them.
Now we’re going to catch up with them right after that conversation and find out how they would respond. Would they water down their message? Would they run and hide from culture?
Acts 4 23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
So this is a huge, huge deal! Can you imagine if a few of the pastors from your church had been arrested for talking about Jesus and were told not to do it again? Can you imagine seeing them for the first time the church was gathered again after their release. Everyone would be wondering what they were going to say. Everyone would be wondering what their advice would be. That’s exactly what the church in this story must have been going through. They must have wondered if Peter and John were going to say they should water down the message? Were they going to say they should stop mentioning Jesus so much? Should they stop engaging culture? Should they be angry at the people who did this? Should they just give up on God altogether?
I wonder if Peter and John were also wondering some things. How are the people going to react? Will they be scared to be Christians in this city? Will they back down? Will they water down the message? Will they give up on God? I’m guessing there’s a lot of uncertainty and some fear in the air. So what is their response to being imprisoned and threatened?
24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.
They prayed. They weren’t going to water the message down. They weren’t going to stop engaging culture. They weren’t going to give up on God. They were going to pray.
Now you may be thinking – Doug didn’t we already talk about this? In the first blog you told us we should pray. But what I want you to see here is what they prayed for. It’s probably very different than what you and I would think to pray for. You and I would pray for safety and protection. You and I would pray that the threats would stop. You and I would pray that we’d stay out of jail. And I honestly think there’s nothing wrong with praying for any of those things. But these people prayed for something better. What did they pray for? They prayed for two things. The first things they asked for we see in verse 29:
29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
The first thing they prayed for was boldness.
This is great because it shows there was a part of them that wasn’t bold! That’s why they’re praying for boldness! If they weren’t afraid or tempted to water things down they wouldn’t have had to pray for boldness. These guys understand the temptation to back down and give up. Rather than hiding their struggle they are just real! They say, “God consider their threats! They are saying they are going to imprison us again! They are saying we can’t talk about Jesus! God – give us boldness!”
You and I may not be put in prison for talking about Jesus. But we’re certainly being told we need to quiet down. We need to water things down. For some of us it’s costing relationships. For some of us our jobs may be threatened. I know first hand several people who have been told they aren’t allowed to talk about Jesus in work settings. Now I’m not saying we defy our bosses and get on our desk and start preaching. But I am saying, we need to pray for boldness. We can respect our bosses wishes and still be bold when we’re with our friends after work. We can be a light to our neighbors and family members. I just wonder what would happen if all the Christians in the world regularly prayed for boldness. So boldness is the first thing they ask for, then they pray this:
30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Here’s the second thing they pray for in the midst of their culture turning on them. They ask God to do miracles! They ask God to do things that will make it so clear that God is God that no one can deny it. They know that if people see the real, genuine power of God they will turn to Jesus. The real, genuine, power of God messes with people. It’s the craziest thing. It takes doubters and skeptics and turns them into believers or at the very least intrigues them to look into God.
Often in the Bible we see people who want nothing to do with God then experience Him for themselves and then do a 180. We also see that when people who hate God and are ready to imprison or kill Christians see a miracle they just don’t know what to make of it. In fact, the guy that was healed by Peter and John had this affect on the leaders that wanted to kill and imprison them. Look at what verses 21 and 22 say – these are the verses right before the ones we just read:
Acts 4 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.
So God doing this miracle made people praise God and left the leaders who were against the Christians unsure of what to do. They wanted to punish them but what could they do? All the people knew this guy who had been lame and begging for decades! So they prayed for boldness and miracles. That’s where their focus was. Then we see what happened:
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.
God responded! God answered their prayers! They had an instant miracle of God literally shaking the place and filling them with the Holy Spirit and they received boldness.
Why did God shake the place? This is just a guess but maybe He shook the place to say – “who do you know that can shake a building? What person that you know can do that? Don’t fear people. I’m with you and I’m big.” So what does this all mean? What should we do in response to these verses? I think it all comes down to this thought: To impact our culture, pray for boldness and miracles. God will respond! He will give us the boldness we need and He will do great miracles in order to show people who He is.
Don’t shrink back in fear. Don’t water down the message. Don’t stop engaging culture. To impact our culture, pray for boldness and miracles.