Now when [the religious leaders] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted Church worldwide, says that on average every month 255 Christians are killed, 104 are abducted, 180 Christian women are raped, harassed, or forced into marriage, 66 churches are attacked, and 160 Christians are imprisoned without trial.1
How is it that those who persecute Christians know whom to target? It’s because the Christians are living lives that testify to their faith in Jesus Christ. They are not afraid of persecution. Instead, they manifest courage and boldness in their walk with the Lord. When they are persecuted, they do what Jesus did: “[He] committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Peter and John, in first-century Jerusalem, did the same thing. When persecuted by the religious leaders, they stood firm. It was their boldness and courage that caused the leaders to “marvel” and recognize their connection to Jesus.
In faith and practice, always imitate Jesus—especially when your faith is opposed by others.
Persecution is like the goldsmith’s hallmark on real silver and gold; it is one of the marks of a converted man. J. C. Ryle
Acts 4:1-31 – Peter and John arrested
In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. Jonah 2:2
On July 18, 1983, a US Air Force captain disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico, without a trace. Thirty-five years later, authorities found him in California. The New York Times reports that, “depressed about his job,” he’d simply run away.
Thirty-five years on the run! Half a lifetime spent looking over his shoulder! I have to imagine that anxiety and paranoia were this man’s constant companions.
But I have to admit, I also know a bit about being “on the run.” No, I’ve never abruptly fled something in my life . . . physically. But at times I know there’s something God wants me to do, something I need to face or confess. I don’t want to do it. And so, in my own way, I run too.
The prophet Jonah is infamous for literally running from God’s assignment to preach to the city of Nineveh (see Jonah 1:1–3). But, of course, he couldn’t outrun God. You’ve probably heard what happened (vv. 4,17): A storm. A fish. A swallowing. And, in the belly of the beast, a reckoning, in which Jonah faced what he’d done and cried to God for help (2:2).
Jonah wasn’t a perfect prophet. But I take comfort in his remarkable story, because, even despite Jonah’s stubbornness, God never let go of him. The Lord still answered the man’s desperate prayer, graciously restoring His reluctant servant (v. 2)—just as He does with us.
Reflect & Pray
What, if anything, have you tried to run away from in your life? How can you grow in bringing to God the pressures that overwhelm you?
Do you ever find yourself thinking other Christians have learned a secret that you don’t know about living the Christian life? Perhaps it seems as if they’ve solved the mystery of rejoicing in suffering, forgiving the unforgivable, conquering sin, or showing love in ways you haven’t yet discovered.
What you are seeing in these believers is not a secret reserved only for those who have gained a certain level of enlightenment, but a life lived according to the Spirit. He’s the one who is producing this amazing fruit in those who are being led by Him rather than by their own fleshly desires and efforts.
Spirit-filled living is not reserved for a select few Christians. On the contrary, it’s available to every believer who yields his or her life to the leadership of God’s Spirit. As a member of the Trinity, He has all the power, wisdom, and love of almighty God. We can rely on Him to teach us truth (John 16:13), help us in our weakness (Rom. 8:26), intercede for us according to God’s will (Rom. 8:27), and give us victory over sin (Gal. 5:16).
The Holy Spirit is a person whom we can know intimately and who continually works to transform us into Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18). Like God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, the Spirit of God loves, comforts, guides, and protects us. He is a friend like no other and will reveal Himself to us through the Scriptures.
Considering all this, we should gladly acknowledge our obligation to live according to the Spirit and delight in submitting to His leadership.
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold to the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
Liberals commonly question the authority of the Scriptures on the assumption that they were based on ancient traditions.
However, the word “traditions” itself as used here conveys no such idea. It means simply “that which has been delivered.” Paul used the same word in defining the gospel. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Paul did not add or subtract anything to what he had received directly from God. “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).
He was making the same claim to the Christians at Thessalonica. He had first taught them “by word” when he preached there in person (Acts 17:1-4), then later by “our epistle” in his first letter. Now, in his follow-up letter to them, he was reminding them that, in both instances, he (as an apostle) had communicated to them only those things he had directly received from God by divine revelation. Therefore, it was indeed vital that they should “stand fast, and hold” these great truths “which ye have been taught.” Paul was asserting that God had directly communicated, through him, the new truths that He wanted them to have.
Before the New Testament was written, much had to be conveyed verbally to the early church, through the apostles and prophets. Later, the portions of those teachings that were of permanent application were inscripturated (compare Acts 17:3 with 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The end result of this marvelous process was the inerrant Bible we have today, and it is this completed revelation of God that we must hold fast. HMM
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
—1 Peter 5:2-3
I believe that it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader. The Church of the Firstborn is no place for the demagogue or the petty religious dictator. The true leader will have no wish to lord it over God’s heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether as ready to follow as to lead when the Spirit makes it plain to him that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared.
It is undoubtedly true, as I have said so often, that the church is languishing not for leaders but for the right kind of leaders; for the wrong kind is worse than none at all. Better to stand still than to follow a blind man over a precipice. History will show that the church has prospered most when blessed with strong leaders and suffered the greatest decline when her leaders were weak and time serving. The sheep rarely go much farther than the Shepherd. WOS191-192
Give me the heart of a servant, Lord, that I might be the right kind of leader. Make me Your servant today, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.—1 John 4:16.
As flame streams upward, so my longing thought
Flies up with Thee,
Thou God and Savior, who hast truly wrought
Life out of death, and to us, loving, brought
A fresh, new world; and in Thy sweet chains caught,
And made us free!
Maurice Francis Egan.
What a blessed and glorious thing human existence would be, if we fully realized that the infinitely wise and infinitely powerful God loves each one of us, with an intensity infinitely beyond what the most fervid human spirit ever felt towards another, and with a concentration as if He had none else to think of! And this love has brought us into being, just that we might be taught to enter into full sympathy with Him, receiving His,—giving our own-thus entering into the joy of our Lord, This is the hope-the sure and certain hope—set before us,—sure and certain,—for “the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.”
“Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me” Ps. 101:6
If David spoke thus, we may be sure that the Son of David will be of the same mind. Jesus looks out for faithful men, and He fixes His eyes upon them, to observe them, to bring them forward, to encourage them, and to reward them. Let no true-hearted man think that he is overlooked; the King Himself has His eye upon him.
There are two results of this royal notice. First we read, “that they may dwell with me.” Jesus brings the faithful into His house, He sets them in His palace, He makes them His companions, He delights in their society. We must be true to our Lord, and He will then manifest Himself to us. When our faithfulness costs us most it will be best rewarded; the more furiously men reject, the more joyfully will our Lord receive us.
Next, he says of the sincere man, “he shall serve me.” Jesus will use for His own glory those who scorn the tricks of policy, and are faithful to Himself, His Word, and His Cross. These shall be in His royal retinue, the honored servants of His Majesty. Communion and usefulness are the wages of faithfulness. Lord make me faithful, that I may dwell with thee, and serve thee.