Hello and welcome to Monday’s foundations podcast. My name is James. I’m part of the team at STC and I’m really looking forward to sharing some reflections this week. Today is a fantastic Bible reading. It describes the believers gathering together to pray.
Since the new term has started we have looked at the first three chapters of Acts. These are some really exciting and fast paced chapters in the Bible … Generally speaking we have focused on the Spirit and the empowerment for witnessing to the name of Jesus – this thing of witnessing is something that Mick drew out particularly in his podcasts and over the last few Sundays at STC. Acts 1 was waiting for the Spirit, Acts 2 marked the coming of the Spirit, and now Acts 3 shows the apostles’ being empowered by the Spirit… inspiring miraculous healings and bold preaching on the streets. The church continues to grow – grow, again, is another theme that we have been considering as we have been looking at the Grow Project… but from here on in a new theme is introduced: significant opposition. Our Bible reading today is Acts 4 and what we will begin o see is that opportunities to witness begin increasing and so does the opposition. AND YET, despite the rising opposition, the message of the podcast this week is clear because Acts chapters 4 & 5 is very clear: God is for us and God is at work.
Let me read v 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. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.
Peter and John have just been quizzed by the rulers, elders and teachers of the law in Jerusalem and they kept cool under pressure and refused to stop proclaiming and demonstrating the power that is in the name of Jesus.
It is quite interesting to see that the first thing Peter and John do after this quite exposed episode with the heavy weight public elites is to gather with the other believers to pray.
So straight after this pressure moment what do the believers pray for? It would be understandable for the believers to pray for relief from persecution. Instead they ask for renewed courage to proclaim the word of God. They pray for boldness to speak God’s word.
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Faced with threats, the believers pray.
Here is what I am learning from this Bible story as I look to try and apply some of it to my life… Pressure, threat and persecution will come in many forms. The opposition I face is different to the chief priests and the elders that are face to face with Peter and John. But opposition is out there and the need to pray remains the same and what we need to pray for is very similar. Recently, we got asked to not pray on campus because it was considered “too exclusive”. If we pray it might mean that others feel “left out” or “awkward”. It’s a small opposition and a conversation with the people in charge cleared the air… but it was a reminder to me that not everyone is going to want the people of God going public with the good news of Jesus. We can be confident because those who oppose the gospel are no threat to God, who is always in control. What others intend for evil, God will work for good of those that love him.
God is for us.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)
Lord, thank you for the gift of prayer and the gift of community. Thank you for this great example we have read today about the importance of prayer. As those early believers prayed, we too ask for renewed courage to proclaim the story of Jesus. As they prayed for boldness – would you make us bold to speak your words to those who really need to hear you today. In Jesus name and for Jesus name, we pray.
READING: Acts 4:23-31
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. 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. 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?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.”
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. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’
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.