Leaning into the Challenge
"And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:29-31).
For the early Church, there were many reasons to fear. In particular, threats from the religious leaders (the same ones who had crucified Jesus) began to mount as they continued to preach, heal, and live out the Gospel. However, rather than choose fear, they chose to lean into the challenge, exchanged comfortable for possible, and asked God for boldness and power to preach the gospel to see lives changed. And in an incredible way, God answered their prayer (v. 31).
"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13).
Are you a Spirit-filled follower of Jesus (Ephesians 5:18)? Are you abiding, with times of true worship, and experiencing the fruits of the Spirit, both inside and out? Do others recognize that you have "been with Jesus?" Or, would you say you are feeling dry, perhaps discouraged...weary?
Even as we strive to be stewards (not owners) living into our God-given purposes, let's wrestle with these questions. At times, our struggle may actually be God's invitation to lean into Him, to be first filled by the Spirit, so that we engage the challenge. As the Church in Acts discovered, our God loves to give His Spirit to those who ask! “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).
For Such a Time as This
“But Peter and John answered them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard'" (Acts 4:19-20).
As was true for Peter, John, and the believers in Acts, we are in this time and place for a specific reason. Nothing happens by chance and God doesn't make mistakes. How might we be present in our country and world today, stewarding well the time, talents, treasures, and influence He's granted us?
- Have we invested in relationships with people that are different from us? This past month? Week?
- Do we tend to listen or speak first? How do we discern and then communicate God's truth?
- Do we consider and pray for the needs of others? Do we grieve with those who grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15)? Does boldness follow our prayer?
Let's be quick to seek clarity and lead with compassion. We won't do this perfectly - that's where grace and the Spirit flows in abundance - and yet, as Christ-centered leaders, we do need to engage in real relationship for the sake of the Gospel: in the needs, wants, and desires of others. We know God already has the victory (Revelation 21:5) and we can adopt this eternal perspective for today. We are called to be influencers, salt and light. May the Word of God continually move us towards the difficulty as we strive to renew that which is not of Him, and courageously seek the welfare of our cities (Jeremiah 29:7).