Motivation Meditations in Acts : 15 : What Next, Lord
Acts 4:23,24 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. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”
Peter and John tell what the authorities had said to them, having told them not to speak about Jesus (v.18) and finally letting them go after threatening them (v.21). At that point they must have had in their minds the thought, what next? They knew what their desire was – to go on sharing the Gospel about Jesus whenever an opportunity presented itself and as the Holy Spirit led them – but what about the authorities? There are times when our activities seem to be brought to a halt and as the Lord’s servants we wonder, well what next, Lord? How can we carry on?
Now we saw in the fourth meditation in this series how, in desperation after Jesus had gone and they were left alone, the disciples had day by day prayed until the Lord turned up. Now we have a further example given by these early pioneers: if in doubt pray! An examination of what they prayed is worth while.
They start by focusing on just who the Lord is: “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” (v.24) They remind themselves that their Lord is the all-powerful Creator of all things. That puts everything in right perspective. They then remind themselves that God knew that this sort of thing would happen: “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?” (v.25 quoting Psa 2) But it was more than just rebellion against God, it was rebellion against His Christ, His Son: “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.” (v.26 continuing to quote Psa 2) They realise that David had actually prophesied (probably without realizing it) that Jesus would be rejected, and so it had been: “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.” (v.27) Yes, that’s exactly how that prophecy had been fulfilled. And in that recognition they realise that this was all part of God’s plan: “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” (v.28) Yes, all that had happened had happened because it was God’s plan for it to happen like that. As terrible as that was, it was also reassuring – this is all God’s plan. So what does He want? What should we ask?
They continue, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (v.29,30) They know their calling and it is to declare the truth about Jesus and to do it in the way he did, accompanied by healing and signs and wonders. Is this not a prayer we should be echoing in these days?
And then they got an immediate answer: “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.” (v.31) God turned up again! Reassurance has been given, but more than just reassurance – power! That power, or energy from the Holy Spirit, motivated them on in their calling to be witnesses to Jesus. Is this why the Church today is so often such a weak witness, because it lacks the power of the Holy Spirit, because it has forgotten its calling and fails to realise its need?
Whenever we come to this point of asking, what next, we need to remember again our calling – to be servants of the Most High. What has He called me to be? A witness yes, but what else, I wonder? How am I to be a witness in this largely godless community, a community that hardens its heart more and more as every day goes by? Surely it must be to cry for the same thing they asked – Lord come and embolden me, come and empower me so that I am be what you called me to be, come and validate what I say and do by your power, just like Jesus did and the early apostles did!
We have considered in the previous two meditations the fact of the opposition the church was receiving from the authorities, opposition that sought to silence them and keep God out of their community. The authorities wanted to remain in control, to be the ones in charge and although, in this case, they were supposed to be God’s representatives, they were in reality opposed to the Lord. Similarly it may be, that although all authority (in design at least) is from God, it may in reality be against God. Those authorities use their power to silence the Church. We need to ask God to bring HIS power to give the Church a voice again that is backed by works of power that people will see validates what we say. This is not selfish desires; this is simply responding to the word of God which gives us example after example in the New Testament (and Old) of God verifying His word by words of power, works seen in the New Testament especially as bringing blessing to individuals by healing or other divine provision.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts.” (1 Cor 14:1) and “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” (1 Cor 14:12). Some say you shouldn’t go looking for power, but that is not scriptural teaching. No, we don’t go looking for this for selfish reasons; we look and cry for God to come with power so that His kingdom and His will may come (Mt 6:10) and that He may be glorified. Away with this unbelief! Let’s be scriptural, let’s cry out for the Lord to come and enable us to be what He’s called us to be!