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).
Peter and John had not been formally trained in religion, or public speaking, for that matter. They were unschooled ordinary men. And, it’s interesting to know that at this point the religious leaders realized that these men had traveled around with Jesus. Over the course of three years, the Son of God had taught the former fishermen everything they knew.
You can receive extensive, formal, theological education and have degrees after your name. But if you’ve never “been with Jesus” in a spiritual relationship and enrolled in his school of discipleship, you’ll make no lasting spiritual impact on others. (Evans, T. (2019). The Tony Evans Study Bible (p. 1275). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible.)
Do others around you recognize when you have been spending time with Jesus?
In John 15:20, Jesus told his disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." That persecution was about to begin. Here, in Acts 4, the religious leaders seized Peter and John and threw them in jail until the next day since the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin, didn’t meet at night. Nevertheless, beginning with the healing of one lame man (Acts 3:1–10), God brought about five thousand men to Christ. There’s no stopping the kingdom of God manifested through the power of the Holy Spirit when Jesus is being glorified. And, it was evident that these men had been with Jesus and they were speaking with much authority in the Holy Spirit.
In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter proved from the Scriptures that Jesus was alive; but now he proved it by the miraculous change in the beggar’s life. The man was healed through the power of the name of Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection, so they wanted to put a stop to the ministry of the apostles. They were threatened by the growing number of Jesus followers. This was the beginning of the official persecution of Christians.
What do you do when they tell you to stop sharing the gospel? What did the apostles do?
Certainly they recalled the words of Jesus Christ (Matt. 10:16–26) and depended on the Holy Spirit to help them. Furthermore, they were so filled with their message and with love for Christ that they could not stop telling people about Him, and they did it with boldness!
How did they do this? They depended on prayer and directed their prayer to a sovereign God who made everything and can do anything. They based their petitions on Psalm 2, a good psalm to read when you are being attacked.
What would it mean to be this bold in your faith in the following situations: at school? at work? at a party? at home? When do you find it hardest to be bold about your faith? Why is it sometimes hard to be bold? What keeps us from being bolder? Are you spending time with Jesus in prayer? How could a shy person be bold in his or her faith? Is it ever possible to be too bold about your beliefs? Are you praying about opportunities to boldly proclaim the Gospel?
What is God’s Will for you and me during difficult and troubled times and circumstance like these? Rejoice! Rejoice in peace! And giving thanks by rejoicing some more in the Lord.
“Rejoice in the Lord!” is used in Psalm 32:11, 35:9, 64:10, 97:12, 104:34; Isaiah 29:10, 41:16; Joel 2:23; Habakkuk 3:18; Zechariah 10:7; Philippians 3:1, 4:4; in the scriptures in this post, and many more.
Even in the difficulty and imprisonment the Apostle Paul faced throughout scripture, his example and his message to the church... to us... was and is “Rejoice… Count it all joy.”
“Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:18–21 ESV)
But how do we rejoice like Paul? Pray! In all things Pray! Pray without ceasing! Trust Christ! Think of Jesus! Do we think of Jesus, His grace, mercy, sacrifice, suffering, death for us, resurrection, hope, and return, when we face difficulties? Is He our first thought, or is it, “How do I escape this?”
As difficult, and seemingly impossible as it often is, we are commanded to rejoice. Rejoicing in trials, seems counterintuitive, even strange. It’s definitely counter-cultural; but, it’s a command. Looks at 1 Thessalonians 5:16–22 (ESV):
“Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.”
In the Greek, 5:16 (not John 11:35) is the Bible’s shortest verse. It is often, however, one of the hardest to obey or keep. So, how do we train our attitudes to supersede the deep seeded pain, struggle, past, and even present circumstance we find ourselves in?
First, know that we have to be intentional in our training by setting up frequent reminders to pray! In our prayers, we should pray prayers of thanksgiving as much as for supplication (our needs and requests). We need visual reminders in our day to be thankful and to rejoice by seeing God’s grace, mercy, promise, and amazing actions where the Gospel is moving forth, in our lives and the lives of others, and think on these things. This can be a watch or bracelet like I wear that says, "TETELESTAI," which means "It is finished!"
Secondly, Serving others is another great way to develop in rejoicing in difficult times. It removes the focus from our circumstances to others. Who can we serve? How can we serve or bless them? This action often helps to control our pride.
The best cure for pride is not humility (which can lead to false piety) but thankfulness (5:18; see Rom. 1:18–32). As someone has suggested:
— Be careful for nothing.
— Be prayerful in everything.
— Be thankful for anything.
Finally, we must lean into the Holy Spirit’s leading by faith, trusting the path for which He is leading. Remember, He sees what you can’t and loves you more than you or anyone can.
There are two common ways that believers can fail in their relationship with the Holy Spirit: First, by “stifling” Him which involves not doing what He wants us to do. And secondly, by “bringing sorrow” to Him (see Eph. 4:30), which means doing what He does not want us to do.
The local church fellowship (believer/followers) should reflect God’s joy and peace even in troubled circumstances; and it/we will if God’s people obey authority, minister to one another, and submit to the Spirit of God, and in all things and time. Let us REJOICE in the Lord!