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 Post Post subject: Devotions - Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2007 5:15 am 
Catspaw knows all

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Reading: Proverbs 25, Proverbs 26; Acts 4:23-37

Good morning Church,

What do we expect from our heavenly Father, from our Lord Jesus Christ and from the Holy Spirit? That is an important question to ask ourselves because it reveals our understanding, or lack there of, of our relationship with our God. It may also save a lot of disillusionment and hardship in emotions if we can grasp this thing with a better understanding.

Unfortunately is much too large a question to deal with in this setting but it is a question that can help us recognize something in the disciples as we do our reading today. Remember they have just been threatened:

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus… After further threats they let them go. (Acts 4:18,21)

We already read what Peter and John’s response was to this:

But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:19-20)

Upon their release Peter and John return to the disciples and they prayed. It is what they prayed that is so interesting. They did not pray for the death of their enemy. They did not even pray for their own protection:

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." (Acts 4:29-30)

They prayed for the boldness and the power to continue the work, not to be hedged in or removed from the danger. This speaks highly of their character, of their willingness to die for the sake of the Name that is above all names. They were not prepared to run away from their enemy and they were not prepared to compromise. All they asked for was the power to continue the work in the face of the threats. Why? How could they do this and we have such little understanding of it? We spend so much time trying to bind the hands of the enemy that we miss the point entirely. The point is this:

" 'Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather 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. (Acts 4:25-28)

Read it again: “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” The disciples recognized that they had limited or no understanding of what Jesus was doing when he allowed himself to be arrested, tried and condemned. He could have ended it all with a word but he did not; it was the Father’s will. The disciples understood their responsibility to act as witnesses for Jesus Christ. They were to tell others and they had to do it in love, with kindness and compassion. As they told the story they would heal people which would bring with it strong proof of their words. Consider the lame man and the 2000 men who came to accept Jesus Christ as a result. However, in order to be witnesses they had to be out in front where people could see them, regardless of the action of the enemy.

They were willing to face whatever consequences necessary and trust that as things unfolded it was the Father’s will. Is this why Stephen was able to remain calm as he faced his execution? Was he able to accept that the Father would use even this in some small way? We know his death was used in a tremendous way to move forward the spreading of the gospel. Maybe some of us have problems with seeing God in this context, willing to sacrifice a faithful servant for the growth of the Kingdom but to be honest the only servants he can use in this manner are the faithful ones.

We lack such acceptance of this because we cling too tightly to this world and the things that belong to it. We cling to our comforts, our wealth, our health, our reputations. We are not willing to push beyond our limits because we figure, “If we don’t look after ourselves we will be no use to God”. That is a dangerous philosophy. Yes, we have the responsibility to look after our health but when God demands the sacrifice we must be willing to let go of it all. Some people figure that if it brings pain, discomfort, tiredness and so on that it cannot be the Father’s will. Where do they get such notions? The Father called for the sacrifice of the lives of his servants, why would he spare us now?

We need to accept that the work of the Kingdom requires all our effort and then when we feel we have nothing more to give we must pray as the disciples did in the face of the threats from their enemies:

“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."

The prayer is a simple request for God’s strength. Whenever we feel we lack something we need to request it from God. “Lord, I am fearful in the face of this thing, please give me boldness that I will remain faithful in my task.” “Lord, I am exhausted yet there is so much left to complete, please give me strength of mind, body and soul to complete your work.” “Lord, my emotions are raw from what I am seeing, please give me hope that I will not despair.” There is a huge list of similar requests, none of which ask to be removed from the situation but to be equipped to face it.

Can we accept a God who will not rescue us from everything we will face in our life? Can we accept a God who would allow us to face danger, even death? Can we accept a God who would strengthen us in our tiredness, not so that we could rest but instead to carry on? Is this not who our God is? Yes, he is the Father who promised to give us all things but this promise is for his purpose not our own. The disciples resisted the same temptation that Jesus resisted with the stone to bread in the desert. How about us? Are we using or abusing our relationship with the Father for our own benefit?

Warriors must be willing to stand and fight, no matter the discomfort, pain or even risk of life. Jesus asked Peter, “Peter, do you love me?” When Peter answered he did Jesus commissioned him, “Feed my lambs.” That commission cost Peter his life. What about you? What is it costing you and what are your prayers?

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