We’ve got a change of plans here as my original blog post for today is currently trapped on my computer. For the past week or two my car has been overheating, and then this morning I woke up and found that my computer is overheating and not working. These are the only two possessions that I actually really care about (maybe my TV is also on that list if I’m being completely honest) and having them both on the fritz isn’t ideal, but to be honest with you I find myself filled with joy and peace today. God is so good, He is just incredibly good to us. Worrying and stressing over things isn’t going to accomplish anything for me today, but praising the goodness of my God sure will! Coming to Him and just letting Him know how much I love Him, how purpose and peace filled I am because of Him, those are the reactions I choose to have today.
But, we are in need of a blog post today, and since I can’t access the next set of my Psalms study right now I want to take a detour. Last Wednesday at church I had a moment when I was getting up to leave and I felt the Lord giving me a word. It was just quick and simple and it came out of nowhere. This wasn’t even on my mind at the time and yet these two words hit me so strongly that I immediately had to write them down. Those two words were, I’m offended.
Now, I personally don’t get offended very often. And in my spirit I didn’t feel that God was telling me that He’s offended. As a matter of fact, deep down I knew exactly what He was talking about. I was planning on doing this blog post at some point in the future, but circumstances say it goes up now and maybe that’s exactly how God wanted it to be. So here we go!
For a long period of my life I stayed off of social media. I’d seen and been a small part of a massive argument between my extended family on Facebook and the nastiness and fallout of that whole thing was enough to drive me off of social media for years. Honestly, the only reason I started using Facebook again is because my church family uses it constantly. But if you follow me there, you find I stay pretty quiet. I post these bible blogs, the occasional God related thing, and really that’s about it. Mostly I just like to keep up with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you’ll notice, I’m in the minority when it comes to how I use Facebook. A lot of people I know use it as a platform to share their political and religious beliefs on a daily basis. They take a stand for what they think is right, and often times will engage in heated comment strings with those who disagree.
One thing you also know if you’re friends with Christians on Facebook is that they’re feeling a certain way these days. Be it red cups from Starbucks or the front page of a New York newspaper, many Christians are feeling offended and persecuted these days.
Now, here’s what I’m not doing today. I’m not judging how any of these Christians conduct themselves on Facebook. What I felt strongly in my spirit that I should do today is share with you a story about another group of Christians who were feeling persecuted.
The book of Acts is one of the most inspiring, exciting books in the entire Bible. These first Christians experience the resurrection of Jesus, witness His ascension into heaven, receive the Holy Spirit, and then explode into a flurry of soul winning and gospel spreading action the likes of which the world had never seen before. And as this all got started, the apostles and those who were forming the early church came under serious harassment and persecution.
I want to take just a few minutes to talk about the things these early believes did when they were being persecuted for spreading the good news of Jesus and when people were trying to offend them by speaking against their Lord.
As they start to come under fire from local authorities for healing people and spreading the good news of Jesus, the first thing these early Christians did was pray for boldness.
Acts 4:29-31 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 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.
The next thing they did was band together.
Acts 4:32-35 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
As pressures against Christianity mount in this country and around the world, I’ve seen firsthand Christians taking it out on each other. Arguing meanly about how Jesus would handle the situation, speaking ill of brothers or sisters in Christ who disagree. But look above at how the early believers handled persecution. They banded together. They formed a community so tight that personal ownership disappeared. Everyone shared everything, and whoever was in need of something was provided it. They took up with one another and took care of one another.
Now here’s the final two things these early believers did when persecuted. When these early Christians got arrested again for still healing people in the name of Jesus and still teaching and preaching about Jesus something incredible happened. They were jailed, but in the middle of the night an angel freed them and told them to go back to the temple and resume talking and teaching about Jesus. As you can imagine, the authorities were pretty baffled and upset, and go back to the temple and re-arrest them. This time those in power are really mad and want to kill them, but get talked out of it. Instead, they beat them and commanded them not to talk about Jesus anymore.
As these mighty men of the early church go walking out of the court they deliver one of my favorite moments of the entire Bible. Keep in mind, they’ve just been beaten for proclaiming the name of Jesus. They were likely bloodied and bruised and in rough physical shape.
Acts 5:41-42 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
It’s impossible for me to read this verse and not get a big smile on my face. These guys were wrongfully arrested, treated unfairly, nearly killed, beaten, and then told that they weren’t allowed to talk about Jesus anymore. They came limping out of there not filled with rage or anger, not burning with a desire to overthrow the government, not with a spirit of submission or helplessness. They came out and rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus. The first time I read this scripture I had this great picture in my mind of these men coming out, bruised and bloodied, and they are laughing and high fiving and hugging, all because they got the honor of being persecuted for Christ. They wore the persecution like a badge of honor.
And then they got back to kingdom business. They got back to telling people the good news of Jesus Christ.
As followers of Christ, we’re going to face persecution. The Bible assures us of this many, many times. It’s not an if, it’s a when. If you’re truly living for Him and making known that Jesus is your lord, persecution will come. Being persecuted and feeling offended are two separate things, and I think it’s important to know the difference. Being offended is a choice, being persecuted is a situation. The Bible can help with both. In Acts, we get an incredible example of how to deal with persecution and offense. As I read it, I never got the sense that these early Christians were offended by what was going on. In fact, they were honored by the way they were being treated. Those who suffer for Jesus here on earth will reap the rewards in heaven, and they knew that. They’d heard Jesus himself say that. And how did they handle the persecution?
Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, today I come before you with a simple prayer. This world that feels to be ever darkening, as we your church are persecuted, when rulers and laws and anything else rise up against us, grant us the spirit of your early church. Father God, give us boldness, give us togetherness, let us rejoice in any sufferings that come from proclaiming the name of Jesus, and let us ever be about the business of your holy kingdom. Let the hearts that beat in the chests of your apostles and early church leaders be our hearts too. Let us embark on a fiery quest to spread the name of Jesus far and wide, let us reach even more people than those who came before us did. Lord, keep from us a spirit of offense, and instead give us a spirit of love and calm and understanding and wisdom. When someone tries to offend us let us receive it as a blessing instead, and let us pray for our would be offenders, that they’ll see the error of their ways and the truth of your goodness and power. In Jesus’ precious name I pray, amen.
Alright, that’s it for today. Tomorrow might be another impromptu post if I still can’t get access to my computer. I hope everyone’s week is off to a good start. I love you guys and I’d hope that even if you’re having some struggles (like me!) that you’d still take a moment to be thankful to God today. He loves us so much that it just blows my mind!