Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

17 The cost of courage

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Acts 4:29-31

29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. 30 Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.

With the dawning of a new year comes the planning and resolutions, all the things we say we want to do. Things like exercise more, spend more time with family, spend less money, get out of debt, deal with that addiction, the list could go on and on. Is prayer on your list, where does it rank? As we step into a new year and discover what God has for us why not put a bold prayer life at the top of the list? One of the boldest prayers in the Bible occurs in the fourth chapter of the book of Acts. Peter and John had been arrested after the dramatic healing of a lame beggar at the Gate Beautiful. This man had been lame from birth, for more than forty years he had begged and was known by those who frequented the Temple. His complete healing had caused a big stir and a large crowd gathered so Peter and John began to preach about Jesus. If the healing caused a ripple then the preaching caused waves, they were arrested and given a complimentary overnight stay in jail. The next morning they were questioned by the Jewish elders and high priests, the very men who had arranged for the crucifixion of Jesus, Peters response:

“Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.” …. There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10, 12)

Again he boldly preaches the truth and even though they were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John they were not really moved. They said among themselves; “What shall we do with these men? When they should have been saying “what shall we do with the truth of Jesus?” They couldn’t deny that a true miracle had taken place yet they had no problem denying the one who made the miracle possible, Jesus. So they commanded Peter and John not to speak or teach anymore in the name of Jesus and, threatening them, they released them because they were afraid of the people. They were more concerned with what people thought than what God did, it is a sad day when we are more afraid of people than God.

So Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them everything that had happened and the response was prayer. “When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God” Acts 4:24. They ended their prayer with this:

29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. 30 Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

How different these disciples are from the ones that walked with Jesus, gone was their fear and trepidation. The fear had been replaced with fiery power and fierce boldness, what had happened? Everything changed on the morning of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell filling them to overflowing. Peter had preached with power then and he was still preaching, they were no longer cowering in the dark denying Christ. Now they were in the thick of things, healing the sick, preaching the gospel, adding to their numbers daily, turning their world upside down.

As I look at their prayer life I marvel at what they asked for and what they didn’t. They didn’t ask for protection or for God to remove the opposition, instead they requested greater courage and more boldness to speak God’s Word. Their antidote to threats was courage and boldness. Then they asked for two more things that would get them into even more trouble. They asked for more healings to occur and signs and wonders to take place. It was the healing of the lame beggar that got them arrested and yet they pray for more healings, why, because their prayer life wasn’t about them. It wasn’t about their comfort or convenience, it was about their concern for others. They were willing to be hurt so others could be healed.

God heard their prayers and His response was one that could be felt by all present. “After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31 God’s response to their prayer was an immediate and powerful endorsement, I wonder if the shaking was His applause? After their prayer meeting they rushed out into the world and threw themselves into God’s work with phenomenal results. Huge numbers of people were saved and many people were healed. They continued to get arrested, jailed, flogged, and even killed. They were persecuted terribly but they wanted the advancement of God’s kingdom more than they wanted their own safety. What is our prayer response, does prayer move us to go?  You don’t pray for courage so you can cower!

This is exciting stuff and the book of Acts goes on for 29 chapters filled with pure excitement, yet the other side of the prayer is counting the cost of courage. Satan is not going to sit idly by, there will be a fight but the early followers of Jesus thought it was worth it. Today there are still followers of Jesus throughout the world who think it is worth it, who are praying for power and paying whatever price they have to pay. Will you join the battle this year? If you have some fire in your belly and you don’t mind a good fight then pray the prayer. Pray because we need to be shaken out of our slumber and hear God’s applause, this world needs the results of prayer now more than ever.

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