Posted by: Brad Beaman | February 11, 2008

When the Church is Shaken, Acts 4:23-31

                                                 scotland-highlands.jpg

The Highlanders of Scotland are known for their shy and reserved temperament. Just how that became the temperament is not known. Some suggest it is the cold weather and long winters with very little daylight. The reserved nature is part of their culture and that reflects itself in every area of life, even in their worship. The highlanders are not outwardly emotional. The region just beyond the Highlands, the Hebrides Islands are known to be even more reserved.

But despite their reserved nature the Outer Hebrides Islands were the scene of powerful revivals in Harris and Lewis. Some men serving Christ faithfully now were once considered worldly drunkards. They were changed as a result of God’s work on these Islands in the 1950’s

I remember my conversation with one lady whose mother was present at the meeting at Lewis when the revival broke out. She said the place shook like in the book of Acts.

This is how Duncan Campbell described that prayer meeting: One man cried out; I’m longing for revival, and God, You are not doing it! I am thirsty, and you promised to pour water on me.” Then, after a pause, he cried, “God, I now take it upon myself to challenge you to fulfill Your covenant engagement!” Now it was nearing two o’clock in the morning.

What happened? The house shook. A jug on a sideboard fell onto the floor and broke. A minister beside me said, “An earth tremor.” And I said, “Yes.” But I had my own thoughts. My mind went back to Acts chapter four: when they prayed, the place was shaken.

When John Smith stopped praying at twenty minutes past two, I pronounced the benediction and left the house. What did I see? I saw the whole community alive. Men carrying chairs, women carrying stools and asking, “Is there room for us in the churches?” And the Arnol revival broke out. 1

These people of Lewis in the Hebrides Islands of Scotland are not given to emotionalism. Yet following in the wake of such an experience of the church shaking was a trail of changed lives. In the book of Acts the Holy Spirit shook the church and the after shock was changed lives. There were miracles in the name of Jesus.

A lot happened in the early chapters of Acts. Jesus Crucifixion was still a current event. It was just forty days following Jesus death that Jesus ascended to heaven. Then ten days after that came Pentecost. The promised Holy Spirit came on 120 people gathered in the upper room. The whole thing becomes public and at that 3000 Jews believe when confronted with what they saw and heard.

Sometime soon after that, Peter and John are going to the Temple to pray. A man crippled from birth, who was over 40 years old and who was widely known among the people was miraculously healed in the name of Jesus. The number of believers goes up to five thousand.

Peter and John are arrested and spend the night in jail. They are threatened and respond boldly. Their response in famous Acts 4:19: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.

Going back to their fellow believers may have been the hardest part of the ordeal for them. Now Peter and John must return to and tell them about the threats. They had to say something like, “You know the people that crucified Jesus? They said if we speak of Christ they will harm us, even kill us.”

The early church was realizing the high price of following Christ. If Peter and John are threatened for speaking for what they saw and heard, then that means all of them are risking their lives by living out their new found faith.

We are glimpsing the early church at a very turbulent and emotional time. How do they respond in such a time of crises?

Vs 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.

Here is their prayer:

“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 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?
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. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

This prayer is compared to King Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 37:16-20. In time of persecution and experiencing the human emotions of fear and helplessness that come from threats King Hezekiah cried out to God. That’s what these believers did!

Whatever we face we have an inexhaustible resource-Prayer! Sometimes we are like the poor man who owned a little land. He didn’t know underneath was millions of dollars of revenue in untapped oil. As believers we have vast spiritual resources available to us through prayer.

It’s ironic what the threats did. They started a chain of events in motion. The early church faced severe persecution. That persecution drove the church to heartfelt prayer. The prayer led to an outpouring of God’s Spirit.

Threats of persecution from enemies of the Gospel “caused” a revival and the advance of Christianity. None of this should surprise us. God is Sovereign. Even in persecution, God is still on His throne, still in control. The very first Words of their prayer are “Sovereign Lord.”

The prayer recognizes God as creator who made heaven and earth. They acknowledge the foreknowledge of God that He is the author of prophesy. The Inspired Bible foretold all this. The prophesies of the Bible reveal the sovereignty of God. The prayer was quoting Psalm 2:1-2. God knew about all of this long before it ever happened. The crucifixion of Christ happened in the knowledge God and He allowed it.

In Acts 4:28 we read the believers acknowledged that the crucifixion that just happened 12 weeks or so prior to this prayer as God’s predestined plan. What a beautiful plan the cross is. We know that now.

These believers have such a trust in God. They trust him with their persecution. They trust God so much. We should ask the Lord, just let us be faithful in persecution.

Vs 29 shows their boldness. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. This is amazing. They did not pray for the persecution to go away, but they prayed for boldness in the persecution. In Vs 30 they ask God to perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Jesus.

They have taken their faith to the limit, to die if necessary. We should be bold and courageous as Christians. No wonder God gave them a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. No wonder God immediately confirmed their faith with a miracle.

They ask for a miraculous sign and they got it. The church was shaken at the foundations. They had a full desire for boldness in the face of persecution. They demonstrated a full surrender to the sovereignty of God. They had to obey God rather than men whatever the cost. Revival brake out and miracles took place.

Vs 31 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.

It is not persecution that advances the Gospel; it is bold response to persecution that advances the gospel.

When they are willing to honor God in persecution there is revival. Thank God that they did not jump ship and compromise. The believes stood strong and made a bold response to the persecution.

We need to pray for boldness. Lord, please give me the courage and conviction and boldness that marked the early church. Their response was courage and boldness. They followed in obedience the example of Jesus who went to cross and didn’t shrink back.

We want revival? Are we willing to surrender our lives like these persecuted believers? Fully yielded? Not deterred by risks? We submit ourselves to God.

_________________
Notes
1 This account is from: http://www.lifeandlibertyministries.com/archives/000120.php

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Responses

  1. Was blessed by your blog. Lord send a revival!


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