Two years ago I was working with the Everyone A Chance to Hear (EACH) staff in providing daily devotionals leading up to an Easter initiative that would touch the lives of thousands of people in Detroit and its surrounding suburbs.
An anonymous EACH staff member wrote a beautiful prayer that is an ideal match with today's devotional scripture. Let us use this prayer and passage from Acts 5 to encourage us to make it clear that Jesus is the One people are looking for.
Today's Devotional Scripture
"The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus. And everyday, in the Temple and in their homes, they continued to teach and preach this message: The Messiah you are looking for is Jesus."(Acts 5:41-42, New Living Translation)
Serving a Righeous God
We love and serve a righteous God. He is greater, stronger and higher than any other god mentioned in the Old Testament portion of The Bible. When God sent prophets and other messengers to proclaim the truth, many of His representatives were rejected. But our God is relentless and He continued to repeat the message - the Messiah is coming!
God makes it far more personal in the New Testament portion of The Bible. He is suddenly more than the God who is for us. For He has sent His only Son, Jesus, so we can witness God in the flesh. The Messiah has arrived and the world will never be the same.
These words are difficult for people to accept, so rejection is expected. For example, Jesus was rejected in his home town of Nazareth when He preached the truth of God.
He warned His disciples before sending them out to preach the Word. "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet," Jesus tells His disciples. "Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town." (Matthew 10:14)
As they appeared in front of the Jewish high council. the Apostles Peter and John faced the possibility of imprisonment or execution. The apostles' defense of their actions is simple and straightforward.
"We must obey God rather than any human authority," They tell the council. "The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:29-32)
The council members became so outraged that they were now determined to kill the apostles, but the Spirit of God had been working on the heart and mind of a respected Pharisee named Gamaliel.
"Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men!' advised Gamaliel. "Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered. So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!" (Acts 5:35-39)
The high council followed Gamaliel's advice. Before they were released, the apostles were whipped and warned not to preach anymore about Jesus. Instead, the apostles returned to their brothers and sisters in Christ. I suspect Peter and John showed their fellow believers their wounds and mentioned, just like Jesus had told the apostles, that they had to suffer for their faith.
Today's devotional scripture points out that the apostles resumed their practice of preaching the message that the Messiah that people are looking for is Jesus. Acts 6 begins with a statement that the number of believers increased dramatically. God took a dangerous encounter and turned it a kingdom-building victory.
This encounter should encourage us as we prepare to share the salvation message of Jesus. Like the apostles in Acts 5 and today's prayer indicates, we need the Holy Spirit to help us through the times of rejection. However, we should take comfort in knowing that our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus are still meeting people's needs, healing people, forgiving their sins and resolving their problems.
When my wife Lori is being tested, she likes to recite the first three verses of Psalm 40:
1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in him.
We may be tested, but we are never out of the Lord's sight and He is the God who loves, saves and protects people.
Lord, I thank You that You are a righteous God. When my testimony is rejected, enable me to rejoice like the apostles did. Remind me that You are the One they are looking for - only You can meet their needs, heal their wounds, forgive their sins, and resolve their problems. Give me courage today to proclaim the good news about Jesus. Amen.