by Barry Shafer
August 04th, 2016
Every time I’m in the first few chapters of the book of Acts I find myself saying: “I want what they had.” Believers were living in an atmosphere of awe and encouragement, even with the social and political tide flowing against them. In Acts 4 we’re given as close as you can get to a “formula” for experiencing what they had.
First a quick run up to Acts 4. In Acts 1 Jesus told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to show up. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit showed up. In Acts 3, the apostles began to do things that Jesus did, chiefly, they healed a man crippled since birth. Because they healed the man “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” they stoked the ire of the resident Jewish leadership, who also happened to be the national Jewish leadership, the same folks who had Jesus killed.
The last time Peter saw these leaders, which was during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, he did not have his finest hour. He emphatically denied knowing Jesus and cowered in fear while Jesus hung on the cross. Now, one resurrection and a Holy Spirit manifestation later, things were different. When these Jewish leaders asked Peter by what “power or by what name” he healed the man, Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8), preached one of the boldest, bravest sermons ever. Here then, was the reaction of the Jewish leaders:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13, NIV)
I want what Peter and John had. Not only did the threatening, intimidating Jewish leaders have no impact on Peter and John, Peter and John impacted the Jewish leaders. Acts 4:8 and 4:13 tell me how. While possessing spiritual courage is not formulaic, this scene gives me two great blocks to build upon:
- Trust the Holy Spirit
- Be with Jesus
Of course, the phrase “be with Jesus” brings immediate guilt and anxiety. Guilt for not spending the time with Him I know I need to. Anxiety for thinking about my upcoming calendar. So, let’s think more creatively and combine these two building blocks. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit I am with Jesus now. Yes, the best-case scenario for being with Jesus would be to get away, find a mountain, a beach, or an abbey, and enjoy one on one time with Jesus. For now, that is not going to happen. The next-best-case scenario would be to carve out consistent chunks of time throughout the week to be one on one with Jesus. But with a 2-year old and a 1-year old in the house, that’s not likely to happen either.
So, the third-best-case scenario is this: accept my position of being in the presence of Jesus continuously, a presence made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit. Then, acknowledge Jesus’ presence during the mental breaks that my busy day offers me. Here are mental breaks that immediately come to mind:
waiting for my haircut or for a doctor’s appointment, steeping my tea, microwaving oatmeal, brewing coffee, burping a baby, fast food drive thru, fast food counter, on hold with customer service, waiting on computer updates.
I can keep some of Jesus’ words nearby (through an app or my own creation) to break out on a moment’s notice, words such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) or His conversation with His disciples in John 13-17. If I stay intentional in using my daily mental breaks to acknowledge Jesus’ presence, I will likely have spent more than an hour with Jesus and His words. That’s significant.
And I have to think that the impact of that accumulated hour will filter into all my other waking hours, and even sleeping hours: courage when I’m awake; peace when I’m asleep.
Like the apostles, we all have many things seeking to adversely impact our faith. These things can come in many forms: co-workers, classmates, temptations, doubts, questions, sufferings. But the courage and peace we can gain from accepting and acknowledging Jesus’ presence in our lives will put us in a position where, not only do those things have no impact on us, we impact them.
At that point, we will have, in some small way, what they had in the book of Acts.
This first appeared here and is shared with the author's permission.
Barry Shafer has been communicating the truth of God’s Word since 1984 as a volunteer youth leader, youth pastor, pastor, author and speaker. Barry, with his late wife Dana, founded InWord Resources in 1996 to strengthen youth ministry with discipleship materials and experiences that meaningfully engage teens in Scripture. Barry is author of Unleashing God’s Word in Youth Ministry (Youth Specialties/Zondervan) and has written numerous teen devotionals and small-group Bible studies.
Barry holds a mass communications degree from Anderson University (Anderson, Ind.) and a master’s degree in biblical studies from Cincinnati Bible Seminary (Cincinnati, Ohio). He lives in Middletown, Ohio with his infant son Reade and his wife Jessica, who happens to be a Grammy-winning opera soprano. If you’re curious about that fascinating world you can check out Jessica’s website here! [LINK: www.jessicarivera.com]
When Barry’s not studying, writing, being a diva spouse, or “daddy-ing” Reade, you can find him reading on the porch, biking on a trail, pulling for the Packers, or playing a little golf.
More of Barry Shafer: www.inword.org