I’ve been reading through the book of Acts lately. For those readers unfamiliar with the book of Acts, it is the fifth book of the New Testament in the Bible, and describes the events that occurred as the first church came into being after Jesus’ death over 2000 years ago.
The book of Acts is a fascinating book. Even for the non-Christian, there are a lot of interesting stories that make people go, “Hmmm,” or, “That’s just odd.” I took a course at Providence University College on the book of Acts a few years ago, but the thing about the Bible is that, even though someone might take a course on a book or several books, the real learning comes from re-reading a book. You might get insights into the author by taking a course, or you might learn to think a little more critically by taking a course, but when someone re-reads the Bible (both OT and NT), depending on where life’s journey’s have taken a person, the real educating comes from that re-reading.
And my read through Acts at this time is no different. Last week i was reading through chapter four of Acts, and something caught my attention. I’ve read Acts before, numerous times. But this time through chapter four has me gripped. I can’t stop thinking about this chapter. More specifically, chapter four verses twenty-three to thirty-one:
As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. 24 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them- 25 you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,
‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
26 The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’
27 In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. 28 But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. 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 filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.”
Of course, these few verses are loaded with things to talk about. But what sticks out to me this time around starts in verse twenty-four, “…all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God…,” continues through the prayer and ends in verse thirty-one, “…Then they preached the word of God with boldness.”
Almost all of this passage is made up of a prayer. It says that all of the believers were praying, not just one or two, and not just Peter and John. All of them. Gathered together. Praying. And what did they pray for? In the end it boils down to the fact that they wanted to preach the word of God. All of them. Not just one or two, and not just Peter and John. They prayed for the boldness to preach the word of God. And when the power came through the Holy Spirit, that’s exactly what they did. They went and preached the word of God.
There are two challenges that i see in these verses. Number one: Every believer should be seeking for the boldness to preach the word of God. We’re not just supposed to let “those trained or gifted ones” preach. We all have a mandate as believers in Christ to preach, and to preach with boldness. Wherever we find ourselves, whatever the circumstances.
The second thing that i see in this passage is this: When we as believers ask for something from God, and when he answers, we must act on whatever he grants us. If we pray for boldness to preach, we must be prepared to act and to preach with boldness when he answers. If we ask for opportunities to minister to someone, and then he answers that prayer by placing someone in our lives during the day that needs to be ministered to, we must act on that answer to prayer.
Our faith is not just about us getting blessings from God so that we can live comfortable, neat little lives. It is a faith that requires action, and that means acting on the things that God grants us when we ask him.
I pray that you are challenged as you read this, to think about the things you have prayed for, and how you should act on them as God answers. Amen.