Down But Not Out
Read This Week: Acts 8
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:1-8 NIV
One of the great quotes of the last 50 years may very well come from the movie Rocky Balboa. In a passionate speech to his son about facing challenges and hard times in life and overcoming them with power, courage, and perseverance, Rocky says:
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.
This quote sums up the struggle and mission of the early church in Acts. The world was not all sunshine and rainbows for the 1st century Christians after Stephen’s death. Verse 1 of chapter 8 tells us that a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. The church was on the run but still on the move.
Furthermore, a skilled and ruthless persecutor of the church, a highly educated Pharisee named Saul (more on him to come in the following chapters) emerged, and this chapter tells us he began to destroy the church. This phrase in the original language means to “wreak havoc” and was often used to describe what a wild animal would do to its prey. But even with the brutal persecution in Jerusalem and Saul’s precise efforts to put an end to Christianity and the spread of the gospel, the church of God took their hits and kept on moving forward in the power of the Holy Spirit.
History has shown us that opposition to the church and the message of Jesus does not stop the kingdom, it serves as fuel to the fire and causes it to spread faster and with greater effectiveness. As the challenges arose, so did the believers to preach the truth, share their faith, serve the poor and marginalized, and be powerful witnesses to the salvation of Christ. One of the most prominent in that time was Philip, who was chosen as a deacon and grew in his ministry as a preacher and evangelist especially to the people of Samaria.
As Philip preached and performed miracles and the other believers shared the love and hope of Jesus, the people paid close attention to what they were saying and doing. The crippled were healed, the blind regained their sight, and the multitudes were coming to saving faith in Christ. After this, verse 8 says, “There was great joy in the city.”
Indeed the world can be a very mean and nasty place, and it doesn’t seem to care who we are. It will try to beat God’s people to their knees and keep them there permanently. But the various schemes of the enemy are no match for the grace, mercy, and love poured out on mankind through the person of Jesus Christ. The world is not strong enough and does not hit hard enough to stop God’s kingdom from moving forward and His people from sharing His message. At times the church may look down, but it is never out.
This week, God gave me a song from Acts 8 called “Worship You”:
We come together to worship You, worship You, worship you, our Lord
Joining our hands becoming united
Filling our hearts with your love
Our spirit is bursting with your joy, hope, and faith
Let us spread your Word
Becoming Your light in the dark
Bringing people to worship
We come together to worship You, worship You, worship you, our Lord.
We need each other especially in this world to help make each other feel God’s love, peace, and Joy. Just know he is with you 24/7 and you are never alone. We are also here to listen and help each other.
This is beautiful, Alma. In these times, I was especially encouraged by the word picture of joining hands with God’s people having full hearts, and worshipping the Lord together. I think I am just going to hold on to that and sit with it today. Your song also reminded me of another song that I used to love called, “I Worship You, Almighty God”:
I worship You, Almighty God
There is none like You
I worship You, O Prince of Peace
That is what I want to do
I give You praise
For You are my righteousness
I worship You, Almighty God
There is none like You.
Truly there is no one like our God. He is worthy of all our worship and praise.
Like Philip at the end of Acts 8, He loved God, and when He saw the opportunity to minister to the eunuch. He shared with and got to be apart of what God was doing in him. There have been so many times I got to be apart of what God was doing in someone’s life. It’s the most wonderful thing to be a part of. I hope I get to be a part of a lot more before I go home to be with Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
I would also love to share the part of the eunuch responding to God because when you’re ready to give your life to Jesus, you’re ready. No one can stop you, even if you want to be baptized at the moment, you can be. So I want to encourage you all to want to, desire to not only want to know more about Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but desire to share Jesus everywhere you go.
I love this, Heidi, and agree wholeheartedly with this statement: He shared with and got to be apart of what God was doing in him. There have been so many times I got to be apart of what God was doing in someone’s life.
There is sincerely nothing like it on earth. Nothing this world can manufacture is better than being used by God (such a humbling and overwhelming thought!) to be a part of what He is and wants to do in someone else’s life. It holds such fulfillment and joy.
Thank you for reminding us all of God’s will in and through us as we walk with Him on a daily basis and get to do life with others.
Reading this chapter, God drew me to verses 29 and 30. And He was saying to me, “In your life, I will ask you to go to certain places; to meet certain people and you may not know why. But with My love and trust in your heart, you can know that I will not send you for any other person. But I will teach or help someone in need of Me.”
And what that means to me is to always listen and respond to God and always go where He leads you. Because there is always a reason He is telling you to go to that one place to connect with that special person. It’s all in His plan and timing.
I love what God showed you from this passage, Sam. It’s kind of an overwhelming thought to know that God, in His good pleasure, chooses to use us in His work and mission on earth. This line stood out to me from your post:
Because there is always a reason He is telling you to go to that one place to connect with that special person. It’s all in His plan and timing.
There is always a reason. An older gentleman who had been walking with God for over 50 years once told me, “You are here because someone was on mission for God.” And it is so true. We all had that moment where someone loved us enough to share the good news of Christ with us. May we be obedient in the same way because as you said, you never know what God may do.
This was what God was saying to me in reading Acts 8 this week: “I can and will use pressing circumstances to guide you into My will. Sometimes you have to be shaken out of your comfort zone before you do what I want you to do. The gifts I give you are received freely from Me, by faith. You can not purchase My gifts. I want you to be a true convert with repentance and a sincere faith.
Just because you make a profession of faith, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are right with Me. You need a heart change and need to do My will instead of living in disobedience. Repent and pray to Me. In the secret place of your heart, you need to submit to My son Jesus Christ. Pray for yourself, don’t just ask people to pray for you. I want this relationship with you. Reading My word will lead you to Me.
Speak boldly for Jesus. You should be just as bold to the world about Jesus as the world is bold to you about sinfulness. I will give you open doors for evangelism everywhere you go. Plunge into your bible. Don’t feel bad if you need to be taught before you can understand many things. Ask for help if you need it. Believe with all your heart.”
What this means to me is that I need to be bold, and step out of my comfort zone. God sends us into ministry everywhere we go.
Such good stuff in here, Kathy. It is uncomfortable when God using tough circumstances to get us going in step with Him but it is so necessary to our lives and mission. He loves us enough to discipline, correct, and make right. I particularly liked this line about our calling and living beyond our moment of salvation:
Just because you make a profession of faith, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are right with Me. You need a heart change and need to do My will instead of living in disobedience.
As powerful as our conversion moments are, they are just the beginning of a life lived on mission with God. May God sustain, change, and continue to develop our hearts to do His will each day.