Reading through the book of Acts, we become aware of some pretty significant changes taking place in the followers of Jesus. Just a few weeks ago we saw them scatter, run and hide in fear after the arrest and crucifixion of their leader. Now they seem emboldened and unstoppable.
Do you read these passages and find yourself wondering what you would be doing in the face of these challenges? I certainly do! It is one thing for us to admit that we are Jesus people in a peaceful society, governed by reasonable laws that protect religious freedoms. But what about for Chrisitans in countries where that is not the case? I read recently that nearly a million Chrisitans have been killed for their beliefs in the past 10 years alone! What is it that makes Peter, John and the others able to face these terrifying odds with courage?
The changes that we see in the Apostles in the book of Acts take place as a result of the Holy Spirit power that they have received. That power has been given to us too when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. But the gift of the Holy Spirit is not a once and only gift. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving!
In Acts 5:32, Peter and the others tell the Sanhedrin that God has placed Jesus at his right hand in a place of honor and “we are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit who is given by God to those who obey Him.” The apostles realize that it is through consistent and ongoing obedience that the Holy Spirit would be free to work in their lives. The other important thing that they understand is clearly stated in these words, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” Acts 5:29
When we are obedient to God alone, the Holy Spirit will give us the same kind of courage that we see in the Apostles as they stare down the powerful Sanhedrin. This is the same kind of courage that fills the brave believers around the world who refuse to deny Jesus even at the end of a sword. It is unstoppable faith and it is available to us all.
We may not face challenges that are as dangerous as what Peter and the others faced, or as those that modern Christian martyrs experience. But every one of us has our own set of life circumstances that require hearts of bravery. It takes courage to remain pure in a culture that is steeped in sexuality. It takes courage to continue to work at a marriage that seems to be hopeless and empty. It takes courage to get up every morning with health challenges that bring suffering. It takes courage to do the right thing, even when there are shortcuts that no one but you is going to know about.
But we don’t do this on our own. Just as the Holy Spirit filled the Apostles with kingdom courage to stand up to the powerful religious leaders, and just as the martyrs are filled with bravery as they face death for their beliefs, we too have a super power within reach! The Holy Spirit dwells within every believer and as we grow in obedience, more and more Holy Spirit fruit and power is available to us!