We win our battles by taking a bold stand. An early experience of the church shows us how to come boldly to God for help.
The Feast of Tabernacles ended about a month ago for us all. It's hard to believe that. I mean, for some reason, this year was a little bit more vivid in my own mind as we kept the feast here in Cincinnati and then went up to Walnut Creek with another group of God's people up there, and then came back and finished the feast off here in Cincinnati. And with all that Debbie and I experienced with the fellowship, the work, and the service, and speaking, and hosting, and seeing old friends, and meeting new friends, it was a rather vivid experience for us for the feast this year.
And we had an unusual high, if you want to look at it that way, I think for us. And that's why I say, it's hard to believe that the month has gone by. But I think for all of us, no matter how we conducted our feast and what it meant to us this year, once we come back off the feast, and if we're putting our hearts into it, God's Spirit is guiding us, then the feast is the spiritual high point of the year. But as we all know, we come back to the reality of everyday life, don't we?
And we have jobs, we have school, we have matters that we have to pick up with after the respite of the Feast of Tabernacles. And the reality of everyday life comes back in. And sometimes that's good and sometimes it's challenging for us, as we know. And so my question is, for you, how have you handled whatever's come back on you? How have you handled the challenges that have come upon you for this particular period of time? It's always a good question.
I was thinking about it as the challenges have come into our life, and as I've heard about the challenges that have come into other people's lives, and know that, again, the reality bites. It reminded me of something that I guess those that study psychology will know about, it's called the fight or flight syndrome. The fight or flight syndrome, where when stress comes, the response that occurs when the adrenaline or the hormones are released in our body that prompt us to either stay and fight or run and flee the danger, the crisis, the conflict, whatever it might be. Most of us don't like conflict. Some of us handle it a little better than others do. But conflict does come and trials do come, and we handle it in different ways. When our body perceives that there's trouble, our system works to essentially, I think, as they say it and as they put it, to keep us alive, to keep us going. And we have to deal with that, fight or flight.
I learned very early in my ministerial career how to deal with a lot of the common forms of the stress that come with the job that I had, that those of us in the ministry encounter. And any of us that are successful in our work, in our employment, and other aspects of our life, we learn how to deal with the stress. I mean, I would always try to keep up exercise in my life through the years knowing the benefits that was there. In later years, still trying to keep up with my health. I would develop other things to keep the stress down.
For my own style, it became cooking. I would take a Sunday morning and just cook after the stress of a Sabbath and running a circuit, counseling, giving a couple of sermons, maybe a young adults club or spokesman's club or some other social activity on Saturday night, and a week of busy activity if I could get a Sunday in the kitchen, it became for me, stress relieving. That might sound odd, but it was what worked for me in my life and in my job.
But I think all of us know that the ultimate way of dealing, the key of dealing with the challenges of life is a deep relationship with God. We can exercise obsessively, and some people do as a means of dealing with that, or some other type of activity. Sometimes it's not always the best type of activity. It can be rather harmful, as we know. Addictions can develop in that way. But ultimately you learn, as a Christian, that the best key to dealing with the challenges that come at us in our life will be a deep relationship with God that comes through prayer and a closeness with His word.
And I'm talking about the very Word of God, the Bible. It's our understanding of these Scriptures, and our ability to pray and talk to God on our knees in those moments when we may be awake in the middle of the night because we're worried about something, we're stressed about our health, or someone else's health, or a job conflict, or something that might be going on, that we wake up to 2:30. That's my time, it seems like, 2:30 is my time to wake up. I don't know what yours is, but I'll just tell you, mine is 2:30. When I'm awake at 2:30, wow, okay, what's going on? And it's not always easy to turn it off at that point. And so, you lay there and you pray. You talk to God. And you may drift back off to sleep, and at times, you may not. Your day begins at that particular point. But you learn that you have a relationship with God, and that's how we deal with that. It's prayer and it's a closeness to God.
In the book of Acts, we see how the church dealt with this in a unique way through a particular prayer that they had to learn very early in their experience. I would like to spend a few minutes going through that prayer. It's the first extensive prayer that we find in the book of Acts here this afternoon. It's been on my mind as I've been studying this or thinking about these events, both personally and otherwise, in other people's lives since the Feast of Tabernacles. And because it happens to also be where I am in teaching the book of Acts to the students this year at ABC, it has been on my mind.
And so, I would like to spend a few minutes taking you through a section in Acts 4 that happens to be a prayer that the church gave at a time when they were confronted with the issue of either fighting or fleeing, fight or flight. And it was their first major encounter with opposition. And it was a Jewish opposition. As Peter and John had gone up into the temple to pray. The story begins actually in chapter 3, and we won't go there, I'll just tell you about it to get us to this point.
But at the time of the evening sacrifice one day, Peter and John went into the temple. It was about 3:00. They were going up there to pray, to maybe even conduct a small group study. We don't know what exactly their intent was. But they passed a man who had been lame from birth. And he reached out his hand, no doubt, called to them for something and, you know, some help, some handout. And Peter looked upon him and said, "I don't have silver or gold, but what I do have I give to you." And he said, "Rise up and walk in the name of Christ." And he did. And the lame man stood and for the first time in his life, he walked.
And it drew attention to the church, to the two disciples, the two apostles, because they began to then teach. People gathered around. They watched what was taking place, the man leaped and ran around the temple area, people knew who he was, and it brought a great deal of attention. And Peter began to talk to them. He gave a very powerful sermon in chapter 3, but it also drew the opposition from the Jewish leadership. Now, as Mr. Cook was reading in his very fine sermonette this while ago, from Luke 12, Christ had already told the disciples, "Don't worry about what you're going to say when you come to a moment of crisis. I'll give you that help." Now, the fullness of what he was telling them, what they later then probably grew to understand because they wrote about it was that they would have His life in them through the Spirit, through the Holy Spirit.
And that was the means by which they would give an answer. And they did give an answer. They learned very quickly how to give an answer because the Jewish authorities brought them into imprisonment there later, you know, at that time late in the day, and then kept them overnight in a holding cell, brought them back before the leadership, the Sanhedrin the next morning. And essentially, as they question them and couldn't really find any reason to stop them, other than to say, "Don't anymore preach in this man's name," the one that they had engineered the death of, Jesus of Nazareth. And Peter said to them, "Look," he says in verse 19 of chapter 4 of Acts.
Acts 4:19-21 “They answered and said, ‘Whether it's right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’ Well, they receive more threats but they were then released.”
And they said, essentially, they were not going to stop, they were going to continue to do what they had been commissioned to do, that was to speak in the name of Jesus of Nazareth by whom they had healed, that man had been healed. They hadn't healed, God had healed the man, but it was in the name of Jesus. And so, God gave them that power. He gave them an answer to the moment. It was stressful, being put in jail overnight is no fun. And the opposition that was there was now new to them, in terms of their own personal life. They had watched it just a few weeks earlier with Christ and in His death and His crucifixion, now it was upon them.
And so, they left, they were released. And in verse 23, we find then what they did. Acts 4:23, let's begin to read here and look at the story and what we can learn from this prayer. You might have in your Bible a heading put there, a prayer for boldness. I've been titled this sermon, "A prayer for the bold." Because I think and hope that that's what we should be, and will be. And hopefully by this message and reflection upon this story, you and I will rise to a measure of boldness in our prayer and in our walk with God and our study of the Word of God that will help us to manifest that type of confidence and courage in any type of challenge or crisis that we face so that we learn to fight with a boldness, fighting in a proper spiritual way, and not flee, not retreat, not go back, not encounter fear and retreat in the face of a challenge, in the face of an adversity, in the face of a trial. Because more than anything, we need boldness. We need a boldness when it comes to the Word of God and to our life, to live in this particular way.
So let's look at what they did. It's always good, that's what excites me about every time, every year getting to go through the book of Acts with a group of students at ABC to learn what they did, what the early church did. That's what the book of Acts in one way is, that's kind of sums it up, it's what they did. And it teaches us what we should do, how we should live. This is what they did. It's really not any more complicated than that. They did this. And we can do it too, and we can have the same results and the same success. So let's see what they did.
Acts 4:23 "Being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all the chief priests and elders had said to them."
They had been for several hours in incarceration from the previous afternoon, overnight, and then let's say through a pretty stressful morning, more than likely to at least midday, before they were probably released. And so, it'd been a stressful period of time and they had a lot to say. “And they went to their own companions.” What a joy it is to have people to talk to, friends, people with whom we can share our deepest feelings, and thoughts, experiences, people with whom we can have a common bond and a common goal of God's church, of the truth, a husband, a wife, a good friend, a set of close friends, a church, companions. The word companions here may be in the italics, but the word itself fits because we are working together, we're on this journey together. We're in the same fight, we're in the same experience. We're in the same church, we believe the same truth, we worship the same God, we're all together in this.
And Peter and John were not afraid, they were not holding back to go and tell them what happened. But they were also, I think, looking also for some encouragement. Look, they were human, Peter and John. And Peter already had had one experience with the night Jesus was arrested, where he faltered. He hadn't faltered since then. The account in Acts shows us his strength and his courage. But I think he drew that, not only from the Spirit of God but also from the companionship of those that he had with him in the church, not only the other apostles, but the other disciples. And they talked and they shared that with them.
We have to do the same thing. We have to have that network. If I were to look at, you know, my life in the church, my life in the ministry, and all the years together, you know, I've survived because I've had a very good wife with me, Debbie. We've done this job together. We have both entered into it with our eyes... I think our eyes were open 50 years ago when we got into this, but they've been thrown wider open because of everything we've had to go through in nearly 50 years of experience in the church and marriage itself. But because of that relationship, we've worked everything through and are still here.
But also, I learned that I had to have a network of friends in the church and in the ministry to help keep me straight, keep my thinking balanced, keep me from extremes of decisions or behavior or judgments or whatever it might be. You got to develop those. And this is what is a big lesson here up front that they had in those early days of the church when we see them heady with success. So they reported what had been done. And then verses 34.
Acts 4:24 It tells us, "When they heard that," they being the collected group of whether it was all of the church or an inner circle, I'm sure more than just Peter and John, but those that were there, but I get the feeling of a roomful of people, "When they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord."
A unity, a unity of purpose, a unity of love, a unity of friendship. They lifted their voice to God in a collective way. We lift our voice to God in song, every time we come together. We lift our voice to God in joining in spiritually with the prayer that will be offered up, with a message that is brought, with the special music that is given. We, together, raise and reflect in a voice to God with unity, with one accord. And that brings us together in a closer relationship.
Now, here's what they said. They began to address God in a collective prayer, and again, we don't always know how they conducted their situation in the church here at this time and in the first century. It was a cultural and they had certain traditions as they were coming together and forming what we look at as the Church of God that may be a little different than what we and the way we do it today. But they were communicating as a body with God. And it could very well have been a collective prayer offered and led by one of the leaders, Peter or John themselves. But they all agreed with it and they all were strengthened by it, I think we can say. And here's what they said, and this begins the prayer.
Acts 4:24 "Lord, You are God who made heaven and the Earth and the sea and all that is in them."
Now, that's encompassing. Heaven and Earth and the sea and all that is in them. Their view of God at this moment was greater than probably what they had been raised with. Many of them had been with Jesus for three and a half years as disciples. And then they had witnessed His death. And then many of them had witnessed the resurrected Christ. The greatest of all miracles right there.
And had seemed the power of God at work in all of the circumstances at the time of His death and through the time of His resurrection, and they were eyewitnesses to all of this. And they were seeing what was developing in the church. They had been there on that day of Pentecost. They had a much enlarged vision of God that began to take in what they couldn't see with a telescope but they could see in their hearts.
I just researched for the sermon that I opened the feast with here in Cincinnati by reading a book that many of you have read called "The Privileged Planet." And if you haven't read it, maybe you've seen the videos that were done on it. But it's a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. Done by two physicists and scientists who are believers. And essentially, the point that they make in the book, "The Privileged Planet," is that Earth is privileged above all the other planets and within the entire bodies of all the solar system, to be positioned, to be placed within the Milky Way galaxy, with a moon and a sun and an orbit and a rotation and everything. The galaxy is in the right position, our place within the galaxy is in the right position, with just the right tilt and axis and everything else for life.
And no other planet observed, understood hasn't. And I was working off of the launch this year of the Webb telescope, that if you've seen or been following any of that, you understand that it's going to allow scientists to go and view further out into the universe than any other telescope that we've ever developed. And the images that you can see already are astounding. And, you know, I look forward to what they will find. But I think that...I don't look for them to find planets and other galaxies with any life like we know it, because of what the Scripture tells us and also what we have seen, "The Privileged Planet" shows that the chances of that happening are so astronomical as to be impossible.
We are positioned to have life and we are also positioned, even the universe is positioned at its moment of formation within the billions of years that it has been around for it to even be observed. It's a phenomenal subject to study. But with that in our mind, even with what we have, it should and it can enhance our view of God, that's my point.
As they began this prayer, they were recognizing God who has made heaven and sea and Earth. And we can add to that with the knowledge that we have that they didn't have, and it should and can help us to understand that this is the God we serve, this is the God we know, this is the God we pray to, and this is the God who can help us and will help us and is helping us in the challenges, in the tests, in the trials of life. When we pray to Him, when we're close to His word, when we are talking with Him and His spirit is strong within us. That is the God we serve, who has created all of this. That begins their prayer and it should be in our heart and in our mind. And then they said in verse 25.
Acts 4:25 "Who by the mouth of Your servant, David, said,"
And then they began to quote from Psalm 2, the second Psalm. They go back and they bring the Bible. This is the Word of God to them. This was what they knew to be the word of God. And it was right there, again, God is giving them the words even to speak in such a moment. But in addition to that, the disciples in the early church were very literate when it comes to the Scriptures. One of the misjudgments that people make at times is that first-century Judaism and the culture of the people, the Jews in the first century is that they were not very literate. And the statement that was made earlier in chapter 3 is misunderstood where the Jewish leadership accused Peter and John of being unlearned men. Well, they were only unlearned in a sense that they had not been through the rabbinical schools, but that was to their advantage. Literacy among Jews in Galilee and in Judea in the first century was very, very high. That's known from the cultural studies, the archaeological discoveries, the studies that have been made, that they knew Hebrew, they knew Greek, they knew the Bible, they were literate.
And so here they're calling from fourth, from the second Psalm. And what is remarkable here for us to understand is that they are applying this Psalm to their life at that point, to their circumstances of the opposition from the leadership. And it's an important principle. We rightly talk about doing a proper exegesis of Scripture and not reading anything into it. We want to have a good hermeneutical approach to all of the Bible and we should and do.
But one of the things that God's Spirit led the church then and can lead us now into is the fact that we understand that all the Bible can be applied to the here and now in our life and we can draw lessons from it. And what they were doing here was going back to one of the early Psalms and they were applying it to the opposition from the Jewish leadership. But let's look at it and see how it should apply to us now and what we can learn from it. Because ultimately, that's the important thing, as you and I read the Bible, we're not only learning about the Bible but we're wanting to have spiritual strength and application for what's in front of us right now in our day and our time, and the trials that we're facing. Here's what they said.
Acts 4:25-26 "Why did the nations rage?" And this is quoting right out of Psalm 2. "Why did the nations rage and the people plot vain things? The kings of the Earth took their stand and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ."
Now, as the Jews of the first century would have read that, they would have only applied that to the setting of the Old Testament, they didn't recognize Christ, it was a Psalm of David. They would have been rooted in an explanation that missed Christ, and Jesus of Nazareth being the Christ. But Peter and John and the other disciples now were applying the Scripture to their time. Let's read it and let's apply it to our time, to our day, and let's look at what we might learn. They were gaining strength from it, can we gain strength from it? Well, yes, we can. I look at this and the nations rage and the people plot vain things.
Did anybody pay attention to the election this past Tuesday? I do, I did. I pay attention, for many reasons. But I keep a pretty sharp eye on policies. I won't use the word politics, I'll use the word policies, because there are major policy issues that are in play today and that were in play on Tuesday. And I look at that and I want to understand what's going on. So I look at it with one eye, I keep the other eye on God's kingdom and I keep both feet in God's church and in the kingdom as well. But I want to know what's going on and I want to understand my time. I talk a lot about that with the students, and I think most of you know where I'm coming from there in terms of just watching and understanding our present world.
But, you know, people were looking for a red wave this past Tuesday. I got up early Tuesday morning to go to do my swimming at 6:00 at the YMCA. And I got out in my driveway. And I knew that there was a full moon out and I knew that Tuesday morning was a blood moon. Did you know that? Anybody see the blood moon on Tuesday morning? I got out and I started looking for it, I couldn't find it. My neighbors, next door neighbors, they were already out in their robes looking for it and they said, "Hey, look over here in this part of the sky." So, Scott McKeon was staying with me, one of the camp directors this week. We were both looking in the sky. So we moved a little bit and found it in the western sky. And there it was, a red blood moon on election day of all things when they were expecting a red wave.
Well, if you follow anything, they didn't have a red wave this week. They didn't have a blue wave either. They had kind of a red trickle is what happened with the way it looks like it's going to come out. No huge shift one way or the other. But when you look at all the talk and the issues, there's not a perfect example of the nations raging right now. A cultural rage at many different levels of issues that we don't need to talk about and go into the detail now but there is a raging among the nations and frankly a vain plotting of things, of leaders as it describes here.
Because, ultimately, no matter how you might scrutinize whatever with that one eye or eye and a half, whatever you do, you take a step or two back with the perspective of God's purpose and God's plan. And that's what the Psalmist is doing, that's what they were doing here at the time of the church in the first century. They weren't intimidated by the Jewish opposition. They weren't worried about it.
As we might look at our world today, I'm concerned, I pray, I sigh and cry for the afflictions of Joseph. But I don't get overly concerned and I don't overly worry about it because from what I know from God's Word about the future, God's kingdom, and I recognize that there's a lot of plotting, and design, polling or however you want to apply it and turns out to be nothing. And I'm very careful, and you should be, to not let any of that become something idolatrous, because we should recognize, ultimately, of the futility there in the raging and the fighting and the clashing and even the policies, ultimately, can have some damage, but ultimately, God's Kingdom is going to come.
We may have a rough passage to that point but we have to keep that perspective and recognize the futility of that and not let it worry us, depress us, or concern us. But take this and apply it into our own life, into what is in front of us. This is what they were doing. They were facing opposition that later Scriptures will show got pretty close and got pretty personal. The challenges that come into our personal lives and the challenges that we have to deal with, of health, of conflict, of fear, maybe doubt, maybe a crisis of faith, maybe a crisis in who is God and where He is working and what He is doing and how it impacts our personal life. Those are the things we're going to...that are right in front of us. And we have to have that confidence, the same confidence that they had right here.
Acts 4:27 They said, ''For truly against your holy servant, Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together.''
And they were there facing down, beginning to gather conflict now against the disciples of Jesus. They had already engineered the death of Jesus and now they had the church in their eyesight, at least the Jewish authorities did. But here's how they viewed it. Their eyes were first on God. They had been together and now they were praying to God. And they weren't worried about Pontius Pilate or any of the other authorities of the Jews and the leadership at that time. And they were actually equating the Jewish leadership with the Gentile nations, which is an interesting thought in itself, as they had engineered the death of Christ and now this opposition. But they had a proper perspective.
Acts 4:28 "To do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determine before to be done."
They were gathered together and they did what they did, but it was all according to the great purpose of God, ultimately, the prophecies of Christ death were very, very specific. We know from the book of Isaiah and other prophecies. And His life and death were prophesied, was determined. His death was determined. And yes, it was carried out by those that were stirred and raged and all, but the church had the proper understanding that it was done by God's determined purpose.
When you look ahead into Revelation 17 and you see the events that are described at the end of the age, there's one Scripture that we tend to neglect in that. And that is that God puts it into the heart of even the Gentile rulers at the end of the age to do what they're going to do during a time of tribulation. God guides it all. It is by his determined purpose that the events of this world will ultimately play out. And it is by his determined purpose that our lives are going to be played out as well as we are close to him and understand that.
And, again, that is the focus to always come down to. And so, that is why in verse 29, they came to this conclusion, and they said now. And that's the here and now, that's the present. That's the what's in it for me? Now. Lord, and this is where the prayer for the bold comes in. As we sort out everything that is in front of us what the challenge, the trial, the difficulty will be, what is needed, we then come to God and we say, "Now. Lord.”
Acts 4:29 They said, “Look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your Word.”
Look on their threats, another way to say that is to hear. Hear the problem, know me, know what is taking place. Understand where I am, understand what I need, understand what someone else needs. Look God now.
This is a bold assertion of a relationship with God, that we develop over a period of time that can have a real, meaningful, serious prayer. This is more than just a casual prayer before we go out the door. This is more than just a few words offered up. This is a heartfelt plea and cry. And it doesn't have to take hours to work. It can come from the depth of our heart, just like that, if we are already into the Word of God. Look on their threats and grant to your servants that with all boldness, they may speak your Word. We need to come to God and ask Him to grant what is needed. And to do that, you got to know what you need. I need to know what I need. Faith, courage, confidence, greater commitment, serenity of mind. The ability to stand into the fight rather than retreat from the fight, to stand, to do, to ask God for that help.
This is verse 29, the essence of the prayer for the bold right here, to turn to God and ask Him to look on our lives and to grant what we need from His Word. Our world and our culture right now is trying to rip everything that it can of faith and confidence and courage out of our life. There is something that the Bible talks about that we should always remember, and that is that God has a group of people called His first fruits, the first fruits of salvation. We had a very good sermon last week for Mr. Antion here in the AM congregation about the elect, and the elect of God, and that we are a part of that grouping of people called the elect.
Another way to look at it is the idea of the first fruits. We keep the Feast of Pentecost and we rehearse that meaning of the first fruits of God's plan of salvation. And when you look through the whole Scripture on there, all that it says about that, there is a group of people called the first fruits.
Now, you're either a first fruit or you're not. It's the Spirit of God. It is being called, it is being a part of a group of people who are the first fruits of that salvation. You can have a lot of knowledge, you can be a good person, you can be so many things, but there is a group of people called the first fruits and we're a part of that. And we need to remember and we should never let anything rip that from our life. The world is geared to rip that away from us, through whatever temptation, through whatever distraction, through whatever obsession, through whatever crisis, through whatever trial that might come. It's geared to rip that belief that there is a special calling of the people of God to rip that out of us to cause us to wonder, to doubt, and to, as we say, as the scripture say, fall away. We cannot do that. We have to be bold to understand that. We have to be bold to believe that. We have to be bold to live that way. And never forget that and let God sort out everything else that we may not fully understand, but hold firm to that calling of being a first fruit and have the boldness to do that.
Our camp directors met this past week to plan out the next year of camp activities and camp programs for our youth. I happened to walk into the room a couple of times to talk to them during their breaks. And after a couple of days of pretty hard work and intense discussions, they had all the whiteboards that were in the conference room plus even dragging the one out of our ABC classroom in there to fill it up with scriptures, ideas for the campus checks and for the themes of the camp program, because it's a Scripture-based program. Always has been from the inception that we designed at the beginning of United Church of God. And they were hard at work in creating that. More than anything else, right now there is that need to claim the promise that is in Acts 2 for our children, a promise of salvation, a promise of hope, a promise of the future.
Peter said, "The promise is to you and to your children." And what we do with our education, with our camp program is helping families, helping parents, helping our young people to focus on that promise, to claim that promise, the promise of God's way of life.
One thing I've observed this year, this past year in conversations and wherever...I've been with the people and the church and families that are families with young children. Many of you here, you are interested in passing along the faith to your children. And that is a high priority and that is good. And it is the interest of the church to do that as well. And so, that particular part of our program I think is operating quite well, quite soundly. Work we do you and you do in your homes to make that happen, it's got to work as well.
We have got to all personally claim that promise that is handed to us by God of salvation, and pass that along and teach it and model it as an example. And it takes boldness to do that, is the point. It takes conviction to do that. It takes being able to put everything aside, standing into the fight, not being fearful of the culture, of the challenges. And they are very real and they are very intimidating, that our children face, that we face that are creeping in. But we have to be bold to stand against it, and to model, teach, and example the way of God, the truth of God. That's our job as a church, that is our job as a parent, that is our job as a member to one another. It takes boldness to do that. And we have to ask God for the help. We have to say, "Lord, look on the threats of this world and the threats to our families and the threats to the church and grant to us conviction, grant to us courage, grant to us boldness, that we may speak your Word."
How does this apply to us in our situation today? How do we take a prayer like this and how do we be bold? Well, we don't flee from the conflicts, the challenges, the tests and the trials that come, whether of health, whether personal conflict that might come up, a challenge from family members, work, or the greater culture that is around us and that creeps in, sometimes even causing us to allow the culture of the world to come into the church. The ministry, the programming of the church, the educational programs are doing the best I think we can to teach, to instruct, to help.
All of us collectively have got to work together to do that and to carry it through with our children. Because there is a great push against it. This world is not a friend of families, wanting to be families of faith. And so we have to claim that as well. And it takes a bold claim of the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what was working in these disciples to cause them to stand into the challenge that was in front of them at the moment and it's what will work within us.
The very same promise to know what to speak, as was read in the sermonette from Luke 12, is the same promise that we can claim as well, to know what to speak in a moment of test, in a moment of conflict, in a moment of challenge. And we have to be bold for that. And it takes our prayers to God for that help. And it takes the ability to take from the Word of God the examples, the teaching, just as they did from Psalm 2 that we can take that and apply it into our practical life because that's what they say here in verse 29, "That we may speak Your word." There's many different ways that we speak the word of God today. We speak it in our families, we should. We speak it to God. We speak it to one another. And that word is what strengthens us.
Acts 4:30 Then they say, "By stretching out Your hand to heal," and he had already healed this lame man. "And that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant, Jesus."
That's how the miracle of the lame man had come about and his healing, and that was a miracle. We look for miracles today, we look for healing today. And while I have never seen such a dramatic healing as chapter 3 describes, and other episodes in Acts describes of even the dead being raised to life, I have seen miracles of healing. I have seen people healed. And I don't doubt that God heals today. And we may not... And I have never at least caused a lame man, in the name of Christ, to stand up and walk. But I've seen other miracles that have been done through the name of your holy servant, Jesus, as is said here. When I see the miracle of a converted heart and mind, when I see the miracle of God's Spirit working in someone that brings them to faith after years of lapse and retreat, and people come to themselves, like the prodigal son did, and they return to faith and to God. When I see that, I see a miracle.
When I see people begin to turn from this world's culture and begin to obey God, that's a miracle. It's the miracle of a changed mind and a changed heart. That is no less of a miracle than a man being healed who has been lame from birth. We must always keep that in perspective. The miracle of conversion is very, very powerful. And it is a miracle, more of a miracle it seems each day. With the current world conditions and the cultural challenges and all that's working against people coming to God, believing the Bible and wanting to obey God and to live a life of faith, when that happens, it's a miracle and it's a miracle only God can do. And it's done in the name of the holy servant Jesus, not by any grand eloquent efforts that any of us would make, it's done by God. We cannot lose sight of that. And we should boldly pray for that.
I'm very glad that we've been able to run this series in the E-News and other places to encourage us to pray for the work of God, the Gospel to have free course, and there were some very great things that are in need of prayers. Our brethren in Angola being shut, you know, not shut down yet but essentially told, "You need to become like everybody else," is what they were told to do. And they couldn't get the recognition, the authorization from the government, that's something that we need to be bold in prayer about.
I was intrigued by David Scriber's report from India, of the number of people that he's been working with there that are interested in aligning themselves with the United Church of God and obeying the Word of God and the truth. And I hadn't really focused on that for some time. We need to be praying about that as well. And there are so many things. And all of those prayers and all of that, we need to be bold in it and we need to take confidence that God will hear. This is what they looked for in their day here in the church, this is what we should be doing as we follow and model that example. If we do, we can expect the power of God to be manifest and should.
This was a very short prayer, it's not long. It's rooted in the word of God, which means we've got to know the Word of God and we've got to be learning it and talking about it with boldness. Verse 31 shows an interesting thing that happened.
Acts 4:31 “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken.”
We can just imagine, you just have to understand it that it was a localized earthquake, I suppose, that particular room. It may not have registered on any other seismometer anyplace else, Judea at that moment, maybe just that place. But they knew the presence of God was there. What's our takeaway? Well, we pray and we know that we have laid it boldly before it God. And while our room and our home and maybe, you know, our collective place of assembly isn't going to shake, we've been moved, you've been moved by the Word of God and by a prayer of boldness to do that.
Acts 4:31 "They were filled," it says, notice at the end of verse 31, "they were filled with the Holy Spirit."
That's the promise, and that's the power by which anything is done. And that's the means by which Christ said that you'll speak what you need to speak when the time comes. And if it's just in our prayers, the boldness to God, than that fulfills that Scripture. And if it's done with boldness, it's God's Spirit moving us in that direction. And it says, ''And they spoke the Word of God with boldness.'' Notice in this account here that I've read to you that the Word of God has been mentioned twice, pointing us to the power of the Word of God. That is a key theme of the church and what they did. They were rooted in the Word of God. And from that came their boldness, the works and what they did.
When the stress comes, when the trials come, when the needs for us to stand come, we have to fight. We have to fight spiritually, we have to fight with the armor of God, we have to fight and we cannot run. We cannot shy from the conflict. We have to stand in and do our job. We have to pray with boldness. We have to lay down a barrage of prayer. Because in the end, that's what's going to be the ultimate key to victory. A prayer from the bold, a prayer of boldness can really make a difference in people's lives, in the Church of God, and in the work that God is doing in each one of us. So let's make a stance to stand and to fight spiritually with boldness. This is what they did. What can we then do?