23After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, 25it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ 27For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
After Peter and John healed the man who could not walk from birth, they spoke to the crowd about Jesus and about 5,000 people believed. Many of the same religious leaders who had Jesus arrested and crucified, arrested Peter and John and put them in jail overnight. The next day, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter and John spoke boldly about Jesus to the leaders, and the leaders are amazed that uneducated men like Peter and John could do this. That, along with the undeniable fact that a miraculous healing had taken place, meant that the leaders really could not say anything in opposition.
They could not punish Peter and John, since all the crowd were praising God for what had happened. So they warned Peter and John to not speak or teach anyone about Jesus anymore and let them go.
The followers get together and pray that they might speak with boldness in witnessing for Jesus, while God continues to heal and perform signs and miracles.
This singular focus on spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ is something we need to be reminding ourselves. If it were us that were arrested for preaching about Jesus and then released with a warning, we would be thankful for the release, but worried about the future. We would likely pray for protection and wisdom in how to proceed, rather than praying for boldness to keep speaking like the followers did.
The enemy is trying to distract us from our main work as Christians. If we let ourselves be guided by what “influencers” from social media and YouTube videos tell us what we should be focusing on, it would be things like which political party or politicians we should be supporting, fear about the loss of religious freedom in this country, social justice, wearing face masks, getting vaccinated, etc. Not to say that these should not be important topics to us, but these are secondary to the things on which the Bible tells us to focus.
There may be some Christians who are especially called by the Holy Spirit into dealing with these issues, but for most of us, our main vocation that we are called to, is to spread the gospel, to be witnesses for the Lord and to make disciples of Jesus.
A few years ago, I asked a non-Christian to tell me honestly how he would describe Christians, and the answer was anti-abortion, anti-gay and politically conservative. This seems to be a fairly common view people have of Christians. However, if these social or political stances overwhelm things like sharing the gospel and showing love for each other, then we somehow are missing the commands that were given to us by our Lord and the reason the Holy Spirit was sent to us.
Study shows that while the majority of church goers desire to honor Christ with their lives and believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, only 19% read the Bible daily outside of church services. Another study shows that less than 30% of Christians will ever read the entire Bible. More and more, we hear that Biblical illiteracy is a major concern among today’s Christian leaders. Without knowing what the Bible teaches, it is easy to be misled by those who profess to be teaching the truth, which in turn makes it easy to get caught up in focusing on self-satisfaction and worldly concerns, rather than witnessing for Christ.
We all need to consciously lead by good example to the younger believers in spending time reading and studying the Bible and sharing Biblical truths. We also need to point out and warn about false teachings that creep into people’s lives.
If we analyze the contents of our prayers, it might shed light on where we are lacking in terms of what the Lord expects of us. Do we pray for boldness for speaking the Lord’s words? Perhaps we should include that in our daily prayers.
(the above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano during our zoom worship session on Sunday, April 11, 2021.)