Growing through Persecutions part 2: Acts 8:1-11
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A journey through Acts: The scattered church
John Piper has rightly observed that God uses the persecution and suffering of his people to spread the truth of Christ and to bless the world (cf. Luke 21:12-13). He rules over the sufferings of the church and causes them to spread spiritual power and the joy of faith in a lost world. It is not his only way. But it does seem to be a frequent way. Thus, “God spurs the church into missionary service by the suffering she endures. Therefore we must not judge too quickly the apparent setbacks and tactical "defeats" of the church. If you see things with the lenses of God, the Master strategist (who cannot lose because he is omnipotent), what you see in every setback is the positioning for a greater advance and a greater display of his wisdom and power and love”.
Encouraging facts about our God and Mission
The main theme of Acts 8:1-8 (and of the whole book of Acts) is how God works against all odds to accomplish His mission. John Piper breaks it down into four parts, but for this devotion I will look at two:
1. God makes persecution serve Mission
The first verse shows us that God makes persecution serve the Great Commission. "On that day [the day of Stephen's murder] a great persecution arose against that church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Up until now in the book of Acts all the ministry has taken place in Jerusalem. No one had moved out to Judea and Samaria. But Jesus had said in Acts 1:8 that the coming of the Holy Spirit was to empower missions in Jerusalem and beyond. "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Therefore Acts 8:1-11 is the fulfilment of the words of Jesus. This missionary purpose of the persecution is confirmed in Acts 11:19.
The lesson is that comfort, ease, affluence, prosperity, safety and freedom often cause a tremendous inertia in the church; weakness, apathy, lethargy, self-centeredness and preoccupation with security. Persecution, often produce more personnel, more prayer, more power, more open purses than easy times.
2. Adversaries can become Advocates
The second encouraging thing to see here is that sometimes our worst enemies become our best friends. Verse 3: "But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison." This Saul is the one who would be dramatically converted and become the best friend and advocate Christianity ever had.
There is hope: “fearsome enemies can become precious friends. Adversaries can become advocates. Critics can become comrades. For most of us it's pretty easy to believe that an intimate disciple can become a deadly betrayer, like Judas. That's the way the world is. But we need to remember that a deadly persecutor can also become a great ally and partner in the cause of Christ. That's the way God is. That's the kind of power he has” (Piper).
Minister: Very Rev Canon Sammy Wainaina-Provost
Heavenly father, help us to put our faith in Jesus. Amen.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
As we approach Gafcon Sunday (June 27) pray for Gafcon supporters to consider how they can best support the Gafcon Fellowship. For most of us this may be to commit to pray; for some it may be to volunteer in some capacity with one of the Gafcon Networks; and for some it may be to start regular financial support.
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