A crisis hits us. Someone treats us unfairly. Sickness abounds. We face troubles with our finances, our jobs, our relationships. Opposition is no stranger to anyone, including Christians. In my 9/15/2013 message, we look at Acts 4 and learn about the 3 major types of opposition that we face and how, with God’s help, we can persevere through the trials.
Note: these are my sermon notes. You can listen to the message on the Adventure website.
“Come as you are and become who God wants you to be.” — That’s our vision for Adventure Church. It’s who God has called us to be. When we read it / say it, it seems like it should be so easy — just come and let God help you become who He wants you to be. But the reality is that it isn’t very easy at all at times. Opposition abounds in becoming who God wants you to be.
It shouldn’t surprise us. In 1 Peter 4:2, the apostle Peter reminded the church of such by writing: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” Trials happen. They happen to everyone. So when they do, we shouldn’t be surprised. Being a Christian isn’t a ticket to Easy Street. It was never meant to be that.
But remember: “Opposition is really a growth opportunity!” God uses tough times in our lives to grow us spiritually. It’s like running a marathon; at some point you will hit a wall. It’s then that you have 2 choices: you can give up and go home OR you can persevere and get through the tough time. When we choose the latter, we learn from it. Our faith grows. Our belief grows. Our experience grows. That’s the way to spiritual maturity: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Peter & John Face Opposition
At the beginning of Acts 4, we see Peter and John, fresh off of the healing of a crippled beggar, speaking to the crowd. Hundreds of people, if not more, had rushed to see what was happening. We see that the religious leaders and the temple guards also came and were disturbed by what Peter and John were teaching – in particular, that they were teaching about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This was the beginning of the opposition they would face in 3 ways.
Opposition from Circumstances
Acts 4:3 – “They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.” This had to be a little unnerving to say the least. Just a couple of months ago, Peter and John had witnessed Jesus arrested in the evening. The next day he was crucified. Now Peter and John were in a tough circumstance. It could easily have challenged their faith and particularly their “becoming who God wanted them to be” which was to “be [His] witnesses in Jerusalem, ….”
At times, your circumstances can be an opposition to becoming who God wants you to be. Maybe it’s a problem with your job. Maybe it’s an illness. Maybe there’s been a death. Maybe you have a relationship problem, even a divorce pending. There are all sorts of circumstances that can make us feel alone, forgotten by God, ignored by Him, or, worse, even that He is punishing us or that He hates us. None of that is true. Those are lies. But circumstances can work in such a way as to make us believe lies.
Opposition from Others
Acts 4:7 – “They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’”
People will question your faith at times. They will doubt whether you’ve really changed. They may even diminish or ridicule what you believe. Relationships may change. Some won’t want to be around you any longer. It’s not easy to become who God wants you to be when you feel like so many are against you. It can cause you to doubt or cause you to want to give up.
Opposition from You
Maybe the greatest opposition we face in becoming who God wants us to be is ourselves. We have issues with pride and anger. We harbor grudges and refuse to forgive. We have secret sins that we hold on to. We fail to accept the forgiveness and grace God offers for our past and continue to be weighed down by guilt and shame. We are lazy. We make unwise choices. All of those things interfere with our spiritual growth.
What should you do when opposition comes?
Rely on God’s Power
Acts 4:8 – “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people!”
Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. He knew that to be true. If you are a Christian, you also are filled with the Holy Spirit. God can help us overcome opposition. He is stronger and bigger than any trial we are facing. The first step to persevering is asking Him for help. Rely on His power.
Remember What Is True
In the next part of Acts, we see Peter stand up for what he knew to be true — “Salvation is found in no one else” but Jesus, Peter says. When we wish to overcome opposition, we need to remember what is true about God and His promises to us. The devil wants us to believe lies like God has abandoned us and is mad at us. The truth in the Word tells us that God loves us with an everlasting love, that He is always present, that He desires us to have life to the full, that He gives us a peace that is beyond understanding (and not like the world gives), that He desires for us to have understanding, that He chooses to forget our sins, and so much more. We need to hold on to those truths in times of trial and suffering.
Resist the Temptation to Compromise
Next the religious leaders admonish Peter and John and tell them to “speak no longer to anyone in” the name of Jesus. Note that they were going to allow them to continue to teach, not just in the name of Jesus. They could heal, but not in the name of Jesus. They didn’t kick them out of town, they just didn’t want them to mention Jesus any longer.
But Peter refused to compromise. In Acts 4:19-20, he responds with: “‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”
It’s much easier to compromise than to stand firm in what we know to be true. It’s easier to just do good, but not mention the name of Jesus. It’s easier to just attribute the change in our hearts and our lives to “living right” and “making good choices.” That’s what our society wants us to say. That’s what Oprah and Dr. Phil want us to believe as well — that we somehow can engineer these great personal changes in our lives. But that’s compromising. If you really want to persevere through opposition that will stall your spiritual growth, you can’t compromise the truth.
Finally, to get through trials. To overcome opposition. You have to refuel. That’s what Peter and John did. After they were released, “Peter and John went back to their own people …” (Acts 4:23). How awesome is that! They went back to their people. Together they praised God for protecting them and prayed. The Bible says they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly. (Acts 4:24).
Opposition is tough. Trials, even small ones over time, take a toll on you. You have to get back to your people — and that means your Christian fellowship! That’s a big part of what church is for — we are each other’s people. We are support for each other. We can pray for each other. We can refuel!
Opposition is really a growth opportunity! At the time it’s happening it’s not much fun. But overcoming the trials and the suffering lead us to spiritual maturity.