In church for the last few weeks we've been going through the book of Acts and this past Sunday saw us in Acts 3-4. At the beginning of chapter 3 we find Peter and John heading to the Synagogue to pray when they are flagged down by a lame man who wanted alms from them. If you've read the story you'll remember that this where Peter stated "Silver and Gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you; In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" A very cool, very bold statement since it would be kind of embarrassing if nothing happened.
But the guy was healed and began jumping around praising God. At least he got it right! The others in the story, when they heard about it tried to worship Peter and John and had to be corrected. (Though this was a very nice segue for Peter right into the gospel message. Gotta love Peter! :) )
There were some things here that our pastor pointed out that I hadn't caught before. The first thing being that Peter and John were flexible to the direction of the Lord. Their agenda was to go pray, God's agenda saw a lame man healed and hundreds of people saved. They set aside their plans for the day in favor of doing what the Lord put before them and saw some serious fruit as a result.
They didn't get to enjoy the success for very long before trouble came calling though. As soon as the spiritual muckety-mucks got wind of what was going on they tried to put a stop to it. They grabbed Peter and John and dragged them before the Sanhedrin and tried to shut them up.
This being Peter he gave them a sermon too! Really, gotta love Peter!
The religious leaders wanted them to stop teaching or even speaking about Jesus and there was just no way they could do that. I wonder if at some point Peter and John realized they were beginning to walk in their Lord's footsteps? Did it embolden them? Strike fear in their hearts? Maybe a little of both? At any rate, Peter wasn't about to be bossed around by these guys, persecution or not! His response to them was, "Whether it is 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." Acts 4:19-20
All of that was good but there was one thing Pastor Doug said that really arrested me. He asked, "Is your tribulation worth the salvation of another man's soul?"
I've spent a couple of days turning that question over and over in my mind and came up with a couple of more questions for myself.
Will I be obedient to what He's asked me to do? Even if it causes me to be uncomfortable or tosses me into tribulation of my own? Will I set myself aside for the sake of another? And the one that really got me; What effect does my disobedience have on those around me?
In the text if Peter and John had not turned aside they would have missed the opportunity to heal the lame man. Yes, God is God and His will won't be thwarted but it still would have had an impact on the lame guy and by extension the people who gave their lives to the Lord as a result of Peter's speech. At the minimum they would have had to wait for the next guy to come along and who knows what could have happened in the interim.
We just don't know what kind of an impact our response to God is going to have on those around us. In thinking all of this through the Lord reminded me of a lesson He taught me a few years ago. No body's salvation was at stake but it was a lesson in obeying even when I didn't want to and it did impact my marriage from that day until now. You don't want to know what it was do you? ;)
The argument began the way most of our arguments do I suppose; one of us didn't get our way and protested. However it began, I will never forget how it ended. We were in the car with all the kids headed across the Trestle into Everett. I remember it being a warm, sunny day out but it was pretty frigid in the car. Both of us stared straight ahead, wrapped up in our own private thoughts and refusing to acknowledge each other.
Being the spiritual one I was talking to the Lord. Okay, I was whining like a petulant two year old. "Lord he . . . whine, whine, whine!"
I knew the Lord wanted me to reach across the center console and take Jon's hand but the way I was trying to get out of it you'd have though He'd asked me to put my hand into a running meat grinder! I did not want to do it so I continued to "pray"; "But Lord he....!"
Will you do it for me?
Oh that cut deep! That quiet question posed to my heart, would I reach out to my husband simply because He asked me to? All of the fight drained right out of me and I reached across and took Jon's hand in my own. As soon as I did I saw the fight leave him too. We both apologized, dealt with whatever it was we were arguing over and peace was restored in our family.
I have no idea what that fight was about and I don't remember what I whined to the Lord about my husband. I remember His quiet question and the effect it had on my heart though. He convicted me and I was able to repent to Him and then to my husband. My obedience (finally) in that situation restored peace in my marriage.
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1
It's not always easy to obey though, is it? We want our way, especially if we feel we've been wronged. We want justice! We want vindication! We want our own way.
I have found though that if I simply come clean with the Lord and ask Him for help in obeying Him, He gives it.
Pretty simple isn't it? He knows what I'm thinking anyway so it's not like I will surprise Him if I say I don't want to do what He's asked. I'm not saying talk to Him like you're a spoiled little kid! He is God Almighty and deserves respect but He does love you and wants to help.
So ask Him.
Ask for the strength to obey when you've exhausted your own. Ask for His heart for that person you just don't want to love. Ask Him to help you set aside your agenda when He wants to change your plans. Ask Him for boldness to stand firm and speak His word in the face of persecution, that's what Peter and John did.
"I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And your law is within my heart." Psalm 40:8