11 November 4, 2012 4;23-31 Praying With Dependency On God
Pray With Dependency On God Acts 4:23-31 November 4, 2012 First Baptist Church Jackson, Mississippi, USA Begin now praying for World Mission Week, November 7-11. There will be an Adult Sunday School Rally for Young Married and Median Adults on November 11th at both the 9:00 and 10:30 Sunday School hours. Breakfast foods will be provided in FSHE. You will hear testimonies from three missionary couples.Focal Passage Passages: Embrace God’s Plan (Acts 4:23-28) Pray for God to Work (Acts 4:29-30) Experience God’s Power (Acts 4:31)What This Lesson Is About: Praying with dependency on God to transform our lives (and other people’s lives).
At times you may feel like that hapless sailor in a small boat tossed and battered by the sea. The desperate sailor ropes a rock. The rock provides the needed security, stability, and hope for the helpless man. When the rock is lassoed it’s not the man pulling the rock to the boat (though it may appear that way); it is the pulling of the boat to the rock. Christ is the rock; we throw the rope through prayer.
We desperately need to connect with God through prayer! When we work, we work; when we pray, God works. God has ordained prayer as a means by which He will work on earth and meet the needs of His people. God created us with needs so that we would need Him. Too many Christians—and churches—have lost their sense of dependence on God. Do we not believe God can work as He did in the days of the early church? Only God can transform lives and churches. When we partner with Him, get on His agenda and follow His lead, no person or society can stop God’s church. Without God we are helpless and hapless, given to the whims of people and the storms of circumstance. But with God we lasso the Rock.
Throw your rope – pray! God provides the strength we need 2 Peter 1:3 As He performed His wonders with the early church, He will do it for us today as well.Embrace God’s PlanActs 4:23-2823 “After they were released, they went to their own people and reported everythingthe chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they allraised their voices to God and said, “Master, You are the One Who made the heaven,the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You said through the Holy Spirit, bythe mouth of our father David Your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot futile things?26 The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers assembled together against the Lord and against His Messiah.27 “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and thepeople of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, Whom Youanointed, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to takeplace.” Acts 4:23-28 Peter and John preached the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. They were tossed in jail by the Jewish authorities, then interrogated the next day.
They spoke with compelling boldness and radical dependence on Jesus Christ. Acts 4:13 is pivotal in this entire episode: Acts 4:13 “When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13 The Jewish leaders were captivated by Peter and John’s courage and astonished by their insight for they had no formal training, but observed that they were followers of Jesus. Could this be the secret of Peter and John’s effectiveness? Their association, their dependence, on Jesus was their source of strength and security. These men were on a mission, possessed by a great affection and an overwhelming passion motivated by their experience with Jesus. Someone, not just something, had happened to them. They were transformed men. Changed! Electrified! This is not the same Peter that we studied about last week who cowardly denied Christ three times. The authorities ordered them not to speak or teach about Jesus, threatening further punishment if they did. Opposition fosters dependence. Apparently unafraid of their accusers, nothing stopped their quest to tell others about Jesus. They discovered a perpetual source of energy, courage, and power. Their relationship with Jesus provided, and the community of believers sustained, their spiritual vitality and courageous boldness. Rather than despondency and defeat or fear and anxiety, over such dire news, the assembled believers turned to God in prayer, not as a last resort but as a first resolve.
Prayer should be our first step, not the last resort. The believers embraced God’s plan. They had comprehended that prayer was and is the indispensable and vital function of a believer. They united in prayer; they all raised their voices, though not a prayer in unison. The believers joined together in prayer as one person spoke the words. We often pray similarly today. One individual will voice the prayer and the congregation will silently agree with the spoken words. As early believers modeled, we need to practice the discipline of praying together. The early church was birthed in praying together. They coped with crisis and persecution as one body on their knees. They trusted God for miraculous, divine interventions in times of extreme trouble through united prayer. The early church learned to pray largely by praying together. Young Christians today learn to pray in community with mature believers. Surprisingly, the believers did not pray for changed circumstances or personal comfort. They instead turned to God, recognizing His power and sovereignty. They knew what we often forget: effective prayer is foremost God-directed. How often have our corporate prayers been directed to the limited, listening audience, rather than to omnipotent God Who can do something about us and our circumstances? Before any request, the believers focused on God.
They addressed Him as Master. The Greek word renders “a ruler with absolute power/sovereign Lord”. The term often referred to a master or to a king with unchallengeable power over his subjects. Here, it communicated God’s omnipotence, as “Lord Almighty.” The believers distinguished that the Sanhedrin had influence and desired to silence their witness, but the disciples knew the Jewish authority dimmed in comparison to God’s rule. We would be wise to remember such powerful truth in light of the opposition Christians and Christianity faces in the world today. Furthermore, they proclaimed God as Creator, “the One Who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them.” Steeped in Old Testament understanding of God, Scripture informed their prayer. In fact, prayer commences with God’s Word. Just as the Bible informs our theology, our ethics, and our behaviors, it also informs our prayer. If we are always presenting God with a list of pleas, trying to talk Him into granting our desires, it makes us a big mouth and God a big ear. Praying Scripture turns God into the voice and us the ear, ready and willing to respond to His plans. Then, the believers accredited God as the Source of revelation. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God had spoken through David. They quoted Psalm 2:1-4 in their prayer.Psalm 2:1-4Coronation of the Son1 “Why do the nations rebel and the peoples plot in vain?2 The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and His Anointed One:3 ’Let us tear off their chains and free ourselves from their restraints.’4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them.” Psalm 2:1-4 Peter and John, along with the assembled believers, interpreted the recent events as proof God was working in their midst and that Jesus fulfilled David’s prophetic word, regarding the coming Messiah.
In King David’s time, vassal rulers were required to submit to a newly enthroned king. When some refused, God laughed at such revolt (Psalm 2:4). The believers recognized Jesus as God’s Anointed One. They thus knew how foolish it would be for authorities to think they could stop God’s plan and the proclamation of His message. Did God laugh again? The early believers applied this prophetic statement to their situation. They filled supporting actor roles in God’s divine mission in the world. It bestowed meaning to their persecution and harassment. The unfolding events served to remind the church that they were in good company, for God’s faithful people always have been under attack. Persecution provided the acid test of obeying God rather than men. They acknowledged God as the Overseer of history. Verse 27 identifies historical figures and their plot against Jesus.Acts 4:2727 “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and thepeople of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus,” Acts 4:27 The conspirators included Herod Antipas (not Herod the Great) who corresponded with the kings of the earth.
Then, Pilate related with the rulers. The Gentiles were the Romans, sentencing Jesus to the cross and executing the sentence. The people of Israel represented the Jews, acknowledging their role in Jesus’ death. All were united against Jesus; all were a part of God’s predetermined plan that the Messiah must suffer and die. These people raged and plotted against Jesus, God’s holy Servant, Whom God anointed. Rage depicted a neighing horse, tossing its head, snorting, stamping its feet, prancing in pride, but ultimately the stallion would submit to the reins of the master.
Jesus, the incarnation of God, traversed among humanity. He suffered the blows of humanity. Jesus succumbed to the worst that humanity could unleash on a person, yet He came out victorious. In the end, God’s desire would prevail.Acts 4:2828 “to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:28 God’s hand, a common image in the Old Testament, represented God’s power and strength. God’s plan revealed God’s will regarding Jesus through His death and resurrection. These vicious acts served God’s purpose. His plans, His strategy, His power always accomplish His intended outcome. Nothing would hamper God’s agenda. This fact fueled the early believers’ courage. They discerned that God could take the worst man could dish out and turn it into something good. God squeezed good out of evil. His purpose exists in everything. We never drift beyond His protection and His plan. Perhaps you face a difficult situation. God certainly has a purpose in allowing you to go through it. Instead of backing down, reach up to God in prayer. Recognize God’s sovereignty, revelation, and incarnation; these truths ground Christian prayer. Seek God to determine His purposes. Look for ways in the midst of your situation to participate in His plan. Live on His agenda and you will never be off course. The early church recognized God’s “hand” and “plan” in the events around Jesus’ death as well as the threats against Peter and John.
Which of the following best describes your reaction when your faith is challenged or confronted? ___ I wonder why He let such a situation develop. ___ I lay low till the threat subsides. ___ I recognize that God is all powerful and ask Him to change the situation. ___ I recognize and embrace God’s plan and ask Him to accomplish His will.Pray for God to WorkActs 4:29-3029 “And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Yourmessage with complete boldness, 30 while You stretch out Your hand for healing,signs, and wonders to be performed through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30 They requested courage that they “may speak Your message with complete boldness.” They sought bravery in the face of danger, boldness to proclaim the Gospel without fear, and power to prevail in the midst of overwhelming odds. The disciples’ boldness characterized, first, a spiritual virtue; as such, it can only come from God. Second, it revealed the believer’s courage in preaching the Gospel, their unreservedness. The word was used of citizens who had the freedom to say anything publicly without fear of punishment. Thus, for believers it communicated the freedom to speak the truth about Jesus. Third, it described the believers’ confidence to proclaim the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Boldly the disciples shared their faith with conviction. Did God answer their prayer for boldness? The rest of the Book of Acts reveals God did, indeed, answer their prayer. These once timid and frightened men, who had been in hiding, embarrassed and ashamed, were altered. God took weak, ineffectual, and insipid persons and transformed them into bold, powerful and courageous warriors for Jesus.
Likewise, we should ask God for boldness to speak for Him. Prayer carries an evangelistic component. Worship leads to witness. Prayer propels us into action. Prayer advances God’s kingdom. Prayer ignites a church to move beyond its walls. They wanted God’s hand, (the second reference to God’s hand in this prayer), which stands for His provision, His strength, His work, displayed miraculously in their midst. God alone, through His omnipotent power, could eclipse the laws of nature and time. They wanted God to demonstrate His power, thus affirming their message, through healing, signs, and wonders. The signs were visible demonstrations that pointed to God, the One Who has ultimate and omnipotent power. The wonders exposed spectacular events that punctuated the early church as recorded by Luke in his writings. The Book of Acts—often called the Acts of the Apostles but could be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit—recounted God’s continual demonstrations answering this prayer. The validation of God’s answering their prayer for speaking with great boldness was confirmed by the signs and wonders they saw in their midst. Their prayer forces us to evaluate our prayers. Do we pray for boldness to communicate God’s message?
Do we ask for power to do His work? Do we seek confirmation to our answered prayers? God’s will might not remove us from difficult situations or soften our trek through life by delivering us from opposition, but when we pray God will strengthen us and make us more effective for Him in those situations. God furnishes courage to His people when they need it. Honest prayer releases God’s power and invites God’s hand to work. Look for it. Seize it. Know that it goes before you as you boldly serve and share about Him. Let’s not forget the source of answered prayer: the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. In Biblical times, a person’s name represented more than an identification or a handle; it revealed the essence of one’s identity, character, personality, authority, and power. Jesus is God’s holy (set apart) Servant. In a real sense all prayer is ultimately a response to Jesus’ name. Don’t we pray in His name? Most often we conclude our prayers by saying, “in the name of Jesus, amen.” In so doing, we are asking that our mind, our purpose, our desires, our hopes, our longings be one with Jesus. In essence, when we implore in Jesus’ name we seek to glorify God, soliciting for what Jesus would pray. We are urging that His will be done on earth, rather than our will be done in Heaven. Knowing yourself and your past responses to challenges to your faith, indicate for each statement how likely you would be take a similar approach. Indicate your answers in percentages such that the total for all statements combined equals 100%. Create and incorporate additional statements as desired. ___% I would ask God to get me out of that uncomfortable situation ASAP. ___% I would point out that I’m not really the best one to be in the situation, but I hope He works in it anyway. ___% I would ask God to strengthen me for how He wants to use me in the situation.
Experience God’s PowerActs 4:3131 “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, andthey were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message withboldness.” Acts 4:31 God answered their implored entreaties by shaking the place where they had assembled, filling them with the Holy Spirit, and empowering them to speak God’s message with boldness. Whether the shaking was physical or spiritual as God’s manifest presence invaded them, we do not know. It did, however, provide a sign of God’s omnipotent power manifested through God’s divine presence. The disciples had proof that God was with them. They were all filled or controlled by the Spirit somewhat the same way a person driving a car controls the car. The Holy Spirit resides in believers as the driving force in our lives. This experience indicated a special or fresh endowment of power for work and witness. When filled with God’s Spirit, we boast of a renewed awareness of God’s power and presence in our lives.
One secret of the Christian life is that not only are believers with Jesus but He is in them. A Christ-captivated life enables us to live an extraordinary life.“The Holy Spirit,” according to The Baptist Faith and Message, “is the Spirit of God, fully divine…. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church.… His presence in theChristian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of thestature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism and service” (section II.C, 2000 edition). Some people talk of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal power or influence. They speak of the Holy Spirit as an “it.” The Bible clearly refers to the Holy Spirit in terms that can only apply to a Person. Since the Holy Spirit is a Person, we can have a personal relationship with Him. Since He is God, His power is God’s power. Therefore, in relating to the Holy Spirit, we come into personal contact with the God of the universe. Because of this infilling with the Holy Spirit, the disciples began to speak God’s message with boldness. Interestingly, these same words were verbalized in their request in verse 29. The word boldness means telling all. It occurs when one has had an experience based on undeniable truth and is compelled to tell others about it. Bold people are impassioned. They formulate no apology. They possess a great passion.
Their motivation originates from the indwelling Holy Spirit’s power and presence. Their character matches their conviction. People are drawn to them as bugs to light, captivated by their message when they communicate. God answered the believers’ prayer. By the Spirit’s power, they continued preaching as though the Sanhedrin had never made a threat. They chose obedience to God rather than submission to men. Boldness provided the outward sign of the Holy Spirit’s inward control of their lives. Christians overflowing with the Holy Spirit share the Gospel. In fact, one filled with the Spirit declares the Gospel boldly. Isn’t that what we want? Courage? Boldness? Living obediently to Christ? Dependent prayer fosters such a transformation. This lesson embarks on the study centered on the theme “The Church: Transforming Lives in a Changing Culture”—four lessons that identify elements of transformational churches. This first element concentrates on dependence on God as shown through the church’s prayers. Prayer was not the only thing the early church did, just the first thing the church did. (1 Tim. 2:1) Jesus thundered that His church was to be a house of prayer (Matt. 21:13).
Our class can set the example for our church by depending on God, uttering prayers that seek God’s plan, desire God’s work, and long for God’s power. Think of the most recent time you experienced God’s power. Describe the experienceBiblical Truths: Prayer always commences with reverence for God, acknowledging His sovereignty. Prayer compels one to act, moving out of the prayer closest and onto the street through ministry and mission. Prayer warriors don’t request a lighter load but a stronger back and the courage to face daunting tasks with valor and dependence on God. Prayer endows believers with boldness to share the Gospel message powerfully. Prayer unleashes God’s Spirit within us as believers face obstacles and opportunities. Only God can transform the lost to saved, the intimidated to bold, the persecuted to victor. While depending on God, pray that He will transform your life and those of class and church members, as well as the lost in the community. Next week: Sunday School Rally in Fellowship Hall East November 18th: Acts 13 Kingdom Building