Sermon Notes from 25.10.15: Courage in the face of opposition.
Readings: 1Kings 19, verses 1-13; and: Acts 4, verses 13-31 (main reading).
I began with a joke. Regarding different styles of worship, and arguments about what
is proper and honouring to God, I suggested that you say: “well, you worship him in
your way, and I’ll worship him in his.”
How can we tell what way is the right way to worship God? Are we just
worshipping in our favourite ways for our own pleasure, is there a right way, or
are some ways righter than others?
Similarly, when we speak for God, speak out for Jesus, and set some kind of
Christian standard in the world, our workplaces, our families, our communities …
how do we know that we are really speaking in his name and not just being some
arrogant God-bothering pain in the neck?
That wasn’t a rhetorical question. How would you endeavour to be sure?
Jesus our shepherd was quite clear that he was sending us out like sheep among
wolves. He wanted us to know that hostility towards him and his followers was
something that many of us would have to face. It becomes clear later that Peter,
among others, has not fully appreciated this reality. Read Matt 16, v13-24.
Which aspects of discipleship do you think Peter was ready to accept, and
which did he perhaps not fully appreciate?
How much are we like him? Can you think of any examples?
There are times for some of us when the reality of God’s majesty, the authority and
grace of Jesus, and the power of the holy spirit are so joyously and blindingly
obvious that we feel totally confident in our faith (if you’ve never felt like that, don’t
worry; most of us also know the dark times of doubt and despair only too well).
But when we face our other reality of earthly powers and authorities, our elation
tends to fade. To put it another way, when we face the cross, our path can look less
attractive. Now, not only are we less confident, we are also more cautious about
speaking out even with the confidence that we do have. Sometimes we just don’t
want to look foolish. We don’t want to be bothered, and choose the easier path.
Sometimes we have genuine cause to be afraid. People can get very angry when
you dare to shed the light of truth into their darkness. Ordinary people can become
hostile and defensive when the Church has opinions about politics!
Elijah had a supernatural mountain top experience so astonishing, you would have
thought he’d never come down from it (1Kings 18, v16-46 - don’t feel obliged to read
it if you don’t want to). But when he heard the cold hard reality of Jezebel’s threats,
he panicked and fled. His confidence in the almighty God evaporated: she was real,
she was dangerous, and she was angry.
The Lord is kind and understanding to Elijah, who was a human being, even as we
are (James 5, v17). Recognising that he is physically, mentally and spiritually burnt
out, God systematically deals with all Elijah’s condition. Elijah is fed and rested, he
pours out his sorrows to the Lord, and the Lord then re-instates him.
Now let’s look back at Peter. In Acts chapter 4 his response to being arrested by the
Temple Guard, imprisoned, then brought before the rulers, the elders and the
teachers of the law was quite different from that shown in his earlier character.
What has become of him? What has changed him?
You might have several answers to that, and they’re all good, but don’t forget the
one mentioned in verse 8.
Peter and John speak eloquently, cleverly, but assertively. Their captors can’t think
of what to say or do. Released from captivity on condition that they don’t speak or
teach in the name of Jesus again (as if that’s likely), Peter and John go straight back
to their friends, the followers of Jesus. We do not hear that the were punching the air
in triumph. We know that the Lord is almighty, but we also know that people can hurt
us. The first thing Peter and John do, is report all that the chief priests and the elders
had said to them. I’m guessing that they mentioned how the Lord had watched over
them but I’ll bet they also said that the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law
were in a dangerous mood and that they would have to be careful.
What’s the next thing they did?
So, gathering all this information together, how would you advise people
about standing up for Jesus and the Gospel? Include Elijah’s experience in
your advice. What plans would you follow, and what precautions might you
Do you think there’s anything to worry about?
Roger <><