Roadblocks and opposition often come up just when it seems that things are going well. Sometimes life goes off the rails. What do you do when you’re faced with strong opposition to what you believe is so good? ◊
Just as Jesus had a great start to a week that turned very dark and brutal, ending with His crucifixion, we often face great opposition and obstacles just when we thought things were going very well.
Sometimes things go completely sideways and even off the rails.
A young Christian woman blossoms in faith but then suddenly loses her job in a shocking setback. A strong godly man experiences a spiritual revival and awakening only to be hit with a marital crisis he never saw coming. An alcoholic surrenders to Jesus and experiences a miraculous recovery but then faces financial ruin and family fallout.
The story is repeated often of great highs – even spiritual highs – followed by great lows. Sometimes outcomes are the consequential results of our own actions and behaviors, but sometimes they are completely outside our control.
And they always seem unfair and very wrong, even evil. We question and cry out to God: Why, God? How could God allow this? Where is God in this? The implication is that we actually deserved better, even a reward rather than what seems like a curse.
Of course, that thinking is natural but off base. As we see in the 4th chapter of ACTS, this is just like the beginning of the opposition to the beautiful birth of Christianity. It will get worse and it will get so much better. Why would they think otherwise when the very words of Jesus said as much:
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring remembrance of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:26-27)
Such is the walk of the Christian faith: a journey through a troubled world with a promised peace that is otherworldly. We would do well to expect nothing less.
The Beginning of Opposition
In the previous chapter of Acts, Peter and John have publically healed a well-known lame man with authority “in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Acts 3:6) This mobilizes a large crowd and then Peter delivers a powerful word of testimony of the risen Christ, the Holy and Righteous One, the Author of Life, whom they and their leaders murdered.
This prompts the Jewish priests, temple guard and Sadducees to seize and arrest them because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. Nevertheless, the number of first believers grew to about 5,000. (Acts 4:1-4)
The leaders question them and Peter gives them an earful:
They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “… It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed…. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:5-12)
The leaders did not understand the power of the Holy Spirit to transform unschooled, ordinary men into such bold spokesmen. While they could not deny the visible healing of the man before them, they instructed the apostles not to teach about Jesus anymore. (Acts 4:13-18)
The apostles give the perfect response, after which they were released:
But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
Prayer in All Circumstances
The apostles and believers prayed together in the midst of their great victory notwithstanding the looming clouds of a coming storm of opposition:
…they raised their voices together in prayer to God…. “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:21-31)
The Church that Surpasses Understanding
We get a brief glimpse of the early group of new Christian believers made up mostly of formerly Orthodox Jews. It’s an amazing community lovefest of all believers sharing their possessions:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (Acts 4:32-37)
As we will soon find out in subsequent chapters, this time of great unity and peace among the Christians did not last long. Opposition from within and without reflecting the natural sinful nature of man soon reared its ugly head.
And it still does to this day. People fail us, we fail ourselves and others, circumstances go against our plans and desires. Even as Christians. We experience great spiritual victories and then suffer great losses, spiritual and otherwise.
Yet the Lord God is constant, holy and good. The victory of Christ is everlasting. Our temporal wins and losses, joyful and painful, are real yet fleeting. In the long run, eternity, all that matters is the long run and our standing with God. Any opposition or foe, even death and tragedy, have no stranglehold that matters beyond these earthly days.
It’s only our mental perspective and our Holy Spirit-led heart and soul that allow us to exude true joy, peace, goodness, and understanding, regardless of our circumstances or worldly opposition.
What do you do in the face of opposition?
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” – Isaiah 26:3