Unstoppable – Faith under pressureSYR

Andreas Latossek , Kirche am Bahnhof, November 13, 2022

( Acts 4:1-22)

This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here

Markus Rode, the director of Open Doors Germany, told of an encounter with the leader of a country’s Bible Society. They were on a smuggling trip, and at customs the hidden Bibles were found and confiscated from one of their persons. Frustrated, Markus told the leader of the Bible Society that unfortunately they couldn’t give him all the Bibles.

You would have prayed for protection.

Then this leader said:

My father used to work at customs. He was very successful and found many Bibles. At the time, however, they were not burned, but sold. Father always brought Bibles home with him. He read one of them and that’s how he came to believe.

 

Another story I got emailed the other day, a similar situation:

A Christian businessman was traveling back to Saudi Arabia with a suitcase full of Bibles. His suitcase was opened at customs in Riyadh and all the Bibles were confiscated. He saw the customs officer toss the Bibles into a trash can. Although he was very disappointed at this “failure” to import Bibles, he managed to clear customs and arrived at his home in Riyadh with an empty suitcase.

Two days later he was in his garden when a garbage truck drove down the street. The road in front of the entrance to his garden was damaged by a hole in the pavement. As the garbage truck drove over the hole, a sack fell from the truck onto the street just outside his home. The businessman looked and to his great astonishment found all his confiscated Bibles in this fallen garbage bag! So he realized that our merciful and glorious God had taken the burden of carrying the heavy suitcase home himself and was using the Riyadh garbage collectors to bring this “burden” right to his house!

 

I would like to show you another video, it is about Sarah from East Africa.

 

 

Where Jesus is witnessed, miracles often happen, such as when the Bible is distributed, but also miracles like

that people will be healed like Sarah,

get rid of evil spirits, lose their fear,

God bestows supernatural provision or special protection

And people come to faith in Jesus.

In our service series Unstoppable on the Acts of the Apostles we heard about such an incident last Sunday.

Peter and John are on their way to the temple. There sits a paralytic who is healed and begins to praise God. The people, who had always seen him sitting there, were amazed and Peter can pass on the liberating message of Jesus Christ to them.

Some celebrate what God has done, and others?

 

We read about it today:

Acts 4:1-22

Peter and John were still speaking to the crowd when suddenly some priests, the commander of the temple guard, and a number of Sadducees approached them, angry that the apostles dared to pretend to be teachers before the people and that they were witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus proclaiming that the dead would rise. They arrested the two, and because it was already evening, they locked them in jail overnight. However, many of those who heard the apostles’ message believed in Jesus, and the number of Christians grew to about five thousand. The next day the Sanhedrin met in Jerusalem. In addition to the chief priests, the elders, and the teachers of the law, the high priest Annas, Caiaphas , John, and Alexander also took part; all the other representatives of the high priestly families were also present. They brought in Peter and John and began the interrogation. “With what power and in whose name did you heal the paralytic ?” they wanted to know. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter gave them this answer: “Leader of our people! Dear Council Members! If we have to answer today for doing good to a sick person, and if you ask us how he got well, then all of you and the whole Israelite people should know: It happened in the name of Jesus Christ from Nazareth , whom you crucified, and whom God raised from the dead. His power has caused this man to stand here in good health before you. Jesus Christ is ‘the stone which you, the builders, cast aside in contempt, and which has become the cornerstone.’ There is no salvation in anyone else; under all heaven there is no other name given to men by which we can be saved .’ The boldness with which Peter and John defended themselves made a great impression on the members of the Sanhedrin, especially since the two were obviously simple ones people with no special training in the Scriptures. They knew that Peter and John had been with Jesus, but they had nothing to contradict them; for he who was paralyzed stood with the apostles, and everyone could see that he was healed. They had Peter and John led out of the meeting room to deliberate together on how to proceed. “How should we deal with these people ?” they wondered. ‘There is no doubt that a miracle was wrought by them, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem knew of it; so there is no point in denying the healing. However, the message of this Jesus must under no circumstances spread further among the population. Therefore we will forbid them, under penalty of penalty, from henceforth even to mention his name to any man . . . .” After they called the apostles back in, they emphatically forbade them ever again to speak publicly about Jesus or to invoke his name as teacher to perform. But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourself whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than him. In any case, it is impossible for us not to talk about what we have seen and heard .’ The council members then threatened them with grave consequences again and then let them go. At first they saw no way of punishing the two without antagonizing the people because everyone praised God for what had happened. After all, the man healed was over forty years old, and that someone who had been crippled from birth should recover after so long was a particularly striking demonstration of God’s power.

 

  1. Following Jesus also means suffering

With what they do and say, Peter and John do not only meet with reciprocal love. They are arrested and have to answer to the Jewish high council in Jerusalem. In this case, they only get a ban on speaking further about Jesus.

The miracle of healing was then too obvious and we see how the council members are tactical here in order not to incite the people against themselves.

But a little later, open persecution of Christians also begins in Jerusalem and we see that in the Acts of the Apostles to this day, the spread of the good news about Jesus is always accompanied by pressure and persecution. Wherever people pass on the good news of Jesus, they not only meet with enthusiasm but also with greater or lesser rejection.

There are many reasons for that:

Fear, power structures, ignorance.

In the end, says Jesus, it’s not so much about the people but about Jesus himself:

If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you did. She would love you if you were hers, for the world loves her kind. But you do not belong to the world; I chose you out of the world. That’s why she hates you. Remember what I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too. If they have followed my word, they will also follow your word. But everything they do against you is against my name; because they do not know the one who sent me.

John 15:18-21

 

Paul writes it even more strongly, and I looked here again at the original text to see what really is here, because some translations write it a little more harmlessly:

2 Tim. 3.12:

But all who want to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

 

So living with Jesus not only means that I am a little better off with Jesus and everything in life is going well, but it also means pressure, it means suffering, it means rejection and even persecution.

 

When a missionary visited several pastors at a secret meeting in Russia who had served Jesus in prison to encourage them, they told him story after story of God’s miraculous workings. Instead of encouraging the pastors, he was encouraged because despite the pressure they were experiencing, they radiated joy and hope.

When the missionary asked why they wouldn’t publish a book with these stories, an old man from the group took him to the window where the sun was just rising in the east and said: Pay close attention: you’ll soon experience the same as in the east the sun rises

How many times have you done that with your sons?

The missionary said: Never, my sons would call me crazy. It is normal for the sun to rise in the east.

Then the old man said: That’s why we don’t make books out of these stories. Persecution and God’s dealings are like the sun rising in the east for us. This is our everyday life, this is nothing special or unexpected.

 

I believe we can be thankful that we are not currently experiencing persecution for our faith in our country. At the same time, however, we have to ask ourselves again and again where we perhaps experience them so seldom, because our message is no longer so clear or we withdraw before it could even become uncomfortable.

 

  1. Jesus is worth following

When we read about Peter and John, when we hear about people who have to suffer and are persecuted for their faith, then of course we can also ask ourselves whether it is worth it at all. Isn’t it easier or even better without Jesus?

Missionaries were repeatedly accused of going to foreign peoples and destroying their entire culture with the Christian faith. But we often fail to recognize one thing: Jesus is not about culture. People can follow Jesus in their culture.

But very often, as we saw with Sarah from East Africa, people in Jesus

experience healing and deliverance , or

that his message will overcome bad behavior in a culture where people live, for example, vendettas and have never heard of forgiveness and experienced the power of forgiveness.

In many parts of the world, people live trapped in their belief in ghosts for fear of the spirits that they have to appease again and again.

Or in the fear of what comes after death.

Peter tells the Sanhedrin: There is salvation in none else; under all heaven there is no other name given to men by which we can be saved.

Pastor Yussuf says:

Suffering for Jesus is not easy. But I am deeply convinced that God will help us when we need him.

Jesus is the hope for every human being, he is the hope for every nation.

When we look at who Jesus is, what he taught, how he lived, what he did on the cross. I experience deep peace, I am no longer afraid of death because I know where I am going when I die. Is there anyone better than Jesus?

People like Sarah experience Jesus as the one who heals them, who frees them from occult bonds, who gives them peace, comforts them and gives them hope beyond this life.

Jesus is the only one who can reconcile us to God because he died on the cross for our sins.

When Jesus asks his disciples because many people have left him because they had imagined things differently with him, they answer:

Lord, to whom should we go? Only you have words of eternal life. John 6:68

Only Jesus has the words of eternal life.

He is worth following.

Even if we don’t understand everything, even if we don’t always feel good, but he’s worth sticking with.

Maybe this message applies to you this morning, even if it’s not about pressure and persecution in your life, but you’ve gotten tired, aren’t experiencing Jesus right now and are asking yourself this question, is Jesus worth it?

 

  1. We cannot be silent but must tell about Jesus

 

Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than him. In any case, it is impossible for us not to talk about what we have seen and heard.

 

I want to show you another video by Bae from North Korea:

 

Bae impressed me. When she was in China, she had a choice. She shouldn’t have gone back and neither do others. Jesus has a different way for everyone. But she left to continue telling her people about Jesus.

I don’t know if I could.

But I don’t have to worry about that now, because our situation is different.

And the question is, am I ready now? However, should it happen to us at some point, the Holy Spirit will also strengthen us in this.

Ripken writes in his book “God’s Unbelievable Ways” that the persecuted Christians with whom we spoke showed us that the freedom to believe in Jesus and to pass on this belief has nothing to do with the political system in which we live , and the civil and political liberties it grants or denies to us. It simply depends on our obedience. The price for this can vary, but it is always possible to carry out Jesus’ commission.

Many of us do this on a small scale, as much as we can. We can’t always see the fruits.

Pastor Yussuf talks about a revival in Algeria, how many people it took over a long period of time, who saw no fruit but prepared the ground, how individuals then came to faith and through them a revival finally broke out.

It starts with a small seed. It starts with our readiness. Jesus is worth it. The question is: are we convinced of it and who do we tell about it?

 

And finally

  1. Prayer changed

As we continue our series in February, we will see how the disciples reacted to the High Council’s ban.

And to spoiler a bit : you prayed courageously, so that the earth shook, and you didn’t let it get you down.

Pastor Yussuf says about the revival in Algeria:

Our strategy for Algeria is prayer and fasting. I don’t know any other way.

We too can pray boldly for the people around us, for our city and our country. And we can always pray for the people who can only live and pass on their faith under pressure.

I intentionally showed you the video of Sarah from East Africa at the beginning. Even if we keep hearing about God’s miracles, especially in these situations, and they encourage us, it is not easy to follow Jesus.

People suffer trauma. There are people who are willing to die for Jesus. They all need our prayer. Again and again.

When one part of the body suffers, all the others suffer with it. 1 Corinthians 12:26

That is why we prayed this morning for people who live in countries where it is particularly expensive to follow Jesus. But there are many others. And what applies to these people also applies to us, that we can and should pray for one another. God answers prayer, we should not underestimate that.

Following Jesus also means suffering. But Jesus is worth following. We cannot remain silent but must tell about Jesus. And prayer changes

“Lord, where else should we go?”

Let’s sing this together and stand up to God’s glory