This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
How do you react when you encounter difficulties?
What do you do when you face challenges? Our time is so full of it, privately, socially and in our world. And it’s not just the big things, but also many small ones that we encounter in everyday life.
Last Sunday, in our Unstoppable series on Acts, we looked at the situation the disciples were in.
God had done a miracle, a man had been healed. The people were amazed and Peter got the opportunity to tell them about Jesus, his love and his power. But not everyone liked that.
They were arrested by the religious elite of the time, had to answer to the High Council in Jerusalem and would have preferred to punish the disciples much more severely. But the miracle had clearly happened and many had seen it. So the disciples were forbidden to speak further about Jesus.
How will they react?
Do they start whining, nagging, burying their heads in the sand, cowering in fear, coming up with a plan, calling a study group, getting into activities like we might do?
As soon as Peter and John were free, they went to the fellow Christians and reported to them what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. The response of those gathered to what they heard was that they all turned to God together and with one voice. With a loud voice they prayed: ‘You great ruler! It is You who created the sky, the earth and the sea, the whole universe with everything in it. It is you too who spoke through our father David, your servant, when he, being led by the Holy Spirit, said: ‘What is the purpose of the rebellion of the nations? What’s the point of people making useless schemes? The kings of this world have prepared themselves to attack, and the rulers have joined together to fight against the Lord and against his anointed one.’ And indeed it happened: Here in this city Herod and Pontius Pilate have joined together with the Gentile nations and the tribes of Israel against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. But in doing so, what you had preordained in your power and what you planned to happen happened. Hear now, Lord, how they threaten us, and help us, as your servants, to proclaim your message fearlessly and boldly. Show your power and let the sick be healed and miracles and extraordinary things happen through the name of your holy servant Jesus!” After they prayed in this way, the earth shook in the place where they were gathered. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to proclaim the message of God freely and boldly.
This sermon is an encouragement, a reminder and a challenge at the same time.
What can we learn from the disciples for our lives?
The first and most important thing I urge the church to do is prayer. It is our task to intercede with requests, supplications and thanks for all people,
The disciples had walked with Jesus for three years and they had learned from Jesus.
They had seen His response to difficulties and challenges, but also the strength and guidance Jesus had received from intimate communion with His Father in Heaven. They saw his authority, how he spoke and how he worked.
And they could have asked him all sorts of things, how does one work miracles, how does one speak with authority, how does one do this and that, but they saw where it all came from, and so they asked Jesus:
Lord, teach us to pray.
And the disciples had learned.
They had seen with Jesus that he kept withdrawing, but also spoke to God in the middle of everyday life.
They had seen that it was not dependent on a time, a place, a fixed form, but that they could talk to God about anything that moved them.
They had learned that prayer is an invitation from God to speak with him, which applies to us today as well.
In Psalm 50:15, God says to us: When you are in trouble, call on me, and I will deliver you, and you shall praise me.
Jesus says: Matthew 11:28-29Come to me, all of you who are toiling and suffering under your burdens! I will give you rest .
Peter writes: Cast all your worries on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
1st John 5:14We can trust that God will answer our prayers when we ask him for something according to his will.
And James even admonishes us: Because you do not ask, you have not . (James 4:2)
A sign hung in a cotton factory telling workers:
If your threads get tangled in the machine, call the boss!
A new employee got her threads tangled. She tried to unravel them. But the more she tried, the worse she made the problem. At some point she realized that she wouldn’t be able to do it and called the boss.
He came, looked at the dilemma and asked her why she hadn’t called him immediately. She replied: I did my best to untangle the threads.
Then the boss said: No, you didn’t, the best thing would have been to call me.
When the White House in Washington was being built, a farmer wanted to speak to the President about an issue.
He made his request in the anteroom, but it didn’t seem important enough and so he wasn’t let in. He was denied access. He left very sadly and sat down outside first.
A little boy came by and asked him why he was so sad. Well, the farmer explained it to him, so the boy said, “Come on, I’ll help you.” He took his hand, past the controls, past the anteroom straight to the President.
The farmer didn’t have to do anything, the only thing that had changed from before was the boy who took his hand and led him inside. The boy was the President’s son.
We read in the Bible that through Jesus we have access to the Father in heaven.
Hebrew 4:16We want to approach the throne of our gracious God full of confidence, so that he may show us his mercy and let us experience his grace and we may receive the help that we need at the right time
We always tangle our threads in life, but God invites us to come straight to Him with it, and that’s possible because Jesus opened the way.
Imagine that, you could go to Olaf Scholz and present your requests. But I hardly think that Olaf Scholz has time for that, but God has. And he loves me, he cares about me, he sees and hears me. And he is omnipotent.
So the first thing the disciples do when they return from the council to the other disciples is pray together.
In doing so, they direct their focus away from their problem towards God: God, you are the one who created everything, who stands far above these people and our problem. God hear and help us.
From King David, which the children discussed this weekend, we read when he was in great trouble, that he withdrew and: he strengthened himself in the Lord. He gained strength, courage, confidence and guidance through conversation with God.
God invites you this morning, it’s an encouragement and a reminder:
Bring everything that moves you to him.
He knows you and sees you and wants to help you.
You can talk to him like a friend and you don’t have to find nice phrases for it.
But God cares about much more.
He longs to be more than just our backup god. He invites us to entrust our whole lives to him and not just our problems.
As human beings, we would feel exploited if the other person treated us in this way. God created us for a relationship. He wants us as a counterpart, he wants to guide us and bring us to the goal of our life, eternity in community with him.
This also includes asking and aligning oneself with how God intended life to be.
The Bible makes it clear that precisely because we ask so little about God or only do it when it suits us, our world looks the way it is.
I quoted Pastor Yussuf from Algeria last week who, despite being persecuted for his faith, says:
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’m dying.
Is there anyone better than Jesus? Prayer is communication with Him that we can use anytime, anywhere.
As a church we have different offers: We have an online prayer via zoom every Monday and Thursday.
We have a women’s prayer group and prayer every Saturday from 9-10am in the prayer room.
We always have 24 hour prayers where we take turns praying for 24 hours.
We have a prayer chain where you can send requests to Heike Sauer, who then gives them to a small group of people in our church who pray for them.
If you want, you can also become part of this chain and contact Heike. We pray specifically for sick people and have already experienced miracles.
And we always offer to be prayed for during the service. That’s what we’re going to do after this sermon.
God works through prayer.
We’d be stupid if we didn’t take advantage of that. How often do you think about praying first?
The second thing we can learn from the disciples:
The disciples did not withdraw and pray individually, but reported to the others and prayed together.
Jesus promises us:
If two of you here on earth want to ask my Father in heaven for something and are one in it, then he will give it to you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.Matthew 18:19-20
What a promise that Jesus is in our midst.
He lives through his spirit in those who belong to him.
And of course, and we also see that with Jesus, it is important to cultivate one’s relationship with Jesus alone. But that’s not all, because where believers gather, Jesus is once again present in a special way.
The community helps to carry each other, especially in difficult times, but also to celebrate beautiful things together. It is so important that we keep faith and encourage one another that the writer of Hebrews exhorts recipients not to miss meetings. One enters alone, that also applies to faith.
The fact that two or three become one about something doesn’t just happen that way, it starts much earlier:
share in each other
share time together
have an interest in each other
One should recognize Jesus’ disciples, one should recognize us, by our love for one another. ( John 13:35 )
This then also becomes visible and audible through prayer.
Spiritual unity is also needed to resolve conflicts and forgive one another.
We have to classify Jesus’ promise for this prayer with other promises about prayer.
Earlier we read that God hears us when we pray according to his will. Jesus teaches: Your will be done, meaning the will of the heavenly Father.
As we read the Bible, we learn more about God’s will.
When we are closely connected with him, we begin to think more and more and see the world as God sees it. And so we can also ask for what is in accordance with God’s will and makes him glorious.
Praying together helps us keep going even when God doesn’t answer our prayers.
Sometimes God says something else is better for us because He has the big picture.
Sometimes he says: not yet, because it’s the wrong time.
We don’t always understand why God doesn’t answer our prayers. Then we can encourage each other not to give up, but to keep praying, keep trusting God, and help each other see where God answers prayer everywhere.
So don’t stay alone with your situation, your prayer requests. Pray with others.
a small group, seniors, teen group . Live real fellowship and pray together.
Prayer and community, Volker Aßmann said a few weeks ago when he preached about a lively community, along with teaching, will decide whether a community is alive and attractive to others.
Do you have people you pray with?
A third point we can learn from the disciples, and that is the challenge:
Pray passionately and boldly
We read in the Bible how people prayed passionately
1.Sam . 15:11 Samuel was deeply hurt. All night he cried out to the LORD to change his mind.
1.Sam . 12:16 : David retired to pray for his son. He fasted for days and lay on the ground overnight.
Acts 12 :5 So Peter sat in prison under strict guard. But the congregation prayed fervently to God for him day and night.
Nik Ripken describes a scene in his book God’s Incredible Ways:
He was in China with Christians who had met secretly for a weekend.
One of the younger women in the group asked, “If Jesus is known in other countries, will believers be persecuted there as we are here?”
In response, I told the group about the fate of Christians in two very strictly Islamic countries. At six o’clock the next morning I was woken up by loud shouting outside in the yard. My first thought was: This is the secret police!
But when my eyes got used to the daylight, I saw: It wasn’t a police squad that was making the noise. It was the Chinese home church leaders and evangelists who sat or lay all over the floor and screamed and raged like mad (at least that’s how it seemed to me). Some tore their hair or clothes.
Over there was David! I sprinted to him. “My God, what’s going on here?”
He replied: “Shut up and listen.” “You know I don’t know a word of Chinese.” “What do you mean: Shut up and listen?” He repeated: “Just shut up, Nik!” And before If I could keep protesting, he grabbed my arm and started walking me around in this screaming and crying commotion. And because I was silent now, I actually heard two words that I recognized: they were the names of the two Muslim countries I had mentioned the night before. Again and again the worshipers called her, full of fervor and pain.
When David stopped and looked at me, tears were streaming down his face. He said, “What you told them last night about Christians who are really being persecuted got them so excited that they promised God they would get up an hour earlier every morning to pay for those converts in _________ and ________ that you mention have to pray – until Jesus is known in these lands.”
At that moment I understood why the number of Christians in China had increased from a few hundred thousand to possibly over a hundred million.
I experienced something like this myself among a mission team from Papua New Guinea who went to bed at 9.30pm every night, got up at 5am and prayed for 1h before doing anything else.
And I quote again Pastor Yussuf from Algeria:
Our strategy for revival in Algeria is prayer and fasting. I don’t know any other way.
Whenever people are moved by something, they start praying. to pray intensely. Praying that the earth would quake symbolically, even if it really did at the time.
Then it’s not like one says, all the others say amen and that’s it and now off to bed.
Sometimes we think God heard it and that’s enough. But if something is really important to us, then we say it to God, again and again, and in prayer with others it doesn’t matter whether someone before me has said the same thing before. If something is really important to us, then it can also cost us our comfort, we don’t care.
The disciples prayed boldly:
Help us as your servants to proclaim your message fearlessly and boldly. Show your power…
This wasn’t a prayer like the ones we pray so often, so small and convenient, God help us. No, they believed in a great God, they had a great vision, they had a great commission from Jesus, so they prayed great prayers.
I think we can learn that from them. For our God is the same as he was then. We don’t need more events, we need more prayer. And even the most beautiful event is worthless without prayer.
Jesus himself said when he threw out the people who were doing business in the temple:
My house shall be a house of prayer. But you have made a den of thieves out of it!
As a result of the disciples’ passionate and courageous prayer, the Holy Spirit filled them and they continued to proclaim God’s message freely and boldly.
God also promises us:
When my people, of whom my name is called, humble themselves to pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.
God encourages, reminds and challenges us this morning:
And pray passionately and boldly
My wish is that we don’t just go home today and say was nice, or maybe not, but that God’s Spirit takes hold of us and that we really use this privilege that we have of being able to come to God and work on it also be reminded in the coming week
Maybe for the first time, maybe brand new again. If you find that your prayer life isn’t what you want it to be, pray and tell God.
If we now want to respond to this sermon with two songs and stand up for it, then this can also be an opportunity to talk to God about it. And if you say I have a request, I want someone to pray for me, then you are most welcome to come to the back during the songs where people are ready to do just that in the foyer.