Focal passage: Acts 4:23-31
Some time ago, The Daily Bread shared comments from 20th century evangelist Paul Rader concerning the Christians who were martyred in the early church. They wrote, “In ancient Rome, crowds by the tens of thousands would gather in the Colosseum to watch as Christians were torn apart by wild animals.” Paul Rader, commenting on his visit to this famous landmark, said, “I stood uncovered to the heavens above, where He sits for whom they gladly died, and asked myself, ‘Would I, could I, die for Him tonight to get this gospel to the ends of the earth?’”
“I prayed most fervently in that Roman arena for the spirit of a martyr,” Rader continued, “and for the working of the Holy Spirit in my heart, as He worked in Paul’s heart when He brought him on his handcuffed way to Rome.” Those early Christians “lived on the threshold of heaven, within a heartbeat of home, no possessions to hold them back.”
Rader’s words serve as both inspiration and prayer for us to stand bold in the face of persecution. Have you ever thought how you would respond if you were threatened for sharing your faith?
I believe this week’s lesson can give us much needed help in answering that question. Prior to our focal verses the disciples Peter and John were warned not to speak the good news of the risen Christ or they would face severe punishment. When they returned to their friends they shared what happened to them and they all began to seek God in prayer.
Instead of praying for God to deliver them from future suffering, they asked the Lord for continued strength to speak the word boldly (Acts 4:29). I believe their prayers serve as a catalyst for us not to back down when suffering comes, but to fully trust in God’s sovereign hand. I believe Rader had it right – just like those early Christians – the temporary suffering in this world cannot compare to the eternal reward of being found faithful before our King. Will you stand up for Christ?