Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

02/28/16 Sermon - Nothing is Too Difficult for Thee

“Nothing is too Difficult for Thee”

ACTS 4:13-31

 

Let’s review what happened last week, in the beginning of chapter 4, of Acts.

The Sanhedrin, the group of Jewish religious leaders made up of both Sadducees and Pharisees had detained Peter and John in prison, overnight, and brought both of them, and the crippled man they healed, before them for questioning. Up to this point, the only thing Peter and John have accomplished was to frustrate the Jewish leaders with their answers to their questioning. Like the times the Pharisees had spent trying to get rid of Jesus, the Sanhedrin found themselves in a similar predicament with Peter and John. The Jewish leaders were unable to act decisively for the following reasons.

1)      Unfortunately for the Jewish leaders, Peter and John had not committed an actual crime, if anything, they had done an amazing good deed, for which they should be praised.

2)      At this point, this group of leaders were most likely not in a very good relationship with Rome. And it was Rome that would need convincing if they were going to be able to execute Peter and John to get rid of them. They had already used their last bit of grace with Rome when they orchestrated the killing of Jesus, just months ago. They had promised Rome that by killing Jesus it would bring peace and quiet to Jerusalem. Obviously if they returned to Rome with the need to continue to execute more men, without just cause, it would not go over so good. They couldn’t possibly go back so soon.

3)      The gap between the Sadducees and Pharisees was widening and created a lack of unity between the two groups. Not that there had ever been a real affection between the two, but the time of them working together to get rid of Jesus, was short lived. The Pharisees were backing off and the Sadducees did not have the clout to pull it off on their own.

4)      To top it all off, the public was in full support of the apostles and what they were doing. There was no way the Sadducees could execute Peter and John without creating a riot of the masses.

The Sadducee’s hands are tied. They have questioned Peter and John as to whose power they were able to perform such a miracle, and without flinching a muscle, Peter allowed the Holy Spirit to give him the answer that reminded the Sadducees of Jesus, angered them and ultimately frustrated them.

We pick the story up today in verse 13 with the Sadducees realizing that although they have two ordinary men standing in front of them.

They have accomplished an extraordinary feat.

In fact, that miracle, was standing right in front of them and everyone in the room. Exasperated, the Sanhedrin ordered the men out of the room so they could confer.

The discussion that pursued was interesting.

Did you notice that they did not once discuss the possibility of the “truth” of the matter.

Their discussion had nothing to do with whether they could have been wrong and the disciples, and Jesus, had it right.

They could not deny how significant and real the miracle was, but rather than focus on the amazing power of the apostles, the Sanhedrin were only concerned with themselves. Their focus was strictly on what the consequences would be for them if they were to let this Jesus movement continue.

There it was “truth” or “consequences”, the play on words from a former TV show. The Sanhedrin chose to work on suppressing the consequences rather than consider the truth. They chose to harass and threaten the apostles and tried to intimidate them into stopping their heroic feats. Any sort of punishment would have only backfired on them.

So they called the apostles back into the room and commanded that they not speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

Peter and John’s response should have been expected.

Rather than being intimated, as the Sanhedrin had hoped. The boldness of the apostles continued to irritate and disarm the Sanhedrin. These uneducated men were not bold because of their education or their status, much like each of the other men in the room, but their boldness was  directly attached to the authority of Jesus.

Ugh! Jesus kept haunting them.

Peter’s answer was an important one for us to remember. The choice between “right” and “wrong” was not to be left to the leaders of Israel to decide. Given the ultimatum between choosing to obey the authority of men or the authority of God, God should win, every time. The Sanhedrin could give threats of any kind, but for the apostles, they were going to obey God, no matter what.

This meant, they would not be silent.

The Sanhedrin could not even come up with a punishment for Peter and John because the people were all praising God for the miracle that had happened. So they threatened them some more and let them go.

Peter and John immediately went back to their own people and reported everything that had occurred with the Sanhedrin. The people’s response went directly to an Old Testament, Psalm 2:1-2, which gave the view of God as the Creator of all. Reminding themselves that from the beginning of time, God was sovereign and would continue to be so. Since the time of David, the Holy Spirit had been speaking, reminding God’s people that there would be kings of the earth that would take their stand and rulers would gather together against the Lord.  Why they had just lived through Herod and Pontius Pilate conspiring with the Gentiles and the people of Jerusalem to conspire against Jesus. The church found comfort in this psalm, because it revealed that the God to whom they prayed, was Creator of heaven and earth, and sovereign, which meant He was totally in control. Even though these leaders were vicious and had a great deal of human power, they could not stamp out God’s kingdom. God had a plan that would prevail, regardless of the human opposition that arose to get rid of it.

When compared to God, what could humans really do?

The Psalm gave these believers the strength to stand firm in the belief that the kingdom of God could not be stopped.

Therefore, they could not be silenced.

It is important to notice that at this point, the Christian church saw the opposition to the church as coming from Gentiles. As far as they were concerned, the leaders of the Jewish nation, who rejected Jesus as the Messiah and were in opposition to the kingdom of God, as Jesus taught, were also considered, “Gentiles”.

As followers of Jesus, these saints referred to themselves as “bond-servants” who were bonded to Jesus and they prayed that God would enable them to speak God’s word with great boldness.

Let’s read their prayer again,

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.[
a][b]

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

 

Don’t you find it interesting that we don’t find them first asking God to take away the persecution? Instead, they ask for boldness and the right words to say in response to the persecution.

They also didn’t ask that God would judge or punish their persecutors. Instead they asked that the gospel message of Jesus would reach out to heal and perform miraculous signs, in the midst of persecution.

They understood that persecution was not within their control, but what was within their control, was the ability to allow the Holy Spirit to live in them and give them the boldness they did not have on their own to proclaim God’s Word, regardless of the circumstances.

Just like the visit of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we read that the room began to shake, and their prayers were answered because they were filled with the Holy Spirit and instead of speaking in other tongues, they spoke the word of God boldly.

What about those of us sitting in this room today?

For most of us today, in Damariscotta, Maine the idea of being persecuted for one’s faith seems a bit far-fetched, at least not in the sense that one would lose their life if they professed faith in Jesus Christ.

But it is not too far-fetched to think that there are some of us here today, where our “life is being shaken”. Things are happening in our lives that disturb us, scare us, threaten our sense of stability and cause us to wonder, where is God in all of this? We pray for answers and we ask for help and it just seems like either God isn’t listening, or He doesn’t care, and we don’t know what to do to change it.

Today’s Scripture reminds us that none of those responses are correct. God is listening, He does care and we do know what to do to change it.

If it worked for the apostles, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today and always, then it should work for us. The truth is, nothing is too difficult for God. We need to believe that statement, and claim it for the circumstances in our daily lives. God doesn’t always take away the difficulties, but He does always use the difficulties to help us draw closer to Him and to be more like Him, if we let Him.

That is what the apostles were doing. They weren’t asking for God to remove the persecution, they asked God to help them be more like Jesus within the persecution. They were fully aware of the possible consequences. They had been there when Jesus was crucified.  More importantly, they were there at Jesus’ resurrection.

Nothing is too difficult for God!

So when the circumstances in your life seem overwhelming, unfair, unmanageable, and you feel like giving in, I suggest you follow the apostles example and pray their prayer, like this:

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.

(and instead of the apostles problem with Herod and Pontius Pilate, state the situation you find yourself in)

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand this should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

 

 

AMEN.