- Sermon Notes
Stand Firm in Adversity
October 9, 2022
We are busy with our study of the book of Acts, known as the Acts of the apostles. As we have seen before, a better name would have been the Acts of the Holy Spirit because it was only after they were empowered by the Holy Spirit that they were allowed to start to function in their calling.
Now, however, we start to see what the Holy Spirit is doing through the apostles and the church and in their lives. We have seen in Acts 3 the miraculous healing of the lame man when Peter, in the name of Jesus, commanded him to get up and walk and he was healed.
Up until now, there had been no resistance to the message of Christ. On the contrary, there was only joy and elation as the Holy Spirit was poured out and many joyfully accepted Christ and were added to their number.
But whenever good news is proclaimed, evil is always lurking. The enemy hates the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus has already defeated the enemy and all his power on the cross. He has conquered sin and death and the good news that He sent his disciples out with was to proclaim freedom from bondage, the forgiveness of sin, and hope of a beautiful life and acceptance by God through the blood of Jesus Christ.
The enemy will do everything in his power to try and stop this message because it shines a light of truth on his lies, and he loses all his power over people.
As we get into chapter 4, we will see a shocking response to this miracle. This miracle was proof that Jesus had been whom He said He was, was raised from the dead, and that God affirmed this by this man receiving healing in the name of Jesus.
This asserted his authority as sovereign Lord and that His Name holds all authority in heaven and on the earth. The shocking response of those in power was that, even though they were confronted by this irrefutable truth, they held on to their power and actively resisted the truth.
We also live in a world today that actively resists the gospel of Jesus Christ. Humanism, school systems and powers that be wants to rid the world of this ‘mythology’ of Christianity and all the good that it stands for. Many followers of Christ might be tempted to think that the resistance is just too much and those opposing us are overwhelming. We might even think that we are fighting a losing battle, but this is far from the truth.
We will see however that Peter and John were not deterred by the pressure of those opposing the gospel. We will see that the Holy Spirit strengthened them as they stood firm in the truth.
This is the hope that we also have. We have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us and strengthening us. We will see that we can stand firm by the power of the Holy Spirit against all adversity.
I. Have Faith in Trouble
Verse 1 – Out of the blue, as Peter and John were still speaking to the people, trouble came rushing in. The priests, temple guards, and Sadducees were immediately on the scene, and they were greatly disturbed.
I love this word disturbed. It shows that there was fear in the camp of those resisting the gospel.
In the physical realm, it looked like they had the power, and immediately they took hold of Peter and John and put them in jail. This is such a strange response to a miracle.
One would’ve thought that they, who were the spiritual leaders of the day, would be finely attuned and would’ve wanted to know the truth. They knew that these miracles were only possible by the hand of God, and as such, they should have welcomed this moment. Instead, they resisted it.
The reason for this we can see in John 8:44. Jesus calls them children of their father, referring to Satan. These people who were supposed to bring hope and God’s truth to the people, was in direct opposition to life and hope and God’s plan, opposing the message of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
If you were to put yourself in Peter and John’s shoes, this might have been quite a shocking turn of events. This wonderful miracle and high point immediately resulted in them being thrown in jail. This could’ve been quite unnerving, as it might not have been what they expected.
Many times, this is the experience people have today as well. Many have come to Christ, joyfully proclaiming it to their friends and family just to immediately experience a negative response and pushback.
Others might’ve done something for and in the name of Jesus resulting in something good but are then immediately slammed by society or even the media.
This might result in a feeling of being overwhelmed, disillusioned, and feeling alone.
A. You are not Alone.
- This is an old ploy of the enemy. As soon as he sees the writing is on the wall, he comes out with a full-force attack trying to overwhelm the senses and to tell you that you are alone and no match for his power.
Illus. When Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, God revealed himself with overwhelming power which resulted in the annihilation of all the Baal priests and the people returning to worshiping God. Yet, something strange happened after this victory. Elijah fled in fear of the woman Jezebel. When God then spoke to him in the cave and asked him what he was doing there, he replied that he was all alone. The truth was that Jezebel’s power had been broken and God had proven Himself to be the Almighty One that has no rival. God then also revealed the truth to Elijah, that there were 7000 others like him that God had kept safe.
- When Peter and John were thrown in jail, they might’ve also wondered if everyone else would forsake them and they would have to face the opposition all alone with no support.
- The truth was that they were not alone. Having been taken immediately and put in jail, they might not have seen the result of Peter’s second sermon. The Holy Spirit was working, and 5000 men came to faith, not counting women and children.
- The enemy wants to tell you that you are all alone. He wants to tell you that even your struggles are unique and nobody else has the same struggles. In other words, you are weak and should be ashamed of yourself.
- If this doesn’t work, he tells you that you’re standing alone for Christ. You are being ridiculous and the whole world is against you. There is no hope. You should just keep quiet and keep your head down. I submit to you that this is not the truth.
- Many times, we might think that as believers we are by far the minority and on the fringes of society. I believe that there is a greater remnant than we think. Just like Peter and John, we might not perceive that many others around us also love Jesus. The media and the worldly system are just shouting loud enough, just like Jezebel, to make us think that we are overwhelmed and alone.
Illus. – There are about 1200 churches in Portland, some small, some bigger. Let’s say that each has an average affiliation, reach, or membership of about 100 people of faith. That will bring us to 120 000 people. This is not a small number.
- You are not alone.
- But we should also note that our strength is not only in physical numbers. Many times, God uses a small number of people to show that it is His power that makes the difference.
- God whittled Gideon’s army down to 300 men and they overthrew a vast army by the power of the Lord. God empowered Samson to kill a thousand philistines just with a donkey’s jawbone. God used one representative, Moses, to show His greatness and break the power of Egypt. God used twelve unlikely candidates to spread His good news and change the course of history.
- With God on our side, we are always the majority.
B. Be Empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- We know from Acts 1 that God told them not to move forward until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit, and here we see the reason why.
- Verse 7 – Peter and John were put in the middle of the room in front of their inquisitors. Although they might’ve had thousands of supporters outside, at that moment they were standing all alone in front of a hostile group of authoritative leaders. This had the potential to be quite overwhelming.
- Verse 8 – Peter did not squirm, and we see the reason why. He was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and could with conviction speak with the power and authority of God. He was not shaken by those who opposed him, because he knew the truth.
1 John 4:4, You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
Luke 12:11-12, When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
- This is the truth by which we can live a life of victory as well. We were never called to do this alone. We need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit actively at work in us, every moment supplying what we need.
- We need his wisdom, his strength, his guidance, and all the other gifts necessary to live a purposeful life glorifying God.
II. Stand In Truth
- Verse 10 – Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, immediately started proclaiming the truth of the gospel. He did not look for an easy way out but faced the opposition head-on with the truth.
- We need to stand on the truth of the word. We are living in a society where truth is relative. We need to discern the truth. People are desperate for the truth. What was once wrong is now right, and what was right is now wrong. Jesus is the only way, truth, and life.
- Not only do we stand on this truth, but we must live the truth as well. Truth is one of the primary parts of the armor of God. All other parts of the armor are connected to truth.
- When we make compromises, it weakens our testimony and dilutes the truth.
- We do not have to be defiant and militant in our truth, but if we lovingly keep on living the truth and standing on God’s principles, it becomes a great testimony that changes people’s perceptions and their lives.
A. Stand in His Name
- We do not stand on our own ‘truth’, but we are standing in His name and all that that entails.
- Verse 10 – Peter did not have to rely on him being the point of discussion, having to defend himself for his actions. It was not about him. He deferred it to Jesus. He was only acting on the authority delegated to him.
- We must also remember that we do not have to stand in our own name, trying to defend ourselves and what we believe. We stand in His Name and all that it stands for.
- We are standing under His authority and His name is the banner over our lives.
- Peter was able to stand in the name of Jesus because he had been with Jesus. He knew Him, he had seen the resurrected Lord, he had seen Him move in power and he knew that no power or authority could compare to Jesus. Peter knew that in the contest of eternity, he was already on the winning side.
- Many times, Christians lose this perspective. They think that they are in an equally matched cosmic battle between good and evil and that we are hanging on by the skin of our teeth. This is not the truth. We are already standing in the victory of Jesus.
- What we see in the natural realm is not the truth. Looks can be deceiving.
Illus. – Elisha, Gehazi, and the Arameans…
- Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world. And not by a small margin, but He is infinitely stronger than any opposing power.
Illus. – When Jesus came close to the man who was possessed by legions of demons, they started to squeal in agony.
- The Council had to let Peter and John go because they had nothing to use against them and there was overwhelming support from the people who were glorifying God for what had happened.
- Verse 21 – The only thing that the council could do was threatened them. In other words, they were trying to instill fear in them.
- This is the ploy of the enemy. Fear is the opposite of faith. If he can get you to fear him, you are paralyzed. This is why the devil is referred to in the Bible as a roaring lion.
Illus. – In Africa, I have seen lions hunt before. A lion out on the hunt who is powerful enough to take down his prey does not roar. He keeps quiet. The only time a lion roars in battle is if he is trying to scare off his adversary.
- Verse 20 – Peter and John were not deterred by this though. “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
- They simply stood firm on what they have seen and what they have heard. They have seen God move before and this became their basis of trust and faith.
- This is what we stand on as well. We stand on the fact that the word of God is the irrefutable truth. Many have tried to undermine the authority of the word but have failed.
- Jesus was, or actually is a true historical figure. We have overwhelming evidence that He lived, died, and was resurrected. We have overwhelming evidence that God exists, and that Jesus is His Son and the only way, truth, and life.
- The world tries to refute this by screaming the opposite loudly. Just because you’re screaming the loudest doesn’t mean you’re speaking the truth.
- It is a truth that you must seek out though. It is easy for those who do not want to acknowledge Jesus as God to just follow the mainstream humanistic view. Jesus said, ‘seek, and you will find Me.’
- If you really seek Him, you will find Him. In literature, in philosophy, in history, in nature, and in the word.
- As you grow in the knowledge of Him and faith in Him, you will also be able to say with Peter, “I cannot stop speaking of what I have seen and heard.”
- Not only this, but you will start to see Him move in your own life as you’re changed into His image, see the miracle of redemption and the miracles of His care in your life. This will enrich your personal testimony as you stand in His Name.
B. Stand in His Power
- After they were threatened and released, they went back to their companions and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them. What they did then gives us wonderful principles of how to stand.
- Verse 23 – Immediately they started praising and glorifying God.
- In other words, they started focusing on God, who He is, what He has done, and what He has promised. They took their focus off the troubles and adversity they were facing in the natural and were focusing on God.
- This is where our victory lies as well. Over and over again we are reminded in the word to praise God and remind ourselves of his promises and who He is. We can rest in the fact that He is faithful and he cannot lie. As we remind ourselves of who He is, our faith is strengthened and we see our problems and adversities in perspective.
- Verse 29 – After this, they brought the request before God. But note that they were not throwing a pity party. No, they were asking that God would use them more and that they would speak boldly and have the confidence to speak God’s word.
- We have died and the life that we now live we live unto Jesus Christ. In other words, all our prayers should be aligned to see the ultimate fulfillment of God’s will, not only in this world but also in our personal lives and for those we pray for.
- Verse 31 – God honors these types of prayers, as we see that the place was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
- When we live our lives aligned with God’s plan and purpose, He gives us the power for to do what we need to do. He supplies what is needed.
Illus. – Let’s say you are working for a corporate company and your boss tells you to go to Spain and close a business deal on his behalf. He then gives you the company credit card with which you can pay for all the expenses for this trip. Flights, meals, hotel rooms, car rentals, and all other expenses that you need to go and do what you have to do. Let’s say that you take this card and decide instead you are going to the French Riviera for a two-week vacation. Your company will not foot the bill if you did not follow their directive.
- God supplies the Spirit and the power of the Spirit, so we do what we are called to do. What a privilege to be able to be a coworker of the King of kings and Lord of lords and an ambassador for his kingdom.
- We can take courage knowing that in the midst of trouble and adversity, God is there. He is our source; His Name is the banner over our lives and His Spirit lives within us to empower us to be effective in his kingdom. Stand firm.
Acts 4:1-31 NASB
1As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2 being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming [a]in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the [b]message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.
5 On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6 and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7 When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” 8 Then Peter, [c]filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “[d]Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are [e]on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, [f]as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that [g]by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—[h]by [i]this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 [j]He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them [k]as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the [l]Council, they began to confer with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy [m]miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.” 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all [n]in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this [o]miracle of healing had been performed.
23 When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O [p]Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy [t]servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the [u]Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29 And [v]now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and [w]signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy [x]servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.