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February 24, 2017

Finding Strength From Others

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“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people ….” Acts 4:23 (NIV)

There’s something about this verse that leaps off the page at me and gives me comfort and encouragement.  It affirms the value of deep, abiding friendships that share a common purpose and passion – friendships that you can lean on in difficult times.  Their understanding emboldens you to keep going when you’re tempted to give up or give in under pressure.  Such was the case for Peter and John.  The cultural climate of their time was hostile to their message.  It had only been a couple of months since Jesus had been arrested and crucified, and the same religious leaders that spearheaded the campaign to get rid of Jesus were now breathing down their necks. Following Christ’s miraculous resurrection from the dead, these disciples were instructed to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Fifty days later on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came to indwell and empower the lives of Christ followers!  Luke tells us that about 3,000 people believed that day and were baptized!  The New Testament church ignited with a flame that continued to spread.  One afternoon shortly after that, Peter and John went to the Temple to pray.  When they met a lame man by the gate called Beautiful, they offered him what he needed most.  In the name of Jesus, the man was healed!  The miracle provided a platform for Peter and John to share the good news of Jesus, and the number of new Christ followers now totaled about 5,000!

The public response drew the jealous attention of the religious leaders.  Peter and John were arrested for preaching a message that wasn’t politically correct.  After a night in jail, the High Council of all the rulers, elders and teachers of religious law met with the verdict.  Peter and John were officially warned “not to speak to anyone in Jesus name again.” The council then threatened them further before releasing them.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself what you would do if you were Peter and John.  The threat was real and the warning was clear.  It certainly was intended to intimidate and silence their message.  Do they obey these authorities or God?  I love their boldness as they responded,

“Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than Him?  We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”  (Vs. 19-20)

What gave these men such courage?  I think it had as much to do with the next few verses as it did with the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Luke records what they did,

“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people….” (Vs. 23)

Do you have such a support network in your life?  To whom do you turn to when you’re feeling threatened and unsure?  This is the benefit of a local church and a small group of like-minded Christ followers doing life together. Christ followers in the New Testament recognized the value of believing and belonging. Faith is more than believing. It is about belonging to a family of believers that are concerned for one another, who encourage each other and provide a safe place to turn as they meet together in worship.

If you don’t have a church family and you are in the Houston area, we welcome you to join us. Every child needs a family, and the child of God needs a church family. I hope you will consider checking out the Woodlands Church family at a campus near you. You don’t need to face the future alone. This weekend, we are offering our Membership Class following the last morning service on all campuses. Lunch is provided complimentary at class.  You can register now to join us and discover the benefits of belonging!