Wednesday, February 8, 2012

#5 Acts 5: 38-39 "Can't Stop Me Now!"

"Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

For many Christians, the name Gamaliel may not be familiar. He is mentioned twice in the Book of Acts. Acts 22:3 tells us that he was the Apostle Paul's teacher. In this passage in Acts 5, Gamaliel is the voice of reason.

Acts 5 recounts a story when the Pharisees and Sadducees sought to silence the Apostles as they taught in Jesus' name. Throwing the Apostles in prison didn't work. An angel of the LORD opened the prison doors and freed them. Commanding their silence did no good, either. Peter and the Apostles refused by saying their obedience was primarily to God, and not man.

So, the Pharisees met and plotted to have them all killed. Under natural circumstances, they probably would have succeeded.

But they didn't.....thanks to the words and reason of Gamaliel.

Gamaliel recounted a couple of instances when a persuasive leader had gathered many followers toward his philosophy. But once that leader died, his devotees scattered, no longer adhering to their late leaders' teachings.

If these followers of Jesus are like that, then their philosophy or religion will die with Him in good time. But, if this is genuine, then you don't want to find yourselves fighting God.

And considering this "religion" of Jesus has continued for over 2000 years, I'd say the Pharisees were correct in listening to Gamaliel. The Apostles of the early church certainly demonstrated that their faith, and their Messiah, were the real thing.

I have yet to be threatened with death for being a follower of Christ. In our country, where we enjoy freedom of religion, Christianity is certainly not a risk factor for death or imprisonment. But I do feel like I am being silenced at times. No, the pressure to remain a silent and inconspicuous disciple of Jesus is not legal or physical. I believe it is much more subtle.

No stones have ever been hurled at me. But, there are times I hurl those stones at myself...those stones of fear and shame. I talk myself out of speaking the truth, because I'm taught it's bad to offend anyone. I talk myself out of doing the right thing, because it seems to hard, or too inconvenient.

And yes, I could probably even talk myself out of believing, because sometimes God seems silent and absent.

But, thank God, He and His work cannot be stopped. God's purposes will go on, not because I am so brave, loving, committed or heart strong. It will go on because God is God. He will triumph, not because of me, but (usually) in spite of me.

As Gamaliel reminded the Pharisees, if someone's work is not of God, it will ultimately fail. But if it IS of God, no man can stop it. I too often feel like a failure. I have never done anything "great." My speeches would not fill a large arena, prompting hundreds of folks to race down the aisle to declare their faith in Christ.

I've built no orphanages, published no best-selling books on the Christian life, nor founded my own world-wide ministry to feed the poor or heal the sick.

But, I am called by God to serve Him nonetheless. My sphere of influence is small. I am not well-known in my community or even in my modest-sized church. But I still have a job to do for His kingdom. It might be cleaning up the mess someone left on the floor at the church, it might be spending a little time with a child in need of love and understanding...or it might be silently praying for that friend or stranger who suddenly finds herself out of work.

I fear failure....but more than that, I fear being insignificant. Gamaliel's words in Acts 5 reminds me that, whatever work I am doing in Jesus' name, if this is what He has asked me to do, I cannot be stopped. If someone tries, then he is fighting against God. It doesn't matter if God calls me to preach to millions, or to silently help one individual. If I am doing God's unstoppable work, that is my defense, that is my proof that God is real and that is where my significance lies.

I thank God for calling me to His work, however humble it may be. In God's workforce, size does NOT matter. What matters is what is in your heart, and how close to God's heart it is. The work will follow.

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