Spread His Light from Age to Age (October 8, 2017)
Spread His Light from Age to Age
As we gather here today on Mission Fest Sunday, it’s often a time of excitement as we see what God is doing in mission fields throughout the world and in our own backyard! Some of you attended the Women’s LWMS (Lutheran Women’s Mission Society) Rally yesterday where you had the opportunity to hear about the work that Pastor Naumann is doing among the Apaches. A few weeks ago, our congregation sent a mission offering to Peace in Liberty Hill for a school they are gathering funds to build. Some of you gather and donate your empty pill bottles for the medical missions in Africa. All around there are mission fields and missionaries. All around there are ways we can offer help and support. There are so many missionaries that we can pray for – that God would give them boldness and send his Holy Spirit to build the Church! These are all great and wonderful things to be doing. But on Mission Fest Sunday, how often do you think of your own mission field? How often do you think of the people you have already established a relationship with, yet have not shared Christ? Or maybe, you have shared Christ, but have been turned down again and again. Yes, there are Home Missions to pray for and World Missions to pray for, but there is also YOUR Mission to pray for!
Since God’s Word is Our Great Heritage, then to spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor!
Now, spreading the light of God’s Word is not always easy. I know you have experience that fact and realized it. The disciples have also experienced it on numerous occasions. And I think there is a lot we can learn from them in these tense situations.
It all began when Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer. On their way, they met a man, crippled from birth, who was being brought to the temple gate called Beautiful. When he asked them for money, Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). The man jumped to his feet and began to walk. And he went into the temple walking, jumping, and praising God! Everyone who saw him was filled with wonder and amazement! Yet Peter went on to say, “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12). Then Peter went on to proclaim that although Israel had rejected and crucified Jesus, the author of life, it was all part of God’s plan for salvation. And proof lies in the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead! Peter connected all of this to passages in the Old Testament which those listening would have known and believed. However, because Peter and John were teaching the people and proclaiming the resurrection of the dead in Jesus, the Sadducees arrested Peter and John and put them in prison to be tried the following day.
On trial, before the rulers, elders, teachers of the law and even the high priest, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke boldly to them about Jesus, the Christ, our salvation and our sure hope in the resurrection of the dead. Although the officials gathered would have loved to do away with Peter and John, they could not deny the miracle which everyone in Jerusalem had already heard about. So they told Peter and John to speak no more about Jesus and threatened them. Peter and John replied right then and there, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). So they threatened them again before releasing them. What boldness! What audacity! That they clung firmly to God’s Word and vowed to continue spreading its light despite such threats.
And this is where the reading for today picks up. “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God” (Acts 4:23-24). If you look at their prayer, you realize that it was a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God had done. In their prayer, they address God as the “Sovereign Lord” – a title which recognizes God’s absolute power and authority. He made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. He planned and foretold that his Anointed One, the Christ, would be rejected. He carried out his plan of salvation despite wicked men using their God-given authority for evil to kill the Lord Jesus. Although even now the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law thought they were supreme in their judgments, the disciples gave thanks and praised God that his power and will decided beforehand everything that should happen.
What kind of threats have you received in regards to spreading God’s light from age to age? Have you been urged or ordered to speak of Jesus no more by a friend or family member? Have you been threatened either personally or felt under attack when your privilege of speaking God’s Word is diminished? I’m sure you all have. I’m sure you all can think of someone whom you have tried to share the gospel with but they were not willing to listen and may have even asked you to stop. In such cases, what do you do? The disciples turned to God to renew their confidence.
And notice how they did that. They prayed. And in their prayer they reminded themselves of some related passages from Scripture. Yes, God foretold that believers would be rejected and ordered to stop speaking the truth. But God is far superior to all of these and urges you to keep speaking! In fact, God knows and has plans for even the rejection that you face again and again in life. You are in his plans, and you have always been in his hands. Like the disciples did, turn to God’s Word to see what your God does for you, so that you do not fear any opposition but continue to spread his light! Also, notice what the disciples prayed for. They didn’t pray for protection, and peace while they lay low. No, they prayed that God would enable them to continue to speak and give them even more boldness as they spoke!
This is the confidence that you have also! Your God is the Sovereign Lord. He reigns supreme. All things are in his hands. There isn’t a threat, barrier or disaster that he has not planned for. And he commissions each of us to proclaim the saving light of the Gospel! It’s going to be tough at times. There will be difficulties when it seems like all powers are against you. In these times, turn to God and renew your confidence! He gave you the commission to spread his light and so he will also go with you and give you great boldness!
It wasn’t protection that they prayed for, nor was it the destruction of their enemies, but boldness! Boldness that they could be servants of God and boldness to speak his Word with all the more passion! And although this dire threat from the Israelite leaders was given to just Peter and John, the rest of the believers knew that these threats loomed over all of them. They would be tempted to cave in and remain silent, or to be ashamed of the gospel. They knew these temptations would threaten to overcome their courage. So they asked the Lord to help them overcome their flesh and speak out instead.
God answers prayer. God always answers prayer. It’s true, sometimes his answer is no – when we are praying for things that aren’t quite in line with God’s plans. But sometimes his answer is “just wait,” and sometimes his answer is “yes.” And you can never go wrong praying God’s promises and commissions back to him. In fact, I think this is sometimes God’s plan in answering “no” or “just wait.” I think sometimes he wants us to dig into his Word, seek out his promises, and bring them back to him in prayer all while renewing our confidence and increasing our boldness! Abraham knew that God was loving and merciful – especially to his children by faith. So Abraham kept approaching God boldly in prayer and did not give up! Martin Luther called it, “Throwing the sack at the door and rubbing God’s ear with all the promises from his Word.”
Peter, John, and the other disciples gathered rubbed God’s ear with his own promises. Promises to help them spread the light of the gospel with great boldness. And God answered this prayer by shaking the place where they were meeting and filling them with the Holy Spirit so that they could speak the word of God boldly (v. 31). Now, God could have just kindled a passionate boldness in their hearts and sent them on their way. But during these trying times, while the news about Jesus was still taking root, God decided to give them a huge boost. God showed that he heard and answered their prayer by shaking their meeting place and filling them with the Holy Spirit. They hadn’t asked for this, but God knew they needed it. After this happened, they went and spoke with great boldness!
So, I’ll ask you, on this Mission Fest Sunday, what should we pray for? Should we pray that God would be with our missionaries both in foreign fields and local fields? Yes, definitely. Should we pray for mission and outreach programs at our churches and for those involved to speak with boldness? Yes, definitely. But how are you going to pray concerning yourself? Is your prayer, “I am here. Don’t notice me, don’t notice me”? Or is it, “Here am I. Send me, send me!” I know it can be hard to pray the second one. I know we often think of mission work as going out and talking to strangers in great number, eloquently preaching the gospel. But it isn’t always. Often, mission work is a word of comfort to a hurting friend. Often it’s simply living out your Christian life without minding persecution from time to time. In fact, it’s even moving tables and chairs, preparing activities, and providing food for outreach events at church – even if you are not on the “front lines” so to speak.
You have a gift greater than any in the world. You have the saving light of the gospel! And you might be thinking, “Well, I can’t recite passages or find the right places in Scripture to speak.” That’s not an issue. Moses objected that he was not an eloquent speaker, but with God at his side look at the things God enabled him to do! In fact, God even enabled him to write the first 5 books of the Bible. And when Peter and John were on trial, the rulers were astonished at the courage of Peter and John when they realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men (Acts 4:13). See what God accomplished through them?! God goes with you too. And I’m sure you know God’s Word better than you think. Even if you can’t quote a passage, or open to the exact page, you know the truths of God’s Word in your own words because God’s Word has been your great heritage. So spread it’s light from age to age turning to God to renew your confidence and going with God to speak with boldness.