Acts 4:23–31comment (0)
November 1, 2012
By David Hogg
Related Scripture: Acts 4:23–31
Bible Studies for Life
Academic Dean at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Pray with Dependency
Embrace God’s Plan (23–28)
If you have been active in the church for long enough to become involved in discussions about theological matters, you have more than likely heard someone cite the first part of Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord.”
Usually when this passage is quoted it is in response to some deep mystery of God’s revelation such as the relationship between free will and predestination. The one area to which we rarely apply it, however, is to our lives.
How many of us have said or thought that we wish we knew more about God’s plan for our lives? We want to know our future; we want to know how long we have to live; we want to know particular details. Perhaps like Hezekiah of old (2 Kings 20) the reason the Lord does not show or tell us more about His plan is that we are not able to receive it. The distance from humble to haughty is a good deal shorter than many realize.
In the early church the apostles knew only what Jesus had charged them to do and that their obedience would be costly; yet they were content. How can we tell they are content? Look at their prayer in vv. 24–26. After being harassed and threatened by the authorities, Peter and company praised God in prayer in a rather unique way. First, they began with the sovereignty of God. They did not question God’s goodness or power or guidance; instead they opened their prayer with an acclamation about God’s power and sovereignty over all creation. Knowing God is enough. While some of us would be inclined to complain about how we had been treated, Peter and the church were able to embrace God’s work even when met with hostility because they had embraced God. Satisfaction with God’s plan for our lives and His leading begins with trusting and resting in Him.
Second, the early church was content and able to embrace God’s plan because they recognized that His purposes and power cannot be thwarted. One of the signs of maturity among God’s people is that they focus less and less on themselves in prayer and more and more on God. Citing Psalm 2, this congregation did not focus on their problems, struggles and difficulties, but on the power of God to accomplish His purposes. Sure, there are obstacles in our way, they said, and yes, the authorities are going to make spreading the gospel message difficult and painful; but God cannot be stopped, and we are His servants who will bring about what He has “predestined to take place.” Notice that no one was expressing confidence in themselves as servants; rather, they were expressing supreme confidence in God.
Pray for God to Work (29–30)
Wonderfully, this early congregation of believers recognized that confidence in God’s activity did not mean laziness or negligence with respect to their own. Predestination and responsibility are addressed in the same breath because the foreordained means by which God will accomplish His eternal purposes is through His people, the Church.
As much as we like to protect and preserve our own comfort, we need to see as the early church did that our prayer is not for a lighter load to bear but stronger backs to bear it. We do not need less of a burden; we need more of Jesus. As verse 30 points out, it is through Jesus that marvelous works of all kinds are performed for the sake of the Kingdom.
Experience God’s Power (31)
Does God answer prayer? Yes. Does God give us what we need in time of need? Yes. Is God able to help us overcome those who oppose the gospel? Yes. We should therefore always pray with expectation. But in praying with expectation, we must also remember that God answers according to His wisdom, which means our prayers will not always be answered in the same way. You may never feel your house or church shake, but the power of the Holy Spirit to fill you and work through you remains undiminished.