Family Bible Study lesson for May 26: Ministry to Persecuted Believers
May 10 2002 by James Baldwin , Acts 12:1-17

Family Bible Study lesson for May 26: Ministry to Persecuted Believers | Friday, May 10, 2002

Friday, May 10, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for May 26: Ministry to Persecuted Believers

By James Baldwin Acts 12:1-17

In most places in America it is still socially advantageous to be a Christian. Contacts at church are great for networking socially and professionally. It is even chic these days for Olympic stars and celebrities to acknowledge God's help in their accomplishments.

In many places around the world, however, the consequences of following Christ are severe. In many communist and extremist Muslim nations Christians are regularly imprisoned, beaten, tortured, raped and even killed for their faith in Christ.

Rightly, we are grieved over such treatment of fellow Christians. A Methodist bishop in Marxist Angola offered a different perspective: "Don't worry about the church in Angola; God is doing fine by us. Frankly, I would find it much more difficult to be a pastor in Evanston, Ill. Here there is so much - so many things. It must be hard to be the church there."

Persecution (Acts 12:1-4) Peter lived in a society that saw Christianity as a threat. Political leaders were intimidated by the followers of Jesus, whose primary loyalty was to a higher authority (John 18:33-37). Religious leaders were disturbed by Christians who challenged their faith and practice (John 11:47-48). Business people saw their livelihood threatened by believers who advocated a different lifestyle (Acts 16:19-20).

Christians today are persecuted for many of the same reasons. The teachings of Jesus do indeed challenge certain economic, political and even religious structures.

Christians in any time or place should not be surprised if the world rejects them and attempts to silence their message. They did the same to Jesus (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Prayer (Acts 12:5) We often feel helpless to address the struggles of brothers and sisters in Christ who live under constant persecution. We don't have the political clout to change their government. We don't have the means to bring them food, clothing or even encouragement. But we can offer them up to God in prayer. Sometimes we use the expression, "At least I can pray." Prayer is actually the best thing we can offer. Through prayer we can bring the power of God's Holy Spirit to intervene in the lives of His children. We can pray that governments will change. We can pray that Christians in prison will be set free. But the best we can pray is that those Christians will remain faithful and true to Christ, in spite of their consequences.

Power (Acts 12:6-10) In response to the prayers of the church, God sent an angel to awaken Peter, and to lead him to freedom. The angel strikes Peter on the side, waking him from sleep, commanding that he "Get up and get moving."

May God send some angels like that to our churches today. Although God's answer in this instance was release for Peter, the story of persecuted Christians does not always end as we would like. Both the Bible and history are full of stories of people who died for the name of Christ (Heb. 11:32-40). This does not mean that God has failed, or that prayers were not answered. Sometimes God receives more glory, and the name of Christ is spread further, through the blood of the saints.

The bishop in Angola remarked, "Sure, twenty thousand of our Methodist pastors were killed during the revolution, but we came out of jail a much larger and stronger church."

Proof (Acts 12:11-17) This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Can't you picture the church gathered together, praying earnestly for Peter's release from prison? The prayer meeting is interrupted by a knock at the door. A servant girl named Rhoda goes to the door and asks, "Who is it?"

Recognizing Peter's voice she runs back through the house to tell the others.

"It can't be Peter," they respond. "He's in jail."

"I know it's Peter. I heard his voice."

"You're crazy."

"No, I'm sure it's Peter."

"It must be his angel."

"I'm telling you, Peter is at the door!"

"How can he be at the door? We are praying for God to set him free."

Even then, Christians had a hard time recognizing answered prayer even when it stood right in front of them.

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5/10/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Baldwin , Acts 12:1-17 | with 0 comments
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