5. Fueled by Adversity: Acts
God’s mission isn’t thwarted by adversity: it is the very ground God’s work thrives on.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.
Christ’s work is not done as he ascends into heaven at the conclusion of Luke’s Gospel account. In Acts, Luke writes of Jesus’s continued work as he reigns in heaven!
Acts begins with the Holy Spirit coming down upon Christ’s apostles, filling them with the very presence of God. This phenomenon fulfills God’s ancient promise to send his Spirit and empower his people to bring his salvation to the ends of the Earth. As we’ll see through the accounts in Acts, adversity abounds; but rather than hindering God’s mission, opposition and suffering seem to fuel it!
After being filled with the Spirit, the apostles are equipped with the ability to speak to the multi-ethnic population of Jerusalem in all their native languages! They begin proclaiming what God has done through the resurrected Christ, and they exhort hearers to repent and be saved. The apostles perform miracles and healings, and thousands of Jews put their faith in Christ as their savior! These believers form a unique community committed to worshiping God, meeting one another’s needs, and shining as a light to the community around them.
As this movement grows, many of the Jewish religious leaders become threatened, and they begin persecuting Christians violently. This, however, does not deter Christ’s followers. They continue teaching and proclaiming the resurrected Christ even as they are imprisoned and violently tortured.
The Christians are eventually driven out of Jerusalem; but rather than slowing down God’s mission, this movement advances it! Followers of Christ come bringing the good news of Jesus and his kingdom to non-Jews all over Judea and Samaria!
As Jesus’ community continues to expand, God confronts a Jewish religious leader and well-known persecutor of Christians named Saul. Miraculously, after this encounter with God, Saul converts and puts his faith in Christ! Saul changes his name to Paul and becomes a passionate advocate for the Gospel.
Paul follows the lead of the Spirit and preaches along an international missionary journey, during which he faces much pushback. He is arrested and imprisoned many times because of his message. Again, this adversity does not dampen God’s mission! The Gospel message gains credibility and potency as Paul continues to joyfully share about Jesus even in his suffering. Paul even uses his time in prison to compose letters to his church families, the letters that now make up many of the books in our New Testament!
Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome, where he hosts meetings and boldly teaches about Jesus in one of the most prominent cities of the time. Opposition and suffering have not hindered God’s mission of salvation but rather propelled it on! Through hostility, resistance, persecution, and difficult barriers of geography and culture, God spreads his good news through the world.
Those who follow Christ today are invited into this mission! God calls his family of believers to bring his salvation to the ends of the earth. Simply put, this means sharing with others:
“Jesus came to us as God in the flesh. He lived a life of perfect obedience to God. He died a sacrificial death to pay the debt we owe to God for disobeying his commands. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven where he now reigns. One day, Christ will return and judge the world. He will remove all sin and restore the cosmos to a state of peace, prosperity and flourishing. Those who repent and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior are forgiven of their sin and credited with Christ’s perfect life, that they might be in a relationship with God and experience his restoration in their lives. At Christ’s return, they will participate in his eternal rule and enjoy his goodness forever.”
As we see in Acts, rejection and conflict is to be expected when we share the Gospel. As you face opposition, remember that God’s mission isn’t thwarted by adversity: it is the very ground God’s work thrives on. God’s power is magnified in the struggle.
RESPOND: Take a moment to ask God to give you strength and perseverance as you share the good news of what Jesus has done.