Acts of the Apostles 5:17-26
The high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Prompted by jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them put in the common gaol.
But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out, ‘Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’ They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach.
When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin – this was the full Senate of Israel – and sent to the gaol for them to be brought. But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported, ‘We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.’ When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what this could mean. Then a man arrived with fresh news. ‘At this very moment’ he said, ‘the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.’ The captain went with his men and fetched them. They were afraid to use force in case the people stoned them.
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.
I have been crushed in my spirit. I have been brokenhearted. Have you? I have been afflicted by fears and insecurities. I have cried out to God with all the voice my little heart could summon. I have wondered whether the nightair carries my pleas and whether God has the time to lift me out from my mire. I have asked Him if there is any purpose to the pain I am going through. I am sure you know how that feels.
The brokenhearted are often beyond words and deeds of consolation. What do you say to the mother who has to single-handedly raise five young children after their father walks out on them? How about the wife who is still praying for her husband to receive Christ after 30 years of marriage? Would you know of something comforting you could say to the friend whose relationship ends after a ten-year wait, just as her wedding plans begin?
We may have all gone through a similar experience before, but do the words “I understand how you feel” really provide salve for the soul who is bleeding with fresh wounds? Sometimes we just find ourselves terribly helpless and speechless attempting to console a dear friend over their great loss.
On another day, we may just find ourselves on this side of the loss. Nothing a friend or the world could offer us, could ease the pain, except for things to return to the way they once were – the way we WANT them to be. Don’t you wish that, like the apostles who were imprisoned by the high priest of the Saudducees, the angel of the Lord would appear to you in the night and unlock your prison to set you free? Simple, just like that.
But then the apostles were given an immense task upon this freedom, “Go stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” Released, they set out to do just that and went about boldly teaching. We know that the rest of their lives were not lived with ease and comfort – persecution and suffering was a loyal companion on their journey. How did they continue living out their life of faith?
Tonight, as I reflect on these Scripture readings, I am none the wiser. I am not armed with the antidote to my own sorrows and I cannot understand how I will one day be free from disappointment and despair. There just seems to be so much suffering around us to be able to breathe words of faith, hope, and love to the people we care about. Life as we know it, can be utterly cruel and unfair.
Yet today I am gifted with the most often quoted verse in the bible, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” In my quiet moments, I hear a soft whisper in my heart that tells me this verse is mine to own. I beseech you to claim this truth for yourself and join me in repeating this, whether under your breath at your work desk or in your heart on the bus to work.
“My Beloved, because I have so loved YOU, I have given my only Son, so that YOU who believe in me, will not perish but have eternal life.”
That single mother I know of who raised five children single-handedly, shuttling from day to night jobs to provide for them, never gave up on God’s promise of eternal life even though her earthly life was full of suffering and hardship. Today her five children enjoy the fruits of her deep faith and labour, passing on the beauty of their mother’s story to their own children. Although her faith was greatly tested on earth and she struggled with God in her trials, she chose to stubbornly cling onto Him despite her moments of desolation and despair. And now, God has honoured her with more generations who remember her lovingly and bless her name. But above all, her children and grandchildren are today comforted and certain that her broken body has been made perfect and her worn-out soul has been called to rest in eternity with God her Creator.
The wife I know who prays for God to one day change the heart of her deeply bitter husband so that he would come to know Him as his own Wonderful Counselor and Beautiful Saviour, still persists today in prayer for the man she has married. She tells me she is tired. She asks me, what is the use of my pleas? But then next Sunday, I see her back in Church approaching the Altar and kneeling down in quiet repose with the God who makes all things possible – in His time.
The lady I know who tells me her dreams are now shattered, her hopes of love and marriage seem like a ‘Finish Line’ that she will never reach, tells me that she knows God hears her cries and knows her anguish. She tells me that in spite of her sorrow and anger at God for not blessing her heart’s desires, she now knows the shape of her soul and the form of her faith. She clings to this line in the Psalms today, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit”, and she still chooses to talk with Him, even to argue and struggle against Him. She said, “I know that if I somuchas believe in one part of the truth of God’s love for me, I must believe in the whole truth of Him. And so I choose to keep on believing in His plan for me.”
The coward wants an unchallenged life, a life where his trials are easily surmounted. The brave acknowledge that life is full of strive and struggle, and hasten to overcome all odds with their might. The faithful understand that all of life has its movements of joy and suffering, yet because we claim our righteousness in God’s redeeming love through the sacrifice of His only Son Christ Jesus, we are not defeated in this life even if our human might has failed. It is in our weakness that His power is made perfect. We are promised a life Eternal where all our Soul’s desires are finally fulfilled in reunion with our Maker. You can claim this promise of God for yourself today.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Loving Father, I pray today for my Soul that has strayed from your fold. I know You are calling me home to you. You love me so much that you sent Jesus to earth to die for my sins, so that You may win me back to You. Today I receive your grace and mercy anew, and ask that You listen to the cries of my anguished heart. Stay close to me God.
Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, thank you for choosing to give up your life for me. Because of what You have done, I now know the great love God has for me. Thank you God for sustaining me in my moments of desolation – even when I was hardly faithful to you, you have loved me faithfully.