When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4:23-31
Perhaps you’ve already seen that video. It’s pretty convicting. First world problems read by third world people makes the point: We’ve got it pretty easy and good here in the USA or any other civilized country in 2017. Our problems are really minor annoyances compared to the danger of catching malaria, not having clean drinking water, or the threat of a bloody coup in a close-by neighboring country.
Sometimes we may even think in those same terms about our church: We don’t get to sing our favorite hymn the way we want to – without all that fancy organ embellishment, or in a tempo or style that is more to our liking. We may struggle with the design of the chancel, the color of the carpet, the presence or absence of flowers at Christmas or Easter, or an outdated Christian song at the contemporary worship service: “That was so 90’s!”
Take a look, by contrast, at this church here in Acts. It is fledgling. Newborn. Not well defined. Just trying to figure out how to be the church. Yet when they face the challenge of persecution and threat from those who want to quiet their Christian witness, they rejoice because God had counted them worthy to suffer for the sake of the gospel!
They don’t pray for retribution against those who persecuted them. They prayed for God to do more good among the people to give witness to his power and love: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
I don’t have in mind any particular complaint, frustration, or problems voiced by any specific person, group, or denomination. I do have in mind, however, the reality that it’s all to easy to express our displeasure when we’re consumed with our own comfort, ease, and visions of the way things ought to be.
If we’re on the mission field, we don’t expect the same level of comfort or ease.
Three years ago, Diane and I visited Kenya as part of a PLI International conference. The conditions of our accommodations were harsh. The whole compound was run on a 3000 watt generator which would choke down whenever anyone used the switch to heat the water in the shower heads (we called them suicide showers!). There was no heat or AC. The food was plenty but not anything nearly as nice as an American restaurant. and don’t even let me begin to talk about the roads! They were horrific!
We didn’t complain thought, because we were on a mission. I wonder if we’ve lost sight of the mission of God to which he calls us day by day here and now, in our own homes, neighborhoods, work places, and churches. Perhaps if we did, and we lived as though the most important thing was bringing the gospel to the next person God brings into our lives our silly complaints would be recognized for what they are: Anthems in Praise of Coziness.
I have no need to make the church more uncomfortable for anyone – old member or new. But I would dearly love to attain to a measure of maturity that was so well expressed by these early Christians. They continued to speak the word of God with boldness, and we are the better for it.
Thank God, even more, that he chose to become most extremely uncomfortable for us and took on all of our problems so that we may be saved. His loving sacrifice is not only an example, it is the means of our eternal salvation. Thanks be to God!