Little is Much (2)
At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Acts 8.1
Just as Jesus promised
All the promises of God, which are fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ, are precious and very great (2 Cor. 1.20; 2 Pet. 1.4). All of them.
Even this one: “In the world you will have tribulation…” (Jn. 16.33). And this one: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3.12). This one, too: “Many arethe afflictions of the righteous…” (Ps. 34.19).
Those who believe in Jesus Christ are a Kingdom fellowship of sufferers: “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…” (Rev. 1.9). Let this be your mindset, Paul wrote to the Philippians, that like Jesus, you must expect trouble, persecution, suffering, and worse (Phil. 2.1-11).
We have God’s Word on it; He has promised that we will know a little troubling as His children. And because He has promised it, this is a precious and very great Word, indeed. And it is precious and very great because the Lord knows how to overcome the adverse effects of troubling with great victories of joy, rejoicing, and Kingdom expansion.
This, at least, was the experience of the first disciples.
Blessed and joyful in trouble
While that first Christian Pentecost brought a huge ingathering of new believers, it wasn’t for everyone a cause for admiring wonder and joyful celebration. The religious leaders of Israel, who thought they had done away with the threat to their place and power by crucifying Jesus, considered that they had yet a little more work to do.
And that work involved threatening and troubling those who insisted on proclaiming Jesus as Lord.
Peter and John were the first to be warned (Acts 4.1-22). It did not matter that they had done a good work of miraculous proportions. The preaching about Jesus must stop. But Peter and John shrugged off this threat and declared their determination to continue proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. And when they reported the threat to their brethren, unified prayers arose to God, Who filled all the believers with the Holy Spirit and power, so that they joyfully and boldly rose above their little trouble, reaching and gathering multitudes more for the cause of Christ and the community of the afflicted (Acts 4.23-37).
But the religious leaders were not finished. They hauled the disciples before them once again in Acts 5.22-42. This time they not only warned and threatened them, they beat them, probably with thirty-nine lashes. They reckoned that if a little troubling had not done the job, a little more might.
The apostles, however, went away rejoicing to have realized this precious and very great promise of Jesus, and they continued proclaiming His Name with greater boldness and effects.
Great trouble, same result
The religious leaders of Jerusalem were desperate. Despite their threats, despite the beatings and further warnings, the apostles continued preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even a great company of the religious leaders became persuaded and were now among the multiplied thousands who worshiped Jesus and shared together in His Body (Acts 6.1-6).
The murder of Stephen seems to have been a tipping point, for immediately after that “a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8.1). Imagine the scene, as multiplied thousands of men, women, and children hurriedly packed and fled in every direction to avoid arrest and beating and worse. The roads leading away from Jerusalem must have been clogged with travelers who, having given up everything they knew and most of what they owned, were now fleeing in the Name of Jesus to find new lives somewhere beyond the reach of their persecutors.
And everywhere they went, “those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8.4).
In an effort to stop the Gospel, the religious leaders had only caused it to multiply and spread. A little troubling was just what the people of God needed to realize more of His power, grow closer to Him and one another, and move out in the next stage of Jesus’ Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and uttermost parts strategy. They rejoiced and eagerly proclaimed the Name of Jesus, even though they had lost everything, because they had partaken of Jesus, they had shared in His sufferings, and they had grown in His grace in the precious and very great promise of a little troubling (2 Pet. 1.4).
In this world we will have troubles. The Lord has promised, and all His promises are precious and very great, but only as we rest in Jesus, cling to Jesus, grow in Jesus, and fulfill our calling to be His witnesses (Acts 1.8). A little trouble can lead to spiritual growth, emboldened witness, stronger unity with other believers, and a more vibrant and fruitful witness for the Lord. God Who promises us trouble in this world will be with us in our troubles, so that, no matter whether our troubles are little or great, much good for the Lord and His Kingdom can result.
We need to make sure that God is with us in our troubles, whether they be few or many, little or great. Wait on the Lord in prayer, stand firm in your confession in Jesus, and you will know the presence of God in all your troubles, unto much that is good and glorious.
1. Why would Jesus promise us trouble? Is trouble somehow good for us?
2. How should we respond to the troubles we have to face? How do waiting on the Lord and standing firm in our confession help us?
3. If we wait and stand firm through our troubles, what kinds of good and glorious outcomes can we expect? How can believers help one another in this?
Next steps – Preparation: What troubles are you facing? What troubles are you anticipating in the days ahead? How can you prepare for the troubling that has been promised you so as to make sure that God is with you in it?
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 3of a 3-part series, The Small Stuff. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 3, “Little is Much.” Why not line up some friends to study through all three parts of this series?
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.