How did they come to this? What was it that brought them to the place of such total abandonment to God? It was surely their deep experience and knowledge of God. They took time to find Him. They gave up everything to pursue Him and persisted in that pursuit until they experienced His presence and power.
We can see these things from the way they prayed. Their knowledge of God was deep and practical. For example, the prayer of Acts 4 displays a deep knowledge and understanding of God. The themes of this prayer look like the contents page of a volume of systematic theology. They speak of God’s sovereignty over creation, revelation and history. But this was no mere theological exercise, nor simply recounting points of doctrine. They were engaging in intensive prayer desperate for God and laying hold of Him until He came.
That’s how we experience God. The prophet Isaiah longed for God to intervene in the affairs of God’s people and come down from heaven to show His power. He prayed, Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence… Isaiah 64:1
This same desperation of spirit characterises revival praying in every age.
The God Who Acts
God controls the destiny of the nations. Our faith is in the One who is working out His purposes in the world.
…I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure…’ Isaiah 46:9-10
This confidence is our hope for revival. God can and will intervene. He will pour out His Spirit on the nations and fulfil His promises. The believers at prayer understood this. They knew how to take the prophetic word of Psalm 2 and apply it to their situation (Acts 4:25-28). They knew that their crisis was not a crisis in God’s eyes. He knew all about it. In fact, God was already involved! He was behind every circumstance, ordering and governing them in order to fulfil His Word and to bring about the history of His making.
Ready to Act for You
Everything in the world is being ordered by God according to His purposes to bring salvation to the nations and to prepare for the end, the consummation of all things. The earthly courts can make their rulings, the governments of the world their pronouncements, but all is in God’s hands and He is working out His purposes. This is true also at the personal level. Whatever your circumstances, God is in control. He has not abandoned you to forces outside His control. As the old song goes, “He’s got the whole world in His hands!’
God is ready to break into your personal history. If you are in the middle of some crisis or painful situation, know that God is there with you. If it’s a divorce, or bereavement, or rejection, or some sin or bondage of the devil – whatever it is, God is in control of it and He will come to rescue you. He wants you to call upon His name. But know that whatever you are going through His power is greater than all.
In Psalm 2, God speaks of His attitude to those who oppose Him and seek to rebel against the authority of Christ.
Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.” Psalm 2:1-3
Now, look at God’s reaction
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have _set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” Psalm 2:4-6
God has set Christ on the throne of the universe and given Him absolute authority over all things. And nothing can overthrow that rule. God is not shaken by any earthly or satanic opposition to His plan. In fact He laughs at it because He is the Master who takes every opposition captive and makes it serve His plan. That is how the believers of Acts viewed their world and how they understood what was happening to them.
God is always in Charge
The cross must be the very worst example in all human history of opposition to the kingdom of God and the rule of Christ. The Son of God was rejected by human beings and cruelly nailed to a wooden cross. This was the measure of the sin of humanity and must therefore count as the worst thing that has ever happened on earth. And yet we understand that it was also the very plan by which God had determined to save the world. The devil plotted the overthrow of Messiah. Wicked men were his tools. But the whole thing was from God and was His master plan, executed to absolute perfection. When the devil does his worst, God does His best! The believers knew this and rejoiced in it.
For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Acts 4:27-28
This understanding gave them perfect confidence to pray. They knew that they were in the plan of God and that He was not going to let them down. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word. Acts 4:29
How these believers pray in their time of crisis gives us an insight into their experience of God, and helps us see how we should be seeking God today. The whole prayer is centred on Christ. It’s all about Him. They were totally passionate about Christ and all that He had done for them and what He was calling them to do for Him.
This is always the pattern of revival. All these believers wanted was to see Christ exalted. They had found the secret of how to own Christ in the midst of mounting opposition. They now knew how to proclaim Him even though forbidden from doing so by the highest court in the land.
We remember what Peter and John said to the officials of the Sanhedrin, But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20
They said, “You can’t stop us – because we can’t stop preaching Christ. We can’t help ourselves talking about Him. He’s everything to us!” This is total Christ-centeredness. Everything revolved around Him – their desires, hopes and dreams. They lived to put Christ first, before their very own lives. All they wanted in this time of crisis was that Christ should be magnified and that they should have the boldness to preach Him in the midst of persecution.
Revival is all about God putting His Son centre stage. As far as He is concerned, Jesus is the centre of the universe, crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When we lose this focus we need to be revived once again. There is no way these believers could have prayed like they did if Jesus wasn’t Lord of everything or if their lives weren’t yielded to Him. Your true heart for Christ is revealed in times of crisis. How you react under pressure shows what you really think inside.
Conviction not Comfort
These believers passed the test. They didn’t cave in. They kept their passion in the time of adversity. We can see their deep faith was not influenced by external circumstances no matter how extreme these were.
Many believers today are not that deeply rooted in their experience of God. They are “comfort’ or “convenience’ Christians, following Jesus only when it’s convenient to do so. They seem unwilling to sacrifice anything, or to put themselves out in any way for the Lord. Nothing really counts for eternity in their lives.
But God is beginning to change all that. The rising tide of persecution, the pressure from governments and the seduction of this world all bear down on those who are half-hearted in their love for Christ. The weight is too much for them and many fall away from the faith.
God is exposing the make-believers and the easy-believers. Those who are not serious about Him will never make it through these difficult days. Christians who are looking for a convenient rather than a conviction life-style will not stand up to the tests that are coming to us as we face increasing level of persecution of our faith here in Europe. But those who take hold of God and stir themselves to seek Him with all their hearts will find Him.
Let me ask you a question. Where do you stand in all this? Are you passionate about Him? Does all that you want centre on Him? He is calling you deeper. If you hear Him and turn to Him, making Him number one in your life, you will be completely astounded how He will reveal Himself to you. And you will come to experience Him in a new and deeper way.