Sunday 24th May 2020

‘Come, bow down and worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.’ Psalm 95:6-7

Praise: Listen to or sing a hymn or psalm of praise.

Prayer: Slowly read these words from Isaiah 30, ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength….Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are those who wait for him…’  Now use these beautiful words to form a prayer of confession and praise of your own. Perhaps something like this: ‘Lord I praise your name and thank you for your compassion and blessing and that salvation is found in you alone. I come before you in a spirit of quiet and thoughtful repentance – forgive me for the times I’ve let you down…Help me to be quiet before you and trust you more and more each day….[Finish your prayer with the Lord’s Prayer…]

Reading: Acts Chapter 4:1-31 Peter and John are arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You for all your goodness to us. We are mindful too of the needs of others and lift those needs before you. We pray for our congregation of First Donaghadee, so thankful for the fellowship we enjoy together. We remember those who are unwell within our fellowship, those who are vulnerable and with underlying health conditions and those who are anxious and fearful during these challenging days. May each know the comfort of your peace and presence. We continue to pray for all NHS Staff and care workers, for those who are in hospital and bereaved….for all affected by Corona Virus…[continue your prayer bringing the burdens of your heart before the Lord]….

Reflection: What does trouble equal?

Are you good with song lyrics? If I gave you a line from some well-known songs could you say or sing the next line? What about: ‘I could have danced all night….’ Or ‘Start spreading the news…’ or the Morecombe and Wise favourite, ‘There may be trouble ahead…’ This morning we’re going to continue our focus on the book of Acts and as we do keep those song lyrics in your head….And keep our title in mind…’What does trouble equal?’

Last week we looked at Chapter 3 and the account of the healing of the lame man – the man to whom Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’  (3:6) And he did – not only could the healed man walk; he could jump, run, dance….he literally could have danced all night! And Peter used the opportunity not so much to start, but to continue spreading the news, highlighting to the gathered crowd that Jesus Christ, the One crucified, now raised from the dead and gloriously ascended, was in truth the Author of life and that this was the time for all to repent and turn to God, ‘So that sins may be wiped out and times of refreshing may come from the Lord…’ (3:19)

So, a man was miraculously healed and the crowd heard the truth of the gospel….but not everyone was pleased….There may be trouble ahead…and there certainly was…and that trouble came in the form of the religious elite of the day; the priests, captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees for they were, ‘greatly disturbed’ by any mention of Jesus Christ as the crucified but now Risen Lord and Messiah (4:2). Peter and John were thrown into prison and brought before this seemingly ‘powerful’ group and asked, ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’ (4:7) I’m sure the question was meant to be intimidating but in reality it provided an amazing opportunity to preach the gospel, one that Peter once so timid and afraid, not only grasped but clearly relished as in answer he spoke about the healing as being done ‘by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified….salvation is found in no-one else…’ (4:13) And with the combination of the courage and clarity of Peter’s preaching and the healed man standing before them, the only response the religious leaders could come up with was to tell Peter and John to stop talking about Jesus and then let them go. Not so ‘powerful’ after all!

The Early Church was growing fast; they devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship and prayer and witnessed astonishing demonstrations of God’s power. But there was trouble ahead with key leaders being thrown into prison, but what does trouble equal? Trouble equals opportunity and Peter took his opportunity to stand up as a witness to the unique saving power of Jesus Christ, and the church took the opportunity to pray that they might speak for God with even greater boldness and that God would continue to ‘heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders in the name of Jesus’. (4:30) This trouble didn’t hold the Early Church back, it energised and enthused it! You and I don’t want trouble in our lives, but it has arrived at our door in the form of this horrible virus. Some might think with no church services etc. that might mean trouble for the church, but Scripture clearly teaches that no matter how ‘powerful’ trouble might seem, it is no match for our God and His faithful people. God is clearly at work through this pandemic; far more people are watching and listening to services online than anyone could have predicted, we all have more time to read God’s Word and pray, we have opportunities to reassure others that God is in control and can bring good out of any situation, we have opportunity after opportunity to help and encourage others….the list goes on and on….Trouble equals opportunity….

‘I could have danced all night’: A crippled man was healed in the name of Jesus and could most certainly have danced all night. ‘Start spreading the news’: The Apostles took every opportunity to continue to spread the good news. ‘There may be trouble ahead’: And there was…as it turns out it was actually trouble for the authorities as the believers prayed and preached with new zeal and the church continued to grow….As we move into a new week, keep those headings in mind: remember the joy of the healed man and pray for the joy of the Lord to flood your soul. …..Keep spreading the good news through the opportunities that come your way….and never forget that in the kingdom of God, trouble although we don’t go looking for it and we pray it will pass soon, equals opportunity…and make it your prayer that we would all be filled with Holy Spirit and speak the Word of God boldly (4:31).

Prayer and Praise: Conclude your worship in prayer and praise as you thank God for His Word. Ask Him to help you grasp the God-given opportunities that come your way this week. Listen to or sing a hymn of thankfulness and praise. Perhaps: Great is the darkness/ Shine Jesus Shine/ Wide, wide is the ocean (don’t forget the actions!)/ Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah.

Benediction: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. Amen (Based on 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)