Summary: though courage takes on another dimension, a dimension of peace and joy in the middle of challenges and struggles
Do you know what my son James dreamed about last night? A friend asked Steve ( adapted from a story by Steve Goodier). The friend continued, “He dreamed about you.” Steve smiled with delight at the honor of a friend’s son including him in a dream. Steve had befriended the young boy early in their friendship after the boy had suffered a great loss. He had taught the boy how to imagine and play again. So with great interest Steve urged his friend on, “Well, tell me, what did he dream about? Was I a swashbuckling pirate saving the poor maiden, a courageous soldier fighting off the enemy or was I a superhero saving the world from the bad guys?
“Well not exactly,” laughed his friend. “James told me this morning that in his dream he was being chased by King Kong. Then he met you. I asked him if Mr. Steve had helped save him. He said, ‘No, He was hiding in the bushes with me while the Boy Scouts were beating King Kong with sticks.’” Thank goodness for courageous Boy Scouts! Are you courageous?
For most people, courage has little to do with fighting imaginary monsters in nighttime dreams. It has more to do with fighting those monsters of real life that keep us up at night. Real courage is found in the midst of living through those nightmares. It is learning to live even when it feels like life is crashing down around you. John Wayne put it this way, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.
For the Christian though courage takes on another dimension, a dimension of peace and joy in the middle of challenges and struggles. Courage is a matter of facing life while centered in God’s will. Turn with me to this morning’s sermon text as found in Acts 4:18-22 where we will find an example Christian courage in the face of real insurmountable odds.
The first days of the early church were exciting, thrilling. Thousands of people were coming to believing knowledge in Jesus Christ. As we have heard, there were signs and wonders, and healings. The apostles were experiencing “favor with all people. They were successful and there efforts were reward with explosive growth but then things changed dramatically. The honeymoon was over! Opposition and persecution became very real and harsh.
Peter and John are exuberantly preaching the message of Christ. They were following the will of God, doing what Jesus had commanded them to do. When in a literal Greek translation here, the Sadducees “burst upon them suddenly and expressing a hostile attitude of anger” toward them. The Sadducees were a powerful group led by “Captain of the temple guard” second only in power to the High Priest, members of the very same group that had had Jesus seized in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter and John had offended them and run afoul with the most powerful religious crowd in Israel. The Sadducees were part of the Sanhedrin, the very ones that had had Jesus crucified. Peter and John’s preaching in Jesus’ name and authority was direct challenge to the Sanhedrin’s decision to have Jesus killed and so they are seized, thrown into jail and left overnight.
I wonder what Peter and John must have been thinking that night sitting on the floor of a dark, damp, dirty, dungeon of despair behind bars of threatening circumstances. I wonder if they were questioning and arguing with God why they were there, I mean, they were doing God’s work. They were doing exactly what he had told them to do. They were good people. So, why were things going so badly? Why were bad things happening to them? Why were they suffering?
Or, I wonder if they were remembering Jesus’ words to them as found in Luke 21: 12-15 "But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” I don’t know what they were thinking but I am confident I know what they were doing. They were praying.
From the beginning of the Books of Acts starting with Acts 1:14, we hear, over and over again, “and they prayed” and “when they were praying.” They prayed for themselves. They prayed others, They prayed for their enemies, They prayed for guidance, They prayed for healing, wisdom, and leadership. They prayed in the streets, in houses, on rooftops, on the shore, in a boat and in the Temple. They prayed specifically at the ninth hour and at midnight and all times in between.- They prayed individually, in small and large groups. Their prayers began in chapter one and continue throughout the whole book, continued throughout the life the early church.