Summary: This message tells the story of persecution and pushback that Peter and John experience after the healing of the lame beggar. Today much persecution is inflicted upon Christians around the world.
Title: “From Pushback To Push Ahead!”
Text: Acts 4:1-7
Subject: How did the disciples handle the persecution & pushback of jail time and threats?
Complement: they prayed for more boldness and more miracles!
Big idea: “The disciples respond to persecution with prayer for more boldness and more power.”
I begin by listing the top 12 countries in the world where there is severe persecution against Christians.
1. North Korea
(Source: Open Doors - 2021 World Watch List)
And now let me tell you one story of persecution...
The story of a Muslim convert as told in Christianity Today. (May 2021)
...I was born in a Sunni Muslim home in Bangladesh, ...my father was a general in the intelligence service. We lived on different army bases in elaborate quarters reserved for officers and their families. Servants catered to our every need.
I grew up attending an Islamic religious school, where we studied the Qur’an.
My father could trace his lineage back to the grandson of the prophet Muhammad’s great-grandfather). His heritage qualified me as a direct descendant of Muhammad.
In 1975 at age 21 I was in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, looking to buy an electric water heater. I noticed a Caucasian man on a street corner giving out gospel tracts. Wearing scruffy jeans, he looked like a hippie. He was well over six feet tall and stood out from the normal rush of shoppers... Curious I approached him and asked, “Who are you, and where are you from?” He said he was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ from England. He belonged to a street evangelism team from the Jesus People movement, known for traveling around the world during the 1970s. From my Muslim upbringing, I had only encountered Jesus as a prophet who appeared before Muhammad. And I didn’t believe he had died on a cross—the Jews, we were told, had crucified Judas instead.
He told me Christ would set me free and give me a new life. Though I doubted his God was interested in my despair, I bowed and prayed to receive Christ on the crowded sidewalk in front of a shoe store. I sensed this was what I had been waiting for all my life. It felt like a huge boulder had been lifted off my back. I saw everything in technicolor, and I wanted to sing and laugh.
While alone one afternoon, amid a grove of trees away, I heard an audible voice: “... I will take you around the world and you will tell people about Jesus.”
Although fear gripped me, I believed it was God speaking.
By denying Islam, I knew I was courting disgrace from my family and risking an honor killing. At the time, I lived with friends in Lahore - who turned furious when I admitted I had accepted Jesus into my life.
They wrote to my father, a devout Muslim who prayed five times daily facing Mecca and was discipled by a holy man. Enraged, he rushed to Lahore to confront my apostasy. He enlisted friends to harass me and force me to recant. When that didn’t work, they committed me to a mental facility. Isolated in the hospital’s psychiatric ward for two weeks, I was sedated and guarded by soldiers. Even so, I gained comfort from covertly reading my smuggled New Testament, and I was able to lead several people to Jesus.
The psychiatrist verified my sanity and discharged me.
My father was furious. He kept me under house arrest at his home in Multan, in Pakistan’s southern Punjab region. While armed sentries stood guard outside, I was confined for several weeks before I could escape by bus to Christian friends in Lahore. When I learned the police were searching for me, I fled to Karachi to join an evangelism team. Even under duress, my faith grew as I devoured the Bible, memorized Scripture, shared my testimony, and distributed tracts.
Our street evangelism flourished until my father demonstrated his political power in early 1976. The police arrested five of us for anti-Islamic activities. Jammed into a tiny, filthy cell, we slept on vomit-caked blankets on a brick floor and shared a small can for our toilet. Four of my Christian brothers were from other countries, and they were released within a few days and deported. But my ID card and passport were confiscated. I was warned, “You will leave a Muslim or die.”
The jailers moved me to a ward for political prisoners, where I spent almost one year. Despite the shame and isolation, the Holy Spirit sustained me along with the New Testament I had smuggled in.
The glory of God filled my cell many times.
I felt especially encouraged while reading Acts 16:25, which recounts Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns in prison. It was mind-blowing that God counted me worthy to suffer for Jesus.