Summary: The Church is thriving. Jesus’ disciples, the apostles are in great form. You might say pitching shutouts. And the Church is winning. Everything is going great. •There is wonderful unity: Sharing all things in common. •There is wonderful growth: We
Big Problems? God’s Bigger
One of the great modern stories of a sports hero who has experienced great adversity and yet persevered is that of Dave Dravecky, star pitcher of the S.F. Giants. I’m sure many of you know his story.
•In 1987 Dravecky was playing his best baseball. He was at the top of his game. Heading into the 1988 season he knew it would be the best of his career. He says it this way: “No question about it I was going to win twenty games. My plan was for twenty games. [But] God’s plan was for cancer.”
In October of 1988 Dravecky had surgery to remove fifty percent of his deltoid muscle and a tumor that had developed in my left arm, halfway between the shoulder and the elbow. The doctor said, "Outside of a miracle you will never pitch again."
•Yet Dravecky persevered and made and extraordinary came back. Less than a year later on August 10, 1989 he stood on the mound again and threw the first pitch of ninety three pitches. I am overwhelmed when I think about the fact that I was able to stand on that mound. Before that deltoid muscle was taken he threw eighty-eight to ninety miles an hour. In that game I was clocked at eighty-eight to ninety miles an hour. “I don’t care what anybody says to me. It was a miracle and that’s all that matters.”
•Yet disaster was about to strike again. Five days later, while pitching against the Montreal Expos, Dravecky threw a pitch and collapsed on the mound. It proved to be a recurrence of the cancer. His left arm and shoulder had to be amputated, ending his pitching career.
•What a double whammy.
I’m sure many people were saying, “What a disaster. Life had been going so well. His career was flying. He had so much going for him. It just wasn’t fair.”
•In life it seems sometimes it is at our times of greatest success that disaster strikes....
•Just when we think we are about to achieve something, it all comes falling down.
That must have been how the early church fell in Acts, chapter 5. Turn with me to Acts 5.
The Church is thriving. Jesus’ disciples, the apostles are in great form. You might say pitching shutouts. And the Church is winning. Everything is going great.
•There is wonderful unity: Sharing all things in common.
•There is wonderful growth: We have just learned that the Church is growing and thriving: 5:14: “more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. We learn that people are being healed, lives are being changed.
•There is spiritual strength: The dramatic death of Ananias and Sapphira caused everyone to rethink their commitment.
But when things are going well, that’s when Satan goes on the offensive; that’s when he unleashes his most powerful weapons.
•In this case it is the Church’s religious opponents in Jerusalem. The same body that turned Jesus over to Roman authorities.
•They see the popularity of the Church and it angers them.
•And so they lash out: Verse 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.
Now this must have been a scary experience. After all, this is just what happened to Jesus.
•The arrest itself would be scary. But there is something else. This is their second offense.
•Back in 4:18 this same legal body, the Sanhedrin, ordered Peter and John not to speak anymore about Jesus.
•And what did they do? They went right back to preaching about Jesus.
•Now the first time you issue a warning, but the second time punishment usually follows.
•That’s usually the way it works with children, right? You say, “If you say, ‘I’ve told you before I don’t want you throwing the ball in the house. “ Five minutes later when you hear “Wham,” as the ball smash against the wall, it’s not going to be a warning. The punishment begins.
•It works that way with adults, too, right. I was driving down El Cajon Blvd about a year ago, going a little fast and I got pulled over. He said, “running a little late today, are we?” And he was very gracious. I didn’t even have to get down on my hands and knees and beg. He said, “slow it down.”
•I learned my lesson and I have slowed down. But suppose on the very next day, he pulled me over in exactly the same place for exactly the same offense. I can assure he would not have been so gracious.
The apostles have been warned not to preach Jesus any more. But they have gone right on doing it. There is no way they are going to get off with a warning this time.