In today’s complex world, believers face many difficulties. Difficulties come from within and without. We may encounter direct persecution from those who oppose us or indirect resistance from those who prefer a relativistic worldview. We may experience challenges even in the midst of spiritual victories. For instance, when we have overcome a spiritual problem, we may become prideful—but pride is already a sin! Conversely, we may adopt an inferiority complex, thinking that spiritual superheroes can do things better than we can.
In today’s passage, the first Christians also faced challenges that came about due to a great spiritual victory. Great success brought great resistance. Peter and John had performed a great miracle, healing a forty-year-old man crippled since birth (Acts 3). This healing resulted in many people hearing and receiving the Good News. This, in turn, caught the attention of the authorities, who arrested Peter and John.
We may think that Peter and John were Christian superheroes. But the authorities were actually correct to noticed that they were just “ordinary men” (Acts 4:13 NIV). They were ordinary people, transformed by spending time with Jesus and emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit. Their fellow believers recognized that they, too, needed the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome resistance to the Good News. Boldness in the face of spiritual challenges is for ordinary believers, not only for Christian “superheroes.”
The Apostles received power by spending time with Jesus, not just before His death, but even after His resurrection! This was a privilege that the new believers could enjoy, as well. And the new believers recognized the importance of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. They prayed, asking specifically for boldness to declare the Good News despite the opposition. Acts 4:31 reports the dramatic answer to that prayer: “The place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (NIV).
Today, we too need to recognize our need for help in the face of spiritual challenges. Like the early believers, we must ask for God’s help when we need it (which is always, by the way!). We must rely on Jesus, and we must rely on the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit gives aid, like the early Church we must proclaim the Word boldly and strengthen community by selflessly working together.