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Praying for the Persecuted Church

Acts 4:23-31  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Why me Lord?

Song by Ross King describes American Persecution:
My Lexus just ran out of gas. My iPod needs new songs. My cell phone battery is dead Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong? My suntan salon just closed down. And my summer glow is gone. And the kid who cleans my pool just quit Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong? There's people starving in Africa. There's war in the Middle East But I'm a rich dude out in suburbia who could use a little sympathy Cause my grande no-whip mocha latte's way too strong Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong? Got 150 channels on my TV but I think I need 100 more Got a world of entertainment on the internet but I'm still bored, why me Lord? My platinum credit card's maxed out can't remember what I spent it on So I guess I'll have to settle for the medium fries Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong? There's homeless families in New Orleans And soldiers dying on a foreign shore But I'm a rich dude living in luxury who could use a little something more Cause there's some white trash folks in my country club and they really don't belong Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong? I think I'll write a letter to my congressman maybe send him a tape of this song He's probably in his big old mansion right now Saying why me Lord? Why you done me wrong? Yeah I care about the people in Africa and I'm praying for the Middle East But I'm a rich dude out in suburbia who could use a little sympathy Don't forget that my grande no-whip mocha latte's way too strong Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong?
My iPod needs new songs
My iPod needs new songs
This song is funny because it is true in so many ways.
My cell phone battery is dead
We have adopted an American ideology that promotes comfort and we perceive suffering to be when that comfort is hindered.
Any time we preach Christ is the only way to salvation we face persecution.
There is a sense of social martyrdom that we face as we proclaim Christ in America.
The message we preach is no a politically correct message.
However, there are people dying across the globe for Christ and we have a responsibility to pray for them.
In 2016 90,000 people lost their life for their faith in Christ. ( 70% on the continent of Africa)
We suffer to read our Bibles, while our brothers and sisters in China rejoice at a piece of Scripture smuggled in to their country.
We suffer to come to church regularly, but our brothers and sisters in Africa walk for miles to hear preaching and are disappointed with a 30 minute sermon.
We suffer to make our kids participate in activities and functions in the church while in North Korea being a Christian means your kids may be killed or worse, left as orphans.
Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong?
This song alludes to a funny prayer, but that was not the kind of prayer in the early Church in Acts.
We can learn how to pray for the persecuted Church and even our own churches from this prayer.
Acts 4:23–31 ESV
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Acts 4:

Why do we pray?

Why do we need to pray for the persecuted Church?

1. We pray because we are family.

Peter and John went back to their friends.
friends here is actually the Greek word that means their own.
They went to their own people.
After Peter and John were faced with this difficult time they leaned on their church family.
I know from experience in difficult times there is nothing like a church family to support you, love you, and pray for you.
The term brothers and sisters means that we are family. (This goes beyond a local church and reaches throughout the world)
They lifted up their voices together.
They prayed in unison. United in love and the Spirit of God.
The picture here is that in this time of persecution the church gathered together to pray as one family on behalf of each other.
This is the same picture we should have as a church today.
- “If one member suffers we all suffer..”
If one member of our local body or global body is hurting we should hurt too.
When one part of the body is hurting it should hurt us all.
Watching the movie Paul, the one thing the directors did well at was depicting the death of Christians under the Roman emperor Nero. Watching our early brothers and sisters being covered in wax and lit on fire as a street lamp hurt me me deep down inside.
Men and women are dying just like they did in the early Church and we sit back like nothing is going on.
We pray and sympathize with our soldiers dying overseas for the sake of freedom.
That is important, but is it not more important to sympathize and pray for the Christian soldiers dying for the kingdom of God and the freedom in Christ.

2. We pray because we have one purpose.

These early Christians together no because its prayer meeting time, but because they have a mission.
They are together like a team in a huddle or soldiers preparing the strategies for the battle to come.
These are people who are on the front lines of a spiritual battle to proclaim the gospel.
They know that this war is beyond them and they need strength and power from God.
This prayer is not about deliverance from the the suffering, but about divine power to persevere through it.
Prayer is coming mistaken to be about us, when it is truly about God’s glory.
They wanted more than comfort, these believers prayed for God to be glorified through their actions.
The purpose of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel, declare the kingdom of God, and show His glory.
Whether it is easy or difficult we all have one purpose as believers.
Whether it is comfortable or by suffering we still have one purpose.
My suntan salon just closed down. And my summer glow is gone. And the kid who cleans my pool just quit
My suntan salon just closed down
We must come together as one family for one purpose and pray the Church to show the glory of God through the spreading of the Gospel no matter the costs.

Who do we pray to?

And my summer glow is gone
Even though you this is obvious, here in these believers spent five verses telling who God is before they ask for anything.
The point is if we are going to pray then we know to know the God we are praying to.
When we know the truth of the God we are praying to in will lead to pray with the right mind set.

God is the one in control

What are the first words in this prayer? - Sovereign Lord
To be sovereign means to be in absolute control.
That is who God is.
The verses that follow expound on how God is in control.
The following verses speak of how all things through history happen at the hand of God.
That God has always been in control.
Not Man. Not Satan (even the devil is on God’s leash).
This is great new in the midst of persecution or any situation.
This is huge when faced with the questions persecution brings, or the anxiety, or the suffering, or even the death.
No matter what happens God is in control. He is still on His throne.
declares, “that God is working all things for the good of those that love Him.”
This is a great comfort to the believer in any situation.
If God is in control, then what do I have to worry about/ or fear?
When I go to the mission field people often ask if I am scared. - No, god is in control.
people as what id something happens to you? - Nothing is going to happen that God does not want to happen.
If we are believers and we know that God is sovereign then we should trust God that he has us in His hands and is in control of all things.

God is faithful to His Word.

Psalm 2:1–2 ESV
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
Psalm 2:1–12 ESV
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Psalm
: 1-
They have quoted here from Psalm
They have quoted here from Psalm
They have quoted here from
this psalm identifies with what they are facing.
The nation rage and plot against God.
Is this not exactly what has taking place here in Acts.
Is this not what takes place today in our world.
The things happening to Peter and John, the early church, and all those that follow are because the rulers of this world rage against God.
also says that His Anointed will one come and take possession of what is His a rule the Kingdom.
Persecution comes as a means to stop God from taking away the power from the rulers of this world.
They tried this here at the beginning of to stop Christ from being preached so the Religious leaders would not lose power.
They cannot stop Christ from coming.
Persecution grows the Church, not stops it.
Persecution points to the need for Christ. (end of Revelation “come Lord, come quickly”)
Persecution will come until the return of Christ ( The martyrs in Revelation)
Our hope is Christ who will execute righteous justice on our behalf.

We pray to the One who is familiar with suffering.

Throughout this prayer they speak of how this suffering was suppose to happen to Christ.
They know the nation will rise up against him.
They know that Gentiles/Romans rose up against Him.
They know that people of Israel rose against Him.
If we are going to identified with Christ then they to will rise up against us.
In order to show the glory of God then you must see the suffering of Christ.
Jesus suffered and died to be resurrected for the glory of God.
The Church will suffer so that God will be glorified.
Jesus suffered for God’s purpose to come to pass.
We too will suffer for God’s purpose to come to pass.
They are not praying to a God that does not have an understanding of what is going on in the world.
This is a God who is the middle of it.
Our God gave His life for this world.
They are not praying through Christ who does not understand what they are going through.
“He was tempted in all way we are yet without sin.”
He was acquainted with grief and sorrows (that is the sickness of sin).
Hebrews says we do not go to a High Priest that is far away from us.
Jesus knows far more than we do what it feels like to suffer and be martyred.
He gave his life for us and we struggle to live our life for Him, much more loose it for Him.

What do we pray for?

First, look at what the early church was not praying for.
They did not pray for the persecution to stop.
They do not pray for God to bring wrath on those persecuting them.
They are not lamenting for what they are going through.
Instead of praying for escape, they prayed for enablement to endure.
That’s a foreign concept to us Americans.
“We say things like God will never put more on us then we can bear...”
That passage is speaking of way of escape from temptation not suffering.
the reason we relate it to suffering is because we don;t want to sacrifice our comfort.
Martyrs die for Christ and Christ died for us. Ask them if that was too much too bear.
Our prayer should be for God to enable the church to stand in the midst of persecution, not to be comfortable.

They prayed for the honor of Christ

“consider their threats”
The threat was not to preach Christ or else.
What did they do? Prayed for God to empower them with boldness to preach Christ.
Why? Not to be defiant, but to honor Christ.
That is what Peter meant in his response to the Sadducees.
Is better to obey you or God? - Peter had to obey God by honoring Christ.
They prayed for the glory of Christ at the heart of their prayer.
Not for their needs to met or the needs of others.
It is important to pray for needs.
But what we pray for often may not always be what we need the most.
Whether persecution, suffering, or anything else we need to pray for Christ to be the center and to receive the glory and honor.

They prayed for boldness for the church

Acts 4:
Acts 4:29–30 ESV
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
The message is for God’s kingdom to advance.
Not only do we want to see the Gospel proclaimed we want to see it transform live.
This means we have to share the Gospel.
From verbal proclamation to witnessing proclamation.
There is needs from preaching to physical needs in countries around the world.
We need to pray for boldness to help, support, and pray that God’s kingdom is advanced.

What do you expect?

Acts 4:31 ESV
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Put feet to you prayers.
When we do this we can expect great things from God.

1. Expect the earth to Shake

The place where they were praying began to shake.
This is not to say that we will feel an earthquake.
But like an earth quake disrupts the land prayer like this will disrupt hearts and lives.
When we pray and act on our prayers we will see God shake things up.
God will move and do things that cannot be credited to men.

2. Expect the Spirit to Fill

They were filled with the Holy Spirit.
they already had the Spirit, but here the Spirit fills them to boldly proclaim Christ.
That is exactly what happens, they go out proclaiming and doing for Christ.
From Stephen to Paul and Silas in the Philippian Jail.
The were shaking things by the power of the Spirit and turning the world upside down for Christ.

3. Expect the Gospel to Succeed

What happened before Peter and John were put into jail- Preached and people were saved.
That is exactly what happens afterwards.
The Word continues to be preached and people continually get saved.
No matter how hard persecution tried to stop the early Church it could not.
The Church will succeed.
Jesus said, “not even the gates of hell can prevail against my church.”
Today were persecution is the strongest, the church is growing the most.

“For me to Live is Christ, to Die is gain.”

You may never be called to go through great persecution of die a martyr’s death.
But we are called to die to self and live for Christ.
We die for all kinds of things that bring us comfort and pleasure.
People die from drugs because they think they can’t live without it.
People die from STDs for the sake of self pleasure.
People die from heart disease and cancer because they put food and other things in their body that brings comfort.
Why can’t we die for someone who is worth dying for?
Whether we die for the sake of the Gospel or to ourselves...

When we truly die then we will begin to live for Christ!

And the kid who cleans my pool just quit
Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong?
There's people starving in Africa
There's war in the Middle East
But I'm a rich dude out in suburbia
Who could use a little sympathy
Cause my grande no-whip mocha latte's
way too strong
Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong?
Got 150 channels on my TV
But I think I need 100 more
Got a world of entertainment on the internet
But I'm still bored, why me Lord?
My platinum credit card's maxed out
Can't remember what I spent it on
So I guess I'll have to settle for the medium fries
Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong?
There's homeless families in New Orleans
And soldiers dying on a foreign shore
But I'm a rich dude living in luxury
Who could use a little something more
Cause there's some white trash folks in my country club
And they really don't belong
Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong?
I think I'll write a letter to my congressman
Maybe send him a tape of this song
He's probably in his big old mansion right now
Saying why me Lord? Why you done me wrong?
Yeah I care about the people in Africa
And I'm praying for the Middle East
But I'm a rich dude out in suburbia
Who could use a little sympathy
Don't forget that my
Grande no-whip mocha latte's way too strong
Oh why me Lord? Why you done me wrong?
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