A recently retired man was sitting on his porch in Kentucky waiting for his social security check to arrive. As he went to retrieve the check from the mailbox, he became discouraged by thinking that this was all that was left for his life. It was discouraging indeed. So he took a legal pad and started to make a list of the good things that remained in his life. On that list he wrote that he was thankful for his mother’s secret recipe of 11 ingredients for fried chicken. That may not seem like much, but he went down to the local restaurant and got a job cooking their fried chicken. Then he opened his own restaurant. He opened another restaurant and another until one day he had a string of restaurants called Kentucky Fried Chicken! “Discouragement and failure and two of the surest stepping stones to success.”
Christians have discouraging times. We are discouraged by the random events of life, by other Christians, by illness, by physical problems, and by spiritual problems. Stop and count our Christian blessings. Hebrews 6:19-20 says, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
There is no doubt the apostles were discouraged when they were opposed and imprisoned during the second gospel sermon (Acts 4:1-7). However, they shared our hope. Despite our situations and predicaments, let us look to the God and the cross of Christ for the peace that passes understanding. In Acts chapter 4, we see how the disciples were able to look to encouragers rather than be overwhelmed with discouragement.
THEY WERE ENCOURAGED BY THE RESURRECTION–ACTS 4:9-10
The resurrection of Christ is the ultimate encouragement. The song says, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, life is worth the living just because He lives.” Peter met the challenge hurled at him by the Sadducees by directly opposing their theology by showing that the healing of the crippled man was possible because of Jesus’ resurrection.
Paul also drew encouragement from the resurrection of Christ. 1 Corinthians 15 is a treatise on the resurrection demonstrating its reality and the benefits of the event. Paul said “the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52). Death is the ultimate consequence of sin, one of the heaviest of life’s burdens, and one of the most stressful discouragements. Since we are promised the resurrection, we no longer fear death. Having the ability to face death with boldness and even with Christian joy, we should be able to face any other of life’s trials with rejoicing (Philippians 4:4). “Oh death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Cor. 15:55-56).
THEY WERE ENCOURAGED BY THE SCRIPTURES–ACTS 4:11-12
In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 Paul said, “Comfort one another with these words.” Peter battled the disheartening attack with the comfort of the Scriptures. His heart warming faith in the resurrection was validated by the study of God’s Word. Peter turned to Psalm 118:22 and reminded the Sadducees that “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you the builders, which has become the head of the corner” (Acts 4:11). Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and guaranteed the promises. In the Scriptures hope was found the courage to stand. It is no wonder that we sing, “Give me the Bible…hold up that splendor by the open grave.”
When we are discouraged by doubt brought on by challenges to our faith, let us respond with encouraging Scriptures. When hungry and tempted, Jesus responded by “It is written.” We can overcome in the same way.
THEY WERE ENCOURAGED BY KNOWING THE TRUE JUDGE–ACTS 4:17-20
Judgmental people hurt. Be encouraged by knowing we will stand before Jesus and not before brethren, strangers, or friends. When the Sadducees came upon them with all their legal authority and tried to discourage them with an official sentence, Peter remembered that Jesus alone is the true Judge. We are encouraged to stand before the merciful High Priest. Paul said, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Not long ago Representative Randy Forbes sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz objecting to the removal of “God” from the logo of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. I imagine it would be encouraging for us to go into battle with the name of God at our side. Just think what it would be like if we went to battle without any hope of God. Imagine what it must be like to go through life in fear of the Judge instead of having the Judge on our side.
THEY WERE ENCOURAGED BY PRAYER–ACTS 4:23-31
Having been released “they went to their friends” and began to pray. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). The disciples prayed for boldness in preaching “while you stretch out your hand” (Acts 4:30). In an unexpected answer to their prayer, “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 4:30-31). Let us follow their example and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). So that we can have the courage and encouragement which we find at the feet of God.
THEY WERE ENCOURAGED BY THEIR CHURCH FAMILY–ACTS 4:32-37
In order to solidify our sometimes feeble faith, God has given us the church as a family support system. Christians exist for God and for one another. When there was a problem that arose, the church rose to the occasion. Acts 4:32-35 records how the church freely gave to those who were in need. The discouragement of poverty was taken away and replaced with the warm love of God manifested through the church family. It is through the church that our comforting God comforts His people (2 Corinthians 3:3-4). This benevolent heart encourages us still as we observe the tremendous faith and giving of those in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.
APPLICATION FROM THE SCRIPTURE
In life’s darkest times, do you have something certain in which to place your hope? Have you entrusted your life, family, and soul to the Lord of the universe. Are you living for Him and with Him each day with the encouragement that only He can provide? Turn to the Word. Turn to the resurrection. Turn to friendly Judge. Turn to prayer. Turn to the church. There is hope.