Courage Under Fire

Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:15
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Courage Under Fire

As we start, I want you to imagine yourself in a room filled with powerful individuals — individuals who hold your future in their hands. They give you a choice: to stay quiet about your faith in Jesus Christ or face severe consequences. What would you do? Would you keep quiet for the sake of peace, or would you stand tall and proclaim your faith in Jesus, come what may?
Welcome to the reality of Peter and John in Acts 4. The same Peter, who just weeks before had denied Jesus out of fear, is now standing fearless in front of the Sanhedrin, the very group that had conspired to crucify Jesus. Today, we dive into a story of unbelievable courage — a story that challenges us and confronts us.
Today's message, "Courage Under Fire," will take us into the heart of this conflict and force us to examine our hearts: Are we choosing what is easy and popular over what is right and true? In a world that increasingly pressures us to conform to its mold, will we stand firm in our faith, or will we fold under pressure? Let's journey together and see what God has to reveal to us today.

The Apostles' Boldness Is Recognized

Acts 4:13 NKJV
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
A. Verse 13 shows us that the Sanhedrin was astounded at Peter and John's boldness.
Peter and John were ordinary fishermen, not professional scribes or authorized ministers of the Jewish religion. They were disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, but—He was dead! The council took notice of the courage and confidence of Peter and John, as well as the power of Peter’s words; and it all added up to a tough decision for the religious leaders.
B. It reminds me of the boldness of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who stood against the cultural norms of her society to fight for the right for young girls to receive an education. At 15 she was shot by the Pakistani Taliban for her role in fighting for women’s education. She survived, and at 17 became the youngest ever Nobel Prize Laureate.
C. Like Peter, John, and Malala, are we prepared to stand boldly for what's right even when it's unpopular?

Peter and John Were Identified with Jesus

Acts 4:14–16 NKJV
14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
A. The Sanhedrin found themselves in a tough spot. They could not deny the miracle that Peter and John had performed in Jesus' name. They were trapped.
B. It's like today when skeptics cannot deny the transformed lives and miracles we witness, yet they reject or rationalize it away.
C. We should not be discouraged. Instead, let's continue to faithfully witness God's transformative work in us and around us.

They Were Command to Silence

Acts 4:17–18 NKJV
17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” 18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
A. The council, feeling threatened, decided to command Peter and John to stop speaking about Jesus. The council wasn’t looking for truth. Instead they sought for some way to avoid the truth!
Had they honestly considered the evidence and meekly listened to the message, they might have been saved, but their pride and hardness of heart stood in the way.
Their conclusion: “let the thing die a natural death.”
This meant threatening the Apostles and forbidding them to teach and preach in the name of Jesus.
This official sentence shows how much the enemy fears the witness of the church.
Satan has been trying to silence God’s people from the very beginning.
Sad to say, he has succeeded with far too many Christians, the “silent witnesses” of the church.
Even the existential philosopher Albert Camus said, “What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear … in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could arise in the heart of the simplest man.”
B. It’s reminiscent of how certain elements of society today try to silence Christian voices, branding biblical truth as outdated or intolerant.
C. The question for us is, will we allow the voices of the world to mute our witness for Christ?
The council did not want the Gospel message to spread, and yet that is exactly what happened!
From 120 praying men and women in Acts 1, the church increased to more than 3,000 on the Day of Pentecost; and now there were more than 5,000 disciples in the fellowship.
In the days that followed, “believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women” (Acts 5:14; and see 6:1, 7).
Satan’s attempts to silence the church only led to a stronger witness for the Lord.

Peter and John’s Response

Acts 4:19–20 NKJV
19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
A. Peter and John's response was a profound one: they refused to be silent, choosing to obey God rather than man.
B. Today, standing up for our faith may come with challenges. It might mean facing ridicule, exclusion, or even persecution.
But we have to be careful.
It is popular today to promote various causes by defying the government, disobeying the law, and defending these actions on the basis of conscience.
But we don’t have the luxury of just defying the government because it goes against our conscience.
Peter and John are not the only ones who disobeyed the authorities in order to serve God.
A list of “dedicated conscientious objectors” would include, among others: the Jewish midwives (Ex. 1), Moses’ parents (Heb. 11:23), Daniel (Dan. 1; 6), and the three Hebrew children (Dan. 3).
When you examine the records, you discover the biblical principles by which they operated, principles that are not always followed today.
To begin with, each of these “objectors” had a message from God that could not be questioned.
All of these people were faithfully obeying a clear word from God and not just following some selfish personal whim of their own.
And even then, they acted with respect and courtesy, even when they defied the law.
C. We are called to a courageous faith, standing up for what is right because we know whom we serve, prioritizing God's word over the ever-changing whims of society.

The Release and Threat

Acts 4:21–22 NKJV
21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
A. Despite threats, Peter and John were released because the people were praising God for what had happened.
Because they had no real case to offer, the council could only threaten the men and let them go.
After all, when you have a living miracle before you, as well as an approving public around you, you must be careful what you do!
B. Standing firm in our faith today may have repercussions. We may face opposition, but we're not alone.
C. God is with us. He will give us the strength to remain steadfast when we face resistance for our faith.
A. We’ve journeyed through a snapshot of Peter and John’s courageous faith, standing for what’s right rather than what’s popular.
B. I challenge each one of us today to live with such courage, to be voices of truth in a world that often prefers a lie, to stand firm in our convictions, no matter the opposition.
Next Steps:
Courageous Conversations: This week, find an opportunity to share your faith with someone who may not agree with your beliefs. Remember, it's not about winning an argument, but about expressing the love of Christ and standing firm in your faith. It might be uncomfortable, but it's an exercise in courage and authenticity.
Choosing Right Over Easy: Identify an area in your life where you may be choosing what is popular or easy over what is right. This could be in your personal life, at work, or in your relationships. Ask God for the courage to make the right decision, not the easy one, and take the necessary steps to align with God's truth.
Celebrate God’s Work: Look for the undeniable work of God in your life or in the world around you, and share it with someone. This could be a testimony of personal transformation, answered prayer, or a story of God's faithfulness. By celebrating and proclaiming God's work, you're choosing to voice your faith and stand against attempts to mute God's truth.
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