Ever want to give up on a long-term dream or a huge goal? Maybe it’s homeschooling or losing a bunch of weight. Maybe it’s getting that record deal or learning a new language. Whatever it is, it’s likely you’ve been bogged down in the middle.
Even if you felt sure in the beginning you were called by God, you began to doubt He ever asked you to do this thing. You might have asked yourself why you even began in the first place. I’ve been there too.
This week, I have some encouragement for you. It’s from Peter and John’s example in Acts 4.
“Get up! The chief priest wants to talk to you.” The jailer scowled at Peter and John as they slowly rose from the dirt floor, bodies stiff from their night of confinement.
Soldiers bound their hands and escorted them along dusty Jerusalem roads. Though they hadn’t been given food or water since their arrest the previous afternoon, Peter welcomed the walk back to the temple, even for the opportunity to stretch his legs. When he thought about coming face to face with the chief priest, his belly did a little flop.
The morning sun rose high in the sky, illuminating the golden gates and marble walls. Body odor mingled with the smell of incense in the crowded din of the temple courts. Soon they arrived at Solomon’s portico, where the trouble had started.
A swarm of people swooped in to get a look at Peter and John under escort of temple guards. “Aren’t they the ones who healed the beggar from the Beautiful Gate yesterday?”
Annas, Caiaphas, and other priests had already assembled. Peter steeled his gaze on the men who’d orchestrated Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion only two months ago. A drop of sweat trickled down his back, and then another.
John bowed his head and closed his eyes, uttering barely audible whispers. Peter knew he was praying once again for the Holy Spirit’s words.
One of the priests raised his voice above the gathering crowd. “How did you get the power to heal a lame man? By what name have you done this?”
A hush fell over the crowd. Peter could only hear the tinkling of the bells sewn into their robes as they shifted back and forth, waiting for Peter or John to speak.
Peter got a sudden rush of confidence. “Rulers and elders, you want to know how this sick man became well? We healed him in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene. The One you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. It’s the only name by which we can be saved.”
Annas gazed at them both, a glint of recognition in his eyes. So you’re some of his disciples, he seemed to be thinking. After conferring with the other priests, Annas said, “You may go.”
As they headed for the gate, Peter noticed the man who’d been healed yesterday in the crowd. No one could have guessed he’d never walked before. When he saw Peter and John, he leaped for joy, and then jogged over to them for a jubilant embrace.
More people gathered to celebrate with the man they’d known as lame all their lives. “He’s walking! Praise Jehovah-Rapha!”
Peter and John’s short-lived freedom was interrupted by one of the temple guards. “Annas and Caiaphas want another word with you.”
With a sigh, Peter set off behind the guard and John followed. The priests stood with arms crossed.
Annas looked down his nose at Peter and John. “You will not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”
Peter’s face flushed hot. He squeezed his fists and took a deep breath. “Whether it’s right to obey God, or whether it’s right to obey you, I’ll let you be the judge. But we’re not going to stop talking about what we’ve seen and heard.”
A jubilant cry went up from the crowd, unaware Peter and John stood again before the Council. Annas and Caiaphas cast a worried glance at the people patting the formerly lame man on the back and congratulating him.
“You’re asking for a lot of trouble if you don’t obey!” Caiaphas’ nostrils flared. Spittle flew from his mouth as he continued. “This temple is sacred ground, and we will not have you desecrating it with talk of that agitator.”
Annas pointed his finger in Peter’s face. “You either heed our word, or you’ll find only a night in jail the least of your worries.” With that, he turned on his heel and marched off, followed closely by the other priests.
John grinned and jabbed Peter with his elbow. “Wait’ll we tell the others about this.”
This would be the first of many run-ins Peter and the apostles had with religious authorities. Do you ever wonder why the apostles never questioned their calling after so much opposition?
Sometimes we mistake such opposition as a “closed door.” We think, “Maybe I’m not really called to be a [fill in the blank—writer, teacher, artist, dancer, business owner, pastor…]. It’s looking impossible right now.”
But the apostles already knew they were witnesses. In Acts 1:8, Jesus had told them specifically they’d be His witnesses.
So when the priests and religious leaders told them, “You aren’t to speak in the name of Jesus,” the apostles didn’t need to pray about what to do. They already knew who they were: Jesus’ witnesses.
The same thing happens today. We’re called to a task (or a long-term passion), and something or someone comes along and throws up an obstacle.
It’s at this point we have a choice. Do we believe God called us to this thing? Do we believe He’s capable of giving us what we need to do it? Or do we ignore the pronouncement we heard once deep within and move on to an easier thing?
The difference is simply a deep understanding of knowing who we are. And Whose we are. When we keep our eyes on the One who’s calling, He can point us to the way over the obstacle.
What calling are you pursuing? Have you been able to tell the opposition, like Peter, “I’m not going to stop!”?