After Peter and John ministered to a crippled beggar outside the temple gate and the man was healed, they began to boldly preach repentance and minister to the people. “Many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). As a result of their witness, Peter and John were brought before the high priest and elders. “And when they had set them in the midst, they asked them, ‘By what power or by what name have you done this?’” (4:7).
This hearing was orchestrated to intimidate Peter and John but it had the opposite effect. Peter must have thought, “Thank you, Jesus, for allowing me to preach your name to these Christ-haters.” This tells us that Peter wasn’t going to deliver a lecture, quiet and reserved. No, he was a Jesus-possessed man, bursting with the Holy Spirit, ready to proclaim the truth!
Peter’s boldness wasn’t a brassy, condemning word, however. His aim wasn’t to judge or belittle those religious leaders. He only wanted them to see their sin and repent. That’s why he gave an altar call, saying, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).
The rulers were astonished. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained me, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (4:13).
Peter must have winked at John and perhaps thought, “They remember that we were with Jesus weeks ago but they don’t realize we’ve been with the resurrected Master ever since.” The two men were just recently with him in the upper room and that morning, they were with him as they prayed in their cell.
This is what happens with men and women who spend time with Jesus. Even when they come away from their time with Christ, he’s with them wherever they go.
When the crisis strikes, you don’t have time to build yourself up in prayer and faith — those who have been with Jesus are always ready. Truly, this is a blessed assurance.
Those who spend time with Jesus can’t get enough of him! Their hearts continually cry out to know the Master better, to draw closer to him, to grow in the knowledge of his ways.
Paul states, “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). The “measure” Paul speaks of means a limited amount; in other words, we’ve all received a certain amount of the saving knowledge of Christ.
Some believers are completely satisfied with their initial “measure.” It’s just enough to escape judgment, to feel forgiven, to keep a good reputation. Such people are in “maintenance mode” and they give Jesus the bare requirements: church attendance, a muttered daily prayer, perhaps a quick glance at Scripture. In short, they avoid getting too close to Jesus. They know that if they read much of his Word or spend time praying, the Holy Spirit will make demands on their lives.
Paul desired so much for every believer: “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints … till we all … grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13, 15).
Paul was saying, in essence, “God has given these spiritual gifts so you may be filled up with Christ’s Spirit. This is crucial, because deceivers are coming to rob you of your faith. If you’re rooted in Christ and maturing in him, no deceptive doctrine will ever sway you. Yet the only way to grow to such maturity is by seeking more of Jesus.”
Many believers prefer a gospel that speaks only of grace, love and forgiveness — marvelous biblical truths, to be sure — but according to Paul, this is not the meat that a mature life requires. You will not grow to full stature in Christ if you refuse to hear a gospel that provokes you to seek the Lord and walk in his holiness.
The more someone is with Jesus, the more that person becomes like him — in purity, holiness and love. In turn, his pure walk produces in him a great boldness for God.
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’” (Luke 17:5). The men who comprised Christ’s close circle were asking something important of their Master. Desiring a greater understanding of the meaning and working of faith, they were saying, in essence, “Lord, what sort of faith do you desire from us? Give us a revelation of what pleases you so that we may grasp faith in its fullest meaning.”
On the surface, this request seems commendable. Yet the disciples asked this of Jesus because they were confused. In the previous chapter, Christ had baffled them, saying, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much … Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (16:10-11).
Jesus knew his followers’ flesh wanted to avoid what they considered to be the lesser matters of faith, so he told them, “If you’re faithful in the little things, the foundational matters of faith, you’ll be faithful in the greater things, too. So, prove yourself trustworthy in the basic requirements of faith. Otherwise, how can you be trusted with a deeper measure?”
If we’re honest, we will admit to being much like Jesus’s disciples. We would prefer to proceed straight to the larger matters of faith, to obtain the kind of faith that moves mountains. And, like the disciples, we often judge faith by visible results — grand buildings, large crowds, impressive book sales. Brilliant, clever people have accomplished great things for God but they do not necessarily represent God’s definition of faith. Indeed, no work, no matter how great, is of any value to the Lord unless the lesser, hidden matters of faith are being attended to.
Do you believe the Lord has given you a dream that requires a miracle? Have you been challenged to step out in a new direction that demands supernatural faith? It’s important to understand that God often does years of preparation before he fulfills the vision he has planted in us. God may be saying, “Set aside your dreams and visions for a season and get to know me intimately. Forsake any hidden sin, submit to the Holy Spirit, and then you’ll see my holy vision come to pass in your life.”
“I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29-30). Jesus’ followers had to be ecstatic at hearing this. Their future was totally secure and the Lord himself said they were headed for heaven to rule and reign with him throughout eternity.
Jesus then spoke directly to the apostle Peter: “‘Simon, listen to me! Satan has demanded the right to test each one of you, as a farmer does when he separates wheat from the husks. But, Simon, I have prayed that your faith will be strong. And when you have come back to me, help the others.’ Peter said, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to jail and even to die with you.’ Jesus replied, ‘Peter, I tell you that before a rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will say three times that you don’t know me’” (Luke 22:31-34, [CEV] Contemporary English Version).
Overconfident, Peter had no idea what he was about to face. Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, at Jesus’ arrest, he impetuously cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant (see John 18:10). This act of bravado typified much of Peter’s approach to life. And before the night was over he had fulfilled Jesus’ words that he would deny three times that he even knew him. And “Peter went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).
From ecstasy to desolation within the span of a few hours because of overconfidence and self-reliance! Many Christians are allowed to come to a place of near-falling so that the Lord can lift them and set them on firmer ground. Jesus had told Peter, “You’re going to deny me, but you’re going to be restored. Afterward, you’re going to be blessed by what you’ve learned and you’ll have something vital to give to others.”
God loves you unconditionally and has an eternal purpose for you. Even though you may go through times of failure, Satan cannot rob you of Christ’s love. “We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
When you first came to know Jesus, your heart was probably filled with sharp, clear purpose. You experienced God's healing love and, like many new Christians, you longed to share it with others, evangelizing and serving. As you moved forward in this new life, you began to better discern your role in God’s kingdom and your gifts for serving him.
But then something peculiar began to happen. Almost daily, your singular focus on Jesus got crowded out by other demands. Little things popped up that captured your attention and distracted you to the point that you slowly lost your single-mindedness. Sadly, Christ began to fade into the background of your attention.
The Flying Wallendas, a family best known for performing high-wire acts without a safety net, demonstrate this need for laser-like focus. In June of 2013, Nik Wallenda added to his family’s legend by walking on a wire across a gorge in the Grand Canyon. With balance pole in hand and a gritty determination, he battled a fierce wind as he strode forward — and walked all the way across the chasm, never distracted for a moment. His focus was literally a matter of life and death!
As Christians, we have an even higher calling and we must not become distracted to the point of meandering and mediocrity. John the Baptist would not allow himself to become distracted. When a theological dispute arose and several disciples tried to draw him into it, he would not allow it. He told them, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent from Him.’ … He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28, 30). His focus in life was clear; his holy calling was centered completely on Jesus.
Today, our success-driven culture causes us to seek things for ourselves. But our overriding passion must be for Christ and proclaiming the kingdom of God, just as John did. You can have God’s own Spirit without measure, to guide you in the purposes he has planned for you. Be sure that you keep your sights trained on Jesus and the fact that he is your primary reason for living!