Boys and girls, waah, great singing, thank you the worship team! Still remember what Teacher Sheen talked about the first martyr in Christian church history? Who is —? Yes, Stephen! The Jewish people stoned him to death! However, before he died, he saw the glory of God and the heaven opened for him and we know the Lord Jesus himself received him in heaven!
Some of you may have a question, why did such a godly person have to die? Can God just send His angels to rescue him just as He did for Peter and John? Well, the same question why didn’t God rescue Jesus from the cross? Well, if God did rescue Jesus so that Jesus had never died on the cross, what happened to God’s salvation plan? How could we be saved? For Stephen, I believe that God had a special purpose in His salvation plan, as well.
Remember Jesus said to His Apostles, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And before Stephen was stoned where were the churches? Well, they were all in Jerusalem, enjoyed fellowship and sharing among the believers. They probably already forgot what Jesus commanded them. Now after Stephen was stoned, big persecution followed.
Haoran, could you read Acts 8:1-3 for us? Everyone please listen carefully.
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:1-3)
“Persecution?” What does it mean? Persecution may not have to kill you to death, however, it makes you scared, terrified, hurtful physically and mentally of course, some may have been killed. You see a guy called Saul, he grabbed believers to the jail, and even beat them threaten them. All the believers in Jerusalem were scared to death, and they were no longer allowed to gather together worshiping and praising God. Therefore, they ran away and scattered all over to the neighboring cities. Toward south they entered into Judea, and toward north, they entered into Samaria. Now what were they doing throughout their migration? Pastor would like Haoran continues to read Acts 8: 4 – 8 for us. Let’s listen carefully.
“4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:4-8)
Waah, you see, the believers remembered Jesus’ commands now, though they moved to a new place, they preached God’s words! Now who was Philip? Remember Teacher Sharon used to talk about 7 special servants for the church? They are called – Deacons. Yes, Philip was one of the seven deacons. God empowered him with the spiritual power to proceed miraculous signs, such as healing of the sick and dragging out demons. And who know the purpose for Philip to perform such miracles? Philip drew the people together to him by showing the miracles, and he proclaimed the Messiah – the Christ to them.
Now one question for you: so many people in Samaria believed in Jesus and get baptized, but they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit? Why? Pastor will read v. 14-17 to you, please listen:
“14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17)
Now jump to v.25, “25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.” After the Holy Spirit came down to the Samaritan believers, waah, the gospel spread all over the Samaria powerfully. Jesus’ commands, “you will receive power …; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria.” Is then fulfilled. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the driving of the persecution, the gospel was then spread over all Judea and Samaria! What a great joy was to all the Apostles and the believers!
Now Pastor have a question for you: why the persecution had to come in order for the believers to go spread the gospel? Well firstly, watch this video regarding how the eagle parents trained their eaglets to fly. [play video – Eagle]
See, if you were the eaglet you may say to your eagle mom this: “Mom, this nest is so warm so comfortable, I just want to stay here forever, I don’t want to fly out.” Well, what would the eagle mom have to do? Firstly, Mom will make the nest a little uncomfortable to force the eaglet to get out of its comfort zone. And Mom’s next step is “Push them out!” – Gain courage to fly to soar! Boys and girls, likewise, God allowed the persecution came to Jerusalem’s believers that He definitely had His unique purpose – He wanted the believers to get out of their comfort zone, and to be pushed out to carry on the commands Jesus gave to them. And the Holy Spirit gave the believers courage and power to carry on the mission of being Jesus’ witness in Judea and Samaria. And the gospel was spread over and the kingdom of God expanded! So, it turned out that the persecution brought blessings to the believers and the kingdom of God!
Boys and girls, do you have your comfort zone, and you just don’t want to get out of it? How about I just want to read Bible, but I dare not to go to share God’s words with others, because I don’t feel comfortable to talk with others about God’s truth and stand for it? Em, I just like to stay with my Christian friends and enjoy the fellowship and friendship with them. But if you ask me to share the gospel to the unbelievers, sorry, I don’t have the courage to do that. Well, now you know what your comfort zones, and what your difficult zones are. But, if God wants you to go there to your difficult zones, are you going? Or will you wait for God’s sending the persecution to you then you go reluctantly?
Pastor would like to encourage all of you to be willing to get out of your comfort zone and be pushed out to experience the growth and discover the talents God has given you.
However, it is easy to say than to do. Since it’s God’s perfect will for us to share His good news, when we pray in His perfect will, He will answer our prayers. So, one important key to break it through is to pray for it. It could be a dangerous prayer, but it’s God’s will for us, then, we will pray it daily. The power of the Holy Spirit will take us and help us to go to the difficult zone.
Remember: with the power of the Holy Spirit, push ourselves out of our comfort zone, and walk into the zone God has urged us to go courageously!
Boys and girls, let’s bow our head and pray: “Oh, our heavenly father, thank you for your love and protection over us and give us a safe and loving place to stay such as our family, our church, our Sunday school, but you want us to not always stay in the comfort zone and never want to go out to tell the world about the Bible value and stand for the biblical truth. And you want us to share the gospel, as well, to our friends, our relatives, who have never heard about Jesus. The Holy Spirit will empower us with courage, competence and strength to be pushed out of our comfort zone. Lord Jesus, help us fully trust in the Holy Spirit and we can give all the glory to God when we win a victory for our Lord Jesus. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!