‘You have to tell your family you believe in Jesus,’ he exclaimed! These were not words I wanted to hear. They startled, shook, and challenged me. And yet, this charge was the will of God.
It was late December, 1987, and I had just came to faith in Jesus weeks earlier. I was on the phone with my good friend Greg, who had been a key witness for Christ during my college years.
You see, being Jewish and believing in Jesus has its’ challenges. To add, I was the first Christian in my family. Greg’s words rattled me to the core of my being. For concurrently they were words I needed to hear and yet words I didn’t want to hear.
Why? Opposition awaited! And yet, this crisis of faith as a baby in the Lord served as a crucible in which I would grow, trust the Lord, and share my faith in the face of opposition.
It took 18 months for me to ‘come out!’ One by one I shared my new found faith with my entire family…amidst the opposition. You see, my maternal grandmother scornfully said, “Larry, how can you do this? No one in our family has ever believed in Jesus before.” My father plainly stated, “That’s fine. Just never share your faith with your grandmother (his mother).”
Many years have passed, much witnessing for the Lord taken place. And yet, I find opposition to sharing my faith remains! For this opposition is a constant reality for the believer.
There is nothing new under the sun. Two-thousand years ago the Apostle Paul wrote:
“For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5).
What was true for Paul, and is true in my life, is true in yours also. But this question remains for all – Will we overcome the opposition or will we be overcome by the opposition?
In simple terms, overcoming opposition is to witness despite its presence. To be overcome by opposition is allowing it to silence our witness for Jesus.
Here in Acts 4 we see a very practical example of overcoming faith that inspires and instructs.
The scene: After healing a lame man in Jesus’ name, Peter and John are arrested by the Jewish religious authorities, commanding them ‘not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus’ (Acts 4:18).
The response of Peter and John is telling:
“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
The Great Commission had a greater influence upon their witness then the mandate of man! Underlying their boldness and courage was this principle for overcoming opposition:
The salvation of people was more important than their safety!
After threatening them further, the religious authorities released Peter and John, who immediately went and reported to the other disciples ‘all that the chief priests and elders had said to them’ (Acts 4:23).
During His earthly ministry, Jesus clearly stated “He who is not for Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23). He would elaborate on the manifestation of the opposition to His witnesses elsewhere in the gospels (see also Matthew 5:11-12, Luke 21:12, John 15:20, John 16:1-2). In light of the Lord’s instruction, the disciples therefore would have expected this push back.
Upon reporting about the great work of God amidst the great opposition of man, Peter, John and the other disciples prayed, lifting their voices to God in one accord (Acts 4:23-30). Part of this prayer acknowledges opposition to God’s plans and purposes, as they quote from Psalm 2:
“Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Anointed One [Messiah]” (Acts 4:25-26).
It’s evident from their prayer that the disciples understood opposition to God’s plans and purposes not only from Jesus’ teaching, but from the Bible itself, which at that time was strictly the Old Testament.
As they acknowledge the present opposition to their testimony, they cry out for boldness and courage:
“For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:27-29).
God answers their prayer immediately and powerfully:
“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
Prayer is essential for overcoming opposition to our witness.
Without Jesus we can nothing (John 15:5), but through Christ and in His power, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13), including witnessing in the midst of opposition.
Overcoming opposition in our witness includes utterly depending on the Lord in prayer. Yes, fear is real. Rejection is a possibility. Opposition is a certainty. But remember, their salvation is more important than our safety! And in the midst of it all, you and I have all the resources we need to accomplish all God calls us to. For His Grace is sufficient…and God is faithful.