Scripture Focus: Acts 5:38-41
38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
Reflection: Worthy of Suffering
By Erin Newton
In a typical counseling session, I begin stories like this: “I had to perform CPR on my child” or “I felt so sad and had to cry.” In a gentle voice, my counselor redirects my words, “You get to…”
I have learned, in time, that her gentle redirections have been a way to change my perspective on the traumatic event. “You get to be the parent of a medically dependent child.” “You get to love someone so much you need to cry.” The pain is always present, but I’ve learned to see the honor of participating in such suffering.
The book of Acts presents the powerful genesis of the church. The Spirit which hovered over the waters in creation descends upon the women and men in the Upper Room. At creation, the breath of God gave life to the newly formed humans. In Acts, the divine tongues of fire bring gifts to the newly formed church. As the church set forth to bring salvation to the people, the apostles healed the sick and performed many signs and wonders.
Although we read the story with excitement and joy, the early church was met with opposition and persecution. The miracles and signs were viewed as problematic and irritating. Every time the work was hindered, the apostles persevered.
The gospel was so important they had to..no, they got to continue preaching through many dangers.
Through the words of Gamaliel, the apostles’ lives were spared. But their flesh was not. They were flogged, just as Jesus has been flogged. They carried on their backs bruises, gashes, and pain.
As they walked home from that meeting with the Sanhedrin, warned once more to keep quiet about Christ, they rejoiced. They got to suffer for Christ. They got to endure pain in the name of the Gospel.
Rejoicing because you suffer is not a typical reaction. It is something given to you by God. It is the joy that surpasses understanding.
I’d like to say that I understand their joy and share in the same but it’s not always the case. We often need a gentle voice that helps us reframe our pain and suffering.
The backs of the apostles undoubtedly hurt for a long time. Pain is not something we smile away. There is the opportunity, at some God-given time afterwards, to rejoice in suffering. May we ask God for this type of joy.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us. — Psalm 68.28
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read more about In Trouble for Good
There are still Christians today who rejoice in being persecuted. But are they suffering for the name of Jesus or for something else?…for healing…or for harming?
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