Elijah, the mighty prophet of God, experienced a great triumph over the enemies of God. When word of the victory reached the evil queen Jezebel, she immediately threatened to kill Elijah. The surprise in the story is Elijah’s response. Instead of standing in confidence in the faith of God, the faithfulness God just displayed in a awe inspiring way, Elijah gives up and turns to fear. He fears the threats of the dangerous queen and runs away. Even when God appears to Elijah and promises faithful protection, Elijah determines to be depressed. It took some forty days and more miraculous manifestations of God before Elijah determined to be faithful.
Real stuff happens in our lives that encourage depression. There is a time to grieve and a time to mourn, but the way out is the time to rejoice. Feeling happy is not the cure to depression. Self will and determination is not the cure. As Elijah learned, depression is real, God cares for us and gives us patience during our depression, and the way out is trusting God’s faithfulness. Cry out to God in your pity and tell him how you feel and why you feel it, but listen to his “still small voice” and enter into his joy. Depression is big, but not bigger than Jesus. Depression is mighty, but not mightier than Jesus. Praise is the weapon of our battle. Praise God as the King to be praised.
Philip was known to other Christians as a man filled with the Spirit. He was gifted and successful at evangelism. Yet, as he led a revival in Samaria he was able to teach about Jesus and even baptize people in the name of Jesus, but he did not baptize them in the Holy Spirit. The apostles, Peter and John, came down to lay hands on the new Christians so that they could receive the Holy Spirit. Why could the apostles do this but Philip could not?
This question has become such a dividing point in modern Christianity that many teachers and pastors prefer not to focus too much attention on it. While it is not certain why the apostles could bring the Holy Spirit and Philip did not or could not, it’s helpful for our understanding of the Holy Spirit to take a look at the story.
Persecution is real, scary and causes problems for the persecuted. Yet, God uses persecution to grow and strengthen his people. If persecution leads to scattering, then the gospel has an opportunity to scatter too. Like a farmer planting a crop, seeds are scattered across the field so that a new crop will grow.
Not only does the good knowledge of Jesus go with the scattered people, but so does his power. Christians are not only equipped with knowledge about Jesus but are also equipped with the very power of Jesus. Living by faith includes the use of spiritual power; the power of God provided to you by the Holy Spirit of God. The same power (the whole package) that was available for Jesus to use is the same power every single Christian has. We just have to believe that and learn to use it.
The power of Jesus was spread into the whole world because the original Church was persecuted in Jerusalem and the Christians were forced to scatter. Their joy of Jesus, their belief that he forgives and saves us from our sins and their trust in his healing power never disappeared. They took it all with them and continued to tell their story.
If persecution causes you to run and hide, then you’re thinking of it in the wrong way. Persecution may cause you to run and get out of town, but as you go look for ways to take the gospel with you. Persecution does not create happy times, but it creates circumstances for the power of Jesus to change people’s lives.