Swimming in the Purposes of God

Large rivers flow smooth; it is hard to discern the current. The same can be said of the purposes of God. But when we find His current, life takes on a meaning and direction it never had. That was true for the disciples after Jesus rose and sent His Spirit.

One example is when Peter and John healed a lame man in the name of Jesus (Acts 3:1-26). After a night in jail, warnings, and threats about what would happen if they spoke again in Jesus’ name, the disciples regrouped and prayed. There is a flow of logic in what they said. First, Scripture is clear that God is Creator of a world that turned against Him (Acts 4:24-26). Second, as the Sovereign of that world and all its affairs the rulers act within His will. Finally, God’s servants don’t need to fear the intimidation of authorities but can ask for boldness and for God’s miraculous power to prevail. Here is part of their prayer:

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:27-30)

Just weeks earlier, when Jesus was arrested, tortured and crucified, Peter had denied Him and the other disciples had scattered. Now they finally understood the river of God’s purposes and the balance of the powers of the universe. They knew His current as the decisive control of history. Their worldview had changed. They had jumped in. It was time to help other willing ones to enter the flow. Different people were caught up in different ways.

  • The lame man had lived in a world of survival—by begging. At best, he expected a handout. Peter gave him a hand up to healing. His world changed; his feet and ankles strengthened. He began walking, leaping, and praising God (Acts 3:3-9).
  • The crowd had no experience of healing miracles; they were amazed. But their focus went to the power or piety of Peter and John. The disciples redirected them to Jesus in whose name the man had been healed. More than five thousand believed (Acts 4:4).
  • Jesus’ executioners acted in ignorance of the purposes of God. Oh, yes, they knew the Scriptures, but they did not understand the announced plan of God. Because His Messiah did not fit religious expectations, the crowd disowned Him and the rulers killed Him. God raised Him from the dead. Now His plan was to sweep everyone into His purposes—even His ignorant executioners (Acts 6:7).

The last group was the toughest to convince. However, the disciples’ former fears had no place in their new worldview. Intimidation failed because they knew God’s control of events and that His river of life would sweep on into eternity. They simply asked God for boldness, and obeyed Him (Acts 5:29). That is the thinking behind most of the actions of the apostles throughout the book.

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