It’s now been one month since Easter. Can you believe it? One month since the most glorious and life-changing week ever... one month since we confidently believed that a new life was ahead of us and we’d never go back to our old ways or old habits or old lifestyles.
It was one month ago that we were filled with hope and everything looked bright.
But how about now? Are you still feeling that way? Do you still believe that “life will never be the same again?” Do you still feel the invincibility that you felt when you beheld the empty tomb and proclaimed boldly, “Christ is risen from the dead!”
In other words, are you still living in the power of the Resurrection? Or is back to “same old, same old” for you?
If you’re struggling to maintain the joy and victory and power that you felt just one month ago, take comfort in knowing that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
First of all, you’re not alone when it comes to your Christian brothers and sisters in the world today – many of whom are experiencing the same struggles and discouragement as you. But even more so, you’re not alone when it comes to those who have walked this path before you – your church forefathers, the Apostles and the Disciples and the rest of the believers in the first century who witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus firsthand.
These days, one of the highlights of my week takes place on Sunday nights – at the normally “past-my-bedtime” hour of 9:00 pm. That’s when I get to watch the latest installment of the NBC miniseries “A.D. The Bible Continues” – which chronicles the life of the early church in the first century, just after the Resurrection of Christ.
You know it has to be good to keep me up to 10:00 pm, especially on a Sunday night!
The thing I’ve loved most about it is that it gives context to the Biblical accounts that I’ve read so often. It shows what life was really like back in the first century and what the early church had to endure as it began to grow.
For example, you might read a passage like this…
“…and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:40-41)
…and think lightly of what just happened. You might think that the apostles were just slapped on the wrist with a teacher’s ruler or given a timeout to “think about what they had done.” You might be tempted to think that they left smiling and cheering and singing "Happy" as they skipped back home and baked cupcakes when they got there to celebrate.
Historically we know that the persecution inflicted upon the believers in that first century was beyond belief. It is a miracle that the church even survived!
On the one hand they had to deal with Pontius Pilate – the Roman governor who crucified Jesus. During Pilate’s reign, the Romans ruled Jerusalem with an unimaginable brutality and savagery and they were determined to squash anything/anyone who appeared to threaten Roman stability in Jerusalem – including the new “Jesus movement.”
On the other hand they also had to deal with the Jewish leaders – the ones who plotted and schemed to have Jesus executed in the first place. These guys insisted to the world that the Resurrection was a hoax and anyone who said otherwise was in danger of being stoned.
And in the midst of that environment – full of persecution and intimidation – the good news of the Resurrection spread like wildfire.Caiaphas and the Jews couldn’t stop it and neither could Pilate and the Romans. They tried to kill the message and extinguish its power, but they couldn’t. And that makes me feel good!
Nothing – not even the power of Satan and the gates of Hades itself – can prevail against the victory of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Nothing can extinguish its power from my life. The enemy will try, but he CANNOT succeed! Whether I'm living in the 1st century under Roman occupation or in the 21st century in the capital of the free world, the power and message of the Resurrection will prevail!
I’m not sure what you’re struggling with today. My guess is that some of you are struggling with discouragement; some of you are struggling with despair. Some might be facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle; others might be facing an unexplainable sickness. Some might be feeling like they’ll never get past their past; others might be feeling like they’ll never be ready to face their future.
Whatever it might be, remember this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
The Risen Christ is with us today in the same way that He was with His church during the first century. The attacks may look different today, but the source is the same. It’s all coming from the enemy who is trying to extinguish the message of Jesus’ Resurrection – and the joy and power and victory that comes with that message – from our lives.
But whenever you feel defeated or discouraged, think back to the guys who walked this path before us and remind yourself that JESUS WILL NOT BE DEFEATED and neither will His Church!
“…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)