Faith in America: The Great Life Preserver (use only in case of emergency)

Reading out of Acts 5 today, I am always amazed to read of the transformation that happened in Peter and the other disciple’s lives after the resurrection of Christ and coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter, in particular, underwent such a dramatic change that I am humbled at the radical transformation that happens when God gets hold of a life.

Think about if for a minute: Peter was the one that ran like a girl (no offense, ladies. Some of you could beat me up) when Jesus was arrested, scared when questioned by a young slave girl. After that though? Man, was he different. Speaking boldy on the day of Pentecost, preaching in the temple with authority. He has such a reputation now that verse 15 says people “even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.” What a transformation!

When I think about that verse, I’m taken back to Jesus own ministry while on earth and remember the woman with the bleeding disorder who simply touched the hem of Jesus garment and was healed. Now bumbling Peter is representing that same ministry on earth.

Where did it go? The power, authority and boldness, I mean. Do we still have it? I ask that for my own sake as I read on in Acts about how Peter and the others were thrown in jail because of their preaching, later let out of jail by an angel and commanded to get back out there and do it all over again. That second round of preaching didn’t get them put back in jail, it almost got them killed and did get them beaten. Again, Peter, who was before scared of being caught and punished for following Jesus, now goes out rejoicing because he was beaten for proclaiming Jesus.

I am struck by the flippancy with which most of us follow Christ. To most of us, “Christianity” is just something that we are; a part of our lives. To these men, Jesus was their life…all of it, totally sold out and recklessly abandoned. How many of us today still call on Him in the tough times and then move on with our lives, barely giving Him a second thought when things are good? Then we don’t understand why the blessings don’t last.

How do we get to the point where our faith moves from a peripheral part of our lives to the main focus; the driving force within our lives? It seems to me that faith that is not central is not really faith at all. Actually, I am hesitant to say what I believe is the answer to the former question, yet historically, those whose faith was strongest has always been those who underwent the greatest amount of persecution. Those are people who must depend on their faith or be crushed under the weight of suffering.

Must it come to that? Is persecution the only way through which those of us who profess Christ will be completely devoted to Him? I would hope that wouldn’t be the case. Yet, clearly, our 21st Century, Western culture sets us up for all sorts of idolatry, placing everything of lesser importance in the rightful spot that only Christ can and should fill.

I’m left with a haunting question: If I were to be beaten and threatened for preaching Christ, would I, too, walk about rejoicing having been counted worthy of suffering for the name? This is a question that needs to be answered today and I think that unless we are living a life that is Christ-centered everyday right now, in the good times, we may already have our answer.