by Ken Idleman
In the first eight chapters of Acts, Holy Spirit-inspired historian and physician, Dr. Luke, does two things. First, he describes the birth of the Christian church on the Day of Pentecost. Second, he exposes the strategy of the evil one, who sought to snuff out the life of the infant church. In chapters 1 & 2 we see The Holy Spirit working. By contrast, in Acts 3-8 we see the activity of Satan festering under the surface. In these chapters, the three-fold strategy of the devil to smother the first century church is evident – persecution, corruption, and division.
These are the devil’s three exclusive weapons to blunt the impact of The Gospel and Church in every generation. But he can never stop the impact of The Church. Jesus created His Church, and she is invincible! But if the enemy can trip up her leaders, the impact will be blunted. Notice that all three of these types of assaults come against leaders/influencers.
But we can meet these timeless assaults as trustworthy leaders if we face them in the power of The Holy Spirit.
When we face persecution, stay faithful. In Acts 4 and 5, church leaders – Peter, John, and other apostles – were arrested but Providentially released. Faithfully, they kept on speaking publicly about Jesus. In Acts 7, Stephen kept faithfully speaking both to crowds and then to the Sanhedrin, and even through his death at the hands of a mob. In Acts 8, Saul persecuted The Church and as they scattered (Acts 11), they kept faithfully speaking to people they met. Faithfulness breaks the enemy’s power to persecute.
When he tries to corrupt, keep your integrity. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira fell to the temptation to lie before God and The Church about how much they had received from their property sale. The divine death sentence impressed on the young church the seriousness of that stewardship sin. Even in the secular realm, honesty and integrity are ranking at the top of business surveys. A USA Today survey of Fortune 500 recruiters put honesty/integrity at the top of what they look for in potential employees. College degrees were 4th on the list. In the last couple generations, the trustworthiness of professed spiritual leaders has taken hit after hit. Satan scored big in bringing down the likes of televised Christian leaders like Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Robert Tilton and Ted Haggard, and more recently, Tullian Tchividjian and Mark Driscoll. In one way or another, they fell prey to the lure of fame, money, and sex. Literally hundreds of Roman Catholic priests and bishops have been indicted for sexual molestation and cover-ups. J. Hunt once said, “If you lose your reputation / testimony, you’ll be fortunate if you live long enough to restore it.” Ephesians 4:25: Therefore, each of you must put off all falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we’re all members of one body. When the enemy attacks with corruption, walk in the truth.
And when he sows division, ask for wisdom. In chapter 6, the apostles released the solving of the problem to men “known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” They had solid reputations (known to be), already demonstrating spiritual maturity (full of the Holy Spirit), and wisdom. This trait of wisdom is one I do not hear much about in Christian circles. Just like Acts 6, James admonished us of the same in the opening of his letter, (1:5): If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. In the realm of knowing God’s will when we do not have the specific “book-chapter-verse,” what is best? Good leaders have this gift of wisdom; James tells us it is the byproduct of a strong prayer life. When the enemy attacks with division, seek wisdom.
God will bless your church despite persecution, corruption, and division because of the faithfulness, integrity, and wisdom of trustworthy spiritual leadership – your leadership.