The Jerusalem Congregation in the Book of Acts was unstoppable, growing at an amazing rate. 3,000 Jewish people repented and embraced Yeshua on Shavuot and soon after it was 5,000 and that was just counting the men! These Messianic Jews of the day were followers – disciples (talmidim)…. not simply believers. They had a fire burning in their hearts. The Jerusalem Messianic Community is estimated to have numbered between 20,000 – 40,000 disciples of Yeshua by the end of 1st century! The congregation was unstoppable! I want this…don’t you?
The underground Chinese Church has experienced explosive growth in recent decades. It appears to be unstoppable like the Acts 2 Jerusalem congregation. Estimated at about 163 million followers of Yeshua, there are now more followers of Yeshua in China than in the United States. Yet this number only represents about 12% of China’s 1.4 billion people so there is still plenty of harvesting to do.
The Unstoppable Congregation…
I’ve noticed 7 key Characteristics of the Acts 2 Jerusalem congregation, (see Acts 2:42-47). Interesting to note that the Chinese Church have numbers 1-4 and 7 as their 5 pillars.
- Deep commitment to Word of God. All of it! Not just to know it, but to do it!
- Deep commitment to prayer. Personal and corporate.
- Everyone shared the gospel. Moved by compassion for the Lord they boldly shared. (The Great Commission).
- Awe of God and they expected miracles regularly. Presence of God and power of the Ruach Ha Kodesh was strong.
- Deep love for Yeshua that ignited a deep love for the spiritual mishpocha and ‘not yet believers’. Relationships were critical. (The 2 Great Commandments)
- Holiness – zero tolerance for sin.
- The disciples embraced suffering – for Yeshua and the good news.
Embracing Suffering for Yeshua…
Embracing suffering for Yeshua and the good news really caught my attention. I’ve taught for many years and have touched on this idea, teaching and modeling about taking up our cross daily for Yeshua and the gospel, dying to self, making sacrifices and willing to pay the price to follow Him, persevering with faith in the midst of trials and suffering…but specifically to “embrace suffering” was not really a part of my teaching.
Why bring this to your attention today? I’m not an expert on suffering and like you I really don’t like it. I have not suffered that much… I am by no means looking for persecution and suffering, I have a relatively low tolerance for pain…ask my wife when I get injured… I’m not looking for you to suffer either…. until recently… something changed….
So again, why would I bring this concept of embracing suffering for Yeshua and the gospel to our attention?
(By the way, this message is for me first, so please don’t think I’m pointing a finger. I desire simply to cast vision, exhort and encourage.)
- Because Yeshua teaches us to!
Matthew 5:11,12 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great! For in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
- Because the Jewish apostles set us an example of embracing suffering.
Acts 5: 40-42 “…called in the apostles, flogged them, ordered them not to continue speaking in the name of Yeshua, and let them go. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were considered worthy to be dishonored on account of His name. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming Yeshua as the Messiah.”
- Because there is good chance we will see increased persecution and suffering for Yeshua and the gospel here in the United States and in the West….and we need to be prepared to handle it Biblically.
- Because I now perceive that it is a missing link…an important key to revival (remember…. revival is for born again people and spills out into the world and brings in a harvest of souls) and for developing unstoppable Acts 2 disciples and congregations to accomplish God’s purposes for the Jewish people and the nations.
The Acts 2 congregation and the Chinese Church had a deep commitment to the Word of God! All of it! And we need it to! The blessing part as well as the persecution and the suffering part!
Allow me to share another example…
The Apostle Paul embraces the suffering that the Ruach Ha Kodesh tells him will surely come. Acts 20:22-24 He makes a decision to be courageous and boldly share the good news despite the risks to his well-being. In his letters when he asks for prayer he most often asks for boldness and open doors to proclaim the gospel. He almost never asks for prayer for protection!
“And pray for me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News.” – Ephesians 6:19
There is a clear sense in the Bible that suffering, persecution and difficulty goes hand in hand with boldly proclaiming the gospel.
Too many of us only want to hear about being blessed, succeeding and prospering. I’m not against being blessed. I like being blessed, but you and me, we need to guard our hearts!
“But understand this, that in the last days hard times will come— for people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to an outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!” – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (parts)
By God’s grace, let us make sure we are not living a “me focused” life of selfish ambition or self-preservation.
Let’s make a Decision…
Rather, let us make a decision to keep Yeshua at the center of lives, by God’s grace surrender our lives to Him and follow Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, enjoy His blessings…. and when necessary…when compassion for the lost dictates…when love for Him and other people dictates… let us embrace suffering for His Name and the good news.
Let’s ask ourselves these questions often:
- Where is my heart?
- How do I use my time?
- How do I use my money?
- How do I use my gifts and experience?
…let us meditate on the words of Acts 4:29-31 “And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant Your servants to speak Your word with utmost courage— while You stretch out Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your Holy Servant Yeshua.” When they had prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. And they were all filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”
Sincerely yours and His,
Rabbi Stewart Winograd