30 inspiring devotionals based on the lives of the very first followers of Christ
by Eric Elder
Read it online below!
INTRODUCTION (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 27:25
One of my favorite lines about faith comes from the movie The Incredibles.
There’s a scene where a mom and her kids are on a plane that’s about to be blown apart. The mom calls on her daughter to put a shield around the plane, something bigger than she’s ever done before. The daughter panics and in her doubt she can’t do it. The plane explodes, but not before the mom grabs her kids to parachute into the water below.
Later, when the daughter apologizes, her mom responds:
“It isn’t your fault. It wasn’t fair for me to suddenly ask so much of you. But things are different now. And doubt is a luxury we can’t afford anymore, sweetie. You have more power than you realize. Don’t think. And don’t worry. If the time comes, you’ll know what to do. It’s in your blood.”
There are times in our lives when it’s OK to doubt. But there comes a time in each of our lives where “doubt is a luxury you can’t afford anymore.” You either believe or you don’t, and the outcome depends on what you choose to believe. The truth is, as a Christian, you do have more power than you realize. When you put your faith in Christ, God puts a seed of faith within you. It’s in your blood.
My goal in the coming weeks is to strengthen your faith, to help you believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do.
If you’ve already put your faith in Christ, I want to strengthen the faith that’s already within you. If you haven’t yet put your faith in Christ, I want to help you get to the point where you can put your faith in Him.
I want to get you to the point where the Apostle Paul was at the end of the book of Acts.
Like the mom and her kids in The Incredibles, Paul was on a ship that was about to be blown apart. Hurricane force winds had pummeled his boat for days. The other men on the ship had given up all hope of being saved. But just as the men think all is lost, Paul stands up and says:
“…keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me” (Acts 27:22-25).
And it did.
That’s the kind of faith God wants you to have, a faith that says, “I have faith in God it will happen just as He told me.” In the coming weeks, I want to walk with you through the book of Acts, chapter by chapter, taking a look at the various ways faith expressed itself in the lives of the very first followers of Christ. Sometimes God called them to wait. Other times He called them to stand up. Still other times He called them to speak, to pray, to give, to heal, to raise people from the dead.
My hope and prayer is that God will use this time to increase your faith to the point where you can say, like the Apostle Paul, “…for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.”
I also want to encourage you to read each day’s Scripture Reading in your own Bible in addition to my devotional for that day. I’ve limited myself to touching upon just one thought in each chapter of Acts, but there’s so much God may speak to you about other subjects in your life. When you’re done reading all the daily Scripture Readings, you’ll have read through the entire book of Acts.
And finally, I’ve included a prayer at the end of each devotional to help you focus your own prayers by praying them along with me. Here’s today’s prayer.
Prayer: Father, I pray that You would fill me with faith in the days ahead, a faith that can say, “I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- Lesson 1
- Lesson 2
- Lesson 3
- Lesson 4
- Lesson 5
- Lesson 6
- Lesson 7
- Lesson 8
- Lesson 9
- Lesson 10
- Lesson 11
- Lesson 12
- Lesson 13
- Lesson 14
- Lesson 15
- Lesson 16
- Lesson 17
- Lesson 18
- Lesson 19
- Lesson 20
- Lesson 21
- Lesson 22
- Lesson 23
- Lesson 24
- Lesson 25
- Lesson 26
- Lesson 27
- Lesson 28
- Small Group Study Guide
LESSON 1: FAITH WAITS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 1
I think it’s ironic, but fitting, that the very first thing Jesus tells His disciples to do in the book of Acts isn’t an “act” at all. He tells them to “wait.”
“On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’ ” (Acts 1:4-5).
Wait. Wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. You see, without God, what’s the point of going on? If God’s called you to wait, waiting can be just as much an act of faith as doing. And not waiting can be your downfall.
When God promised to give Abraham many descendants, Abraham got impatient and got his wife’s servant girl pregnant instead. God said that their child Ishmael would have descendants galore, but that he would always be in hostility towards his brothers. When Abraham and his wife eventually had a child of their own, God blessed that child, Isaac, with many descendants, too. But unfortunately, the hostility between those two brothers has carried on for generations, even to this day, as present-day Muslims claim Ishmael as their forefather and present-day Jews claim Isaac as theirs.
God honors His promises, but there’s a price to pay for not waiting.
It’s hard to wait, I know. But I want to encourage you today, if God’s called you to wait, wait.
I remember one of the times when I was waiting on God. I felt that God had called me to go to Israel. Even though I didn’t know why, but I sensed it was important, so I went. After a few days of looking around Jerusalem, I began to wonder if God was ever going to show up at all. What was I waiting for anyway?
As I laid on my bed, I read this verse from Psalm 27:14:
“Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
But I read it in the Amplified Bible, which gives even more detail about what the Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible mean. I love the way the Amplified Bible puts it:
“Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord” (Psalm 27:14, AMP).
It changed my whole perspective. Instead of waiting idly and wondering if God would ever show up, I began to look forward to what God was going to do. The next day, God did show up in a powerful way. I met a pastor on the temple mount who was also visiting in Israel. He prayed for me that day, anointed me with oil, and spoke a prophetic word over me about my future life and ministry, including much of what I’m doing today.
The difference between waiting idly and waiting expectantly is the difference between sitting at home alone, wondering if anyone’s ever going to stop by, and sitting at home, waiting for the most important person in your life to walk through that door at any minute, because they called ahead and told you they were on their way.
If you’re not convinced that it’s worth it to wait, here are a few benefits of waiting: You’ll sleep better, feel better, think clearer. You’ll be more content, less frustrated, kinder, gentler, more patient, more gracious. You’ll grow stronger, live longer, stand firmer. Here’s how the Bible puts it in Isaiah 40:31:
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).
If God’s called you to wait, wait. Wait for the Lord. “Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord” (Psalm 27:14, AMP).
Prayer: Father, help me to wait on you with expectancy, looking forward to what You’re going to do at the end of the wait. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 2: FAITH ACTS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 2
There’s a scene in the movie Spider-Man 2 where Spider-Man is swooping from building to building when suddenly he has a web failure. He crashes into the alley below, looks at his hands and says, “Why is this happening to me?”
He wonders if he’s losing his power. But it’s not true. He still has the same power he’s always had since he first got bitten by that supercharged spider. It’s in his blood. What he lacks is faith. He’s had some bad things happen to him and he’s ready to give up. He just wants to go back to being Peter Parker, a normal guy with a normal job.
But after a pep talk from his Aunt May, Peter goes back to being Spider-Man. From the top of a building, he takes a flying leap over the edge, yelling, “I’m back! I’m back!” Seconds later, he looks down, panics, and plummets into the cars parked below. He stands up gingerly and says, “My back. My back.”
I guess he still has a ways to go! But he’s working on it, something that I want to encourage you to do today, too.
I’ve heard it said that faith is like a muscle, it gets stronger the more we exercise it. There was another Peter who exercised his faith on a regular basis, Peter the Apostle, the one who stepped over the edge of a boat to walk on water, but seconds later, looked down, panicked and began to sink. This is the same Peter who stood by Jesus the night he was arrested, saying he’d die for Jesus, but then denied that he even knew Jesus three times before the morning.
Some people criticize Peter for his lack of faith, but the truth is, he’s the only one who stepped over the edge of the boat and got to experience walking on water, even if only for a short time.
On the day of Pentecost, when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower the disciples as He promised He would, the Bible says:
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say…’” (Acts 2:14).
Peter’s message was so powerful that three thousand were baptized and put their faith in Christ as a result.
How did Peter go from denying Christ to proclaiming His name to thousands? In short, he got his faith back. He’d seen Jesus raised from the dead, he waited when Jesus told him to wait, and he “got a dose of the Holy Ghost.” The combination was powerful, and when God told him to act, Peter stood up and boldly told the people gathered what he knew about Jesus.
Peter exercised his faith on a regular basis. And God wants us to do the same, even when asked to do a “little thing”―bring a meal to a friend, visit someone in a nursing home, send an email to someone who needs encouragement, speak the truth in love, encourage your co-workers to do what’s right, instead of what’s safe, easy or more profitable.
God told a poor widow to gather empty jars from her neighbors so He could fill them with oil. God did the miracle, but she had to gather the jars (see 2 Kings 4). God told Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan River, something Naaman thought was too small to make any difference. But Naaman did it, and God healed him (see 2 Kings 5).
Jesus told the disciples they’d be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. When the day of Pentecost came, all Peter had to do was stand up and tell them what he knew about Jesus. God brought people from the ends of the earth to him (see Acts 2:5-12).
If God’s calling you to act, act―even if it’s just a little thing.
Prayer: Father, help me to wait when you say “Wait,” and to act when you say “Act,” so I can accomplish all You want to accomplish through me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 3: FAITH HEALS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 3
I’d like to talk about healing today, but before I do, I’d like to say a word to those of you who may have lost someone close to you, whether recently or in the past.
I know what it’s like to lose someone you love. I believe there are times to pray that God will take your loved ones home to heaven where there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain…” (Revelation 21:4). For the Christian, the moment we pass from this life to the next will be the greatest and most miraculous healing any of us will ever experience.
But there’s also a time to pray with all the strength and faith you have for God to heal someone, here and now, in the name of Jesus, and that’s what our passage is talking about today.
In Acts chapter 3, Peter and John came across a man who was crippled from birth. The man asked Peter and John for money, to which Peter responded:
“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).
Peter took the man by the hand, the man’s feet and ankles became instantly strong, and he began walking and jumping and praising God.
It was a powerful scene―so powerful that people came running from all over to see what had happened. Peter said:
“Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? … By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see” (Acts 3:12, 16).
Faith heals. In this case, I think it’s interesting that it doesn’t seem to be so much the faith of the man who was healed that made the difference. He was just asking Peter and John for money. It seems to be the faith of Peter and John that made the difference. They were the ones who had the faith to say to the man, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” They were the ones who reached out and pulled the man to his feet. It’s a testimony to me of the power of the faith of a friend.
And you can be that friend when you pray for those around you.
There was a time when I would tell someone I’d pray for them, then walk away and pray later when I got home alone. While that was a good thing to do, Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).
I have no doubt that if Jesus were standing right there with me as I prayed for you, that He would reach out and touch you with His power. And Jesus tells us that when we come together in His name, He will be right there with us. Knowing this truth increases my faith tremendously.
So I’ve found it to be more powerful, and more meaningful to the person for whom I’m praying, to stop and ask them, “Can I pray for you right now?” If they agree, which almost always happens, then I say a prayer with them right there, whether in a hallway or in a store or at a restaurant. It’s a simple thing that doesn’t have to draw attention, but simply bowing our heads and praying at the time the need is expressed. Aside from being powerful and meaningful, it also helps me to remember to pray so I don’t forget by the time I get home!
For some of you, I want to go further and encourage you not just to pray for your family and friends to be healed in Jesus’ name, but to pray for them out loud and in front of them. I know this may be foreign territory for some of you, but it’s a great way to exercise your faith. It can be as simple as this, “Father, heal my friend. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Not only will you become stronger in your faith, but so will your family and friends.
As James said,
“…pray for each other so you may be healed” (James 5:16b).
So whether in private or out loud, exercise your faith today! Pray for those around you to be healed in Jesus’ name.
Prayer: Father, give me the faith to believe in Your power to heal and to pray that my family and friends will be healed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 4: FAITH SAVES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 4
When people say they’re “saved,” what do they mean? And what exactly are they saved from?
To say you’re saved means more than just the fact that you’re a Christian. It means you’ve been saved from something. Specifically, it means you’ve been saved from hell, both the literal hell that Jesus talked about when people are separated from God for all eternity, and the practical hell that you can experience here on this earth when you continue to follow your own sinful ways.
To someone who isn’t “saved,” the word seems to be either offensive or just plain laughable. But to someone who is “saved,” the word is full of life, because they know what would have happened to them had Jesus not come to save them.
I read this week that one of the candidates running for office is being questioned because their pastor “preaches hell for anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus.” I guess when you put it that way, it does sound rather offensive. But the truth is, it’s the same message that Jesus preached. (Good thing He isn’t running for office―He’d probably get crucified again!)
Some people, unfortunately, think that Jesus is out to get them, that He came to condemn them for what they’ve done. But Jesus didn’t come to condemn you. He came to save you. He even says so in His own words:
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17-18).
So, yes, there is hell to pay if you don’t believe in Jesus. But no one’s going to hell because they haven’t believed in Jesus; they’re going to hell because of their sins, which is a completely different reason altogether. Whenever you sin, it separates you from God. And without a savior, you’d be separated from God forever. That’s hell. That’s the fate from which Jesus came to save you.
When the Apostles Peter and John were arrested for preaching that Jesus could save people from their sins, they didn’t back down even when threatened with death. In Acts chapter 4, they spoke boldly about the fact that Jesus alone had the power to save:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Faith saves. One of my favorite scenes in the Indiana Jones series is when Indy comes to the edge of a cliff and can’t see any way across to the cliff on the other side. With a look of exasperation, he says, “It’s a leap of faith!” With his enemies pressing in from behind and no other way forward, he takes a giant step into what looks like thin air in front of him, only to find that he has stepped onto a solid rock bridge that had been camouflaged from view. Indy’s “leap of faith” had saved him.
Jesus wants to save you from more than just a bad ending to the movie of your life. He wants to save you from hell, both here on earth and on into eternity.
When Jesus died on the cross, He extended an invitation to every person in the world who had strayed from God to come back to Him. The price for our sins had been paid. But reconciliation is a two way street. Just because one party wants to be reconciled with the other doesn’t mean they are reconciled. Both parties have to agree to it.
Jesus has done His part. Now He’s waiting for each person to respond individually. And the way you respond is by faith.
If you’ve never put your faith in Christ to save you from your sins, I pray you’ll do it today. He’d love to say to you what He said to the woman who wiped His feet with her tears:
“Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:48,50).
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the sins I have committed, too, as I put my faith in Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 5: FAITH OBEYS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 5
I’d like to talk today about my all-time favorite Super Hero, if you could call Him that. His name is Jesus Christ and He’s the best example of our topic today, “Faith Obeys.”
I can’t think of anyone who epitomizes obedience more than Jesus on the night before He died when He prayed: “…not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
But just because Jesus was the Son of God, it doesn’t mean that He didn’t agonize over the choices He made, just like the rest of us do. Luke says that Jesus was in such anguish over His decision that night that, “His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22.44b).
I guess it’s not really fair to compare Jesus to other Super Heroes like Superman or Spider-Man, because Jesus was the Son of God. He had access to powers they could never have imagined. But at the same time, Jesus was also fully human―more real, and more like us, than Superman or Spider-Man ever were.
The Bible says that Jesus had real flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14), was born as a baby (Luke 2:7), was scolded by his parents (Luke 2:48), and grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). He experienced love (John 11:5), anger (Mark 3:5), joy (Hebrews 12:2), betrayal (Luke 22:48), temptation (Hebrews 4:15) and pain (Matthew 27:46). He bled (John 19:34), He cried (John 11:35), He suffered (Hebrews 13:12) and He died (Mark 15:39).
The more that I can envision Jesus as a real human being, the more I can envision that I can really do what He did, as He said I could do when He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing” (John 14:12).
That includes being obedient to God, regardless of the consequences to us personally. Peter and John found that same strength to obey God, even when threatened with death, as we can see in Acts chapters 4 and 5. After calling on the name of Jesus to heal a man who had been crippled for over forty years, Peter and John were commanded by the religious leaders to stop speaking or teaching at all in the name of Jesus. Peter replied,
“Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard…We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 4:19-20, 5:29).
When faced with death, Peter and John had to make a choice. These weren’t idle threats. The religious leaders had already shown their resolve to follow through on their threats by putting Jesus to death.
But Peter and John also knew what Jesus had called them to do. They had just seen Christ perform a miracle through them when they called on His name. So they responded with the only response that made sense to them: “…we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
If God is calling you to stop a relationship that you know is destroying you, stop it, even if it seems too hard or too complicated. If God is calling you to stay in a marriage that you’d rather get out of, stay in it. If God is calling you to another job, take it, but if He’s calling you to stay in your current job, don’t leave. If He’s calling you to stop a bad habit that’s killing you, stop it, and if He’s calling you to start a good habit that will save you, start it!
God gave Peter and John the strength to do what they needed to do, just like He gave Jesus the strength to do what He needed to do―just like He’ll give you the strength to do what He wants you to do, when you put your faith in Christ.
Prayer: Father, help me to do all that You’re calling me to do today, to obey Your will, not my own, and not the will of others, but Yours alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 6: FAITH FILLS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 6
I suppose you’ve heard what happens when you sing a country music song backwards, right? You get your car back, you get your dog back, you get your wife back.
Well today, I want to talk about how to get something else back: I want to talk about how to get your faith back ― how to get your faith back if you’ve lost it, how to find it for the first time if you’ve never found it before, and if you’ve already found it, how to help others find their faith, too, so that they can truly become filled with faith, or “faith full.”
There’s a scene in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia where Lucy and her brothers and sister finally all stumble into the land of Narnia when they’re trying to hide in an old wardrobe. Lucy had discovered Narnia before, but when she told her family about it, they made fun of her, they got mad at her, and they told her to stop imagining things. But now they all see it with their own eyes and finally believe. I love that moment of discovery, when people go from doubt to faith, from unbelief to belief, from questioning what others have told them to believing it with they’re whole heart, soul, mind and strength.
Acts chapter 6 describes one of the early believers named Stephen in a way that I’d love to become as well. Acts says that Stephen was:
“a man who was full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5).
That’s what I think God wants each of you to be: men and women who are full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Men and women who are so filled with faith that it overflows from within you and onto those around you.
But how can we get to the point where we’re “faith full”? How can we help other people discover what we’ve found to be true?
Here are three things I’d recommend:
1) Read your Bible. The Bible contains story after story of people who have put their faith in God and become filled with faith as a result. When you read their stories, it will help to increase your faith as well.
Today’s a good day to read John chapter 20, for instance, where it describes three sets of people at the moment when they went from doubt to belief, who got to see Jesus raised from the day on that first Easter morning and in the days immediately following His resurrection. The Apostle John says he wrote these stories for you: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).
2) Research your Barriers. If you’ve got questions that are keeping you from fully believing what God has said in His Word, take time to get your questions answered so you can move forward in your faith.
This is what Lee Strobel did when his wife told him she had become a Christian. Lee was an atheist and the legal affairs editor for the Chicago Tribune. He decided to use his journalism and legal training to thoroughly investigate Christianity, hoping to liberate his wife from this cult! But his plan backfired when he found more evidence that supported the resurrection than he ever imagined and he ended up putting his faith in Christ.
3) Reconnect with your Brothers and Sisters in Christ. God doesn’t want you to go it alone. He wants you to help each other, to bear each other’s burdens and to sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron.
C.S. Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia and other great Christian works, went to Oxford College as an atheist. But after reading books by George McDonald and others he admired and discovered were strong Christians, he turned from atheism to believing there must be a God. But it was when he began to meet with other Christians in person, like fellow student J.R.R. Tolkien who later wrote The Lord of The Rings, they challenged his thoughts and ideas. After talking with his friends till three in the morning one night, Lewis went home and the next morning went from just believing in God to becoming a Christian.
Read your Bible. Research your Barriers, and Reconnect with your Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
These aren’t the only way to become filled with faith, but they’re certainly good things to do, even if you’re a strong believer, because they can help you keep up in the faith that you’ve already come to believe in your heart.
Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me so many examples of people who have put their faith in You. Help me to keep putting my faith in You, and to help others put their faith in You, too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 7: FAITH SPEAKS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 7
There are times when God wants you to hold your tongue. For instance, when Jesus healed two blind men, He told them sternly, “See that no one knows about this” (Matthew 9:30). And when Jesus brought Jairus’ daughter back from the dead, Jesus gave strict orders not to let anyone know about it (Mark 5:43).
But there are other times when God wants you to speak. For instance, when Jesus cast the demons out of the man named Legion, Jesus told him: “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:39a). Or when Jesus healed ten men of leprosy on the road to Jerusalem, He told them: “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14b).
So there are times when God wants you to hold your tongue, but there are also times when God wants you to speak. And when God calls you to speak, He wants you to be ready. The Bible says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
I’d like to give you three ideas today to help you speak when God calls you to speak. I’ve pulled these ideas from the story in Acts chapter 7 where God called Stephen to speak. Stephen spoke boldly, even though it was dangerous to do so. When Stephen was arrested and had to defend himself, he gave one of the boldest speeches in the Bible. Because of it, he was stoned to death, but his words were not in vain.
Here are the three things that I noticed Stephen did, and we can do, when God says to speak:
1) Don’t be afraid.
2) Pair up your words with Scripture.
3) Trust God to use His Word to transform lives.
First, don’t be afraid. Jesus had already forewarned His followers before He died that they would be arrested and flogged and persecuted. Jesus told them: “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:26-28).
Although Stephen could have been afraid that day, he didn’t let it keep him from speaking.
Second, pair up your words with Scripture. Stephen might also have worried about what he was going to say to his accusers, but Jesus had already told His followers: “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-20).
God did give Stephen words to speak. His Word. When Stephen spoke, he paired up his own words with Scripture to support what he was saying. Stephen quoted from Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Amos and Isaiah. When Stephen spoke, God spoke His Words through Stephen. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to read your Bible, study your Bible and memorize your Bible. When you know God’s Word, it helps you to infuse your words with His.
Third, trust that God will use His Word to transform lives. The Bible says that one of the men who heard Stephen speak that day was Saul, who at the time gave approval to Stephen’s death. But if you keep reading in Acts, you’ll see that Saul became a Christian himself shortly thereafter. Jesus changed Saul’s name to Paul, and Paul went on to write much of the rest of the New Testament, including the letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and more.
Even though Stephen died, God used his words that day to reach many lives, including ours over 2,000 years later! As God said, “My word…will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
When God calls you to speak, speak. Don’t be afraid. Pair up your words with Scripture. And trust that God will use His Word to transform lives.
Prayer: Father, help us to speak when you say, “Speak.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 8: FAITH EXPLAINS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 8
If God has given you a special gift to help people understand the Bible, I’d like to encourage you today to use that gift. You may not even realize it’s a gift. You may think that reading and understanding the Bible just comes naturally to you. But I’d like to show you what a gift it really is.
In Acts chapter 8, an angel of the Lord told Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, to go to the road that leads down from Jerusalem to Gaza. Along the way, Philip encountered a man from Ethiopia who was sitting in his chariot reading from the book of Isaiah.
The Ethiopian was an important official in charge of the treasury for Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia. He had been to Jerusalem to worship and was now on his way back home. The Spirit told Philip to go near the man’s chariot, and when he did, he heard the man reading from Isaiah the prophet. Philip asked: “Do you understand what you are reading?” To which the Ethiopian replied:
“How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:31)
So the Ethiopian invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told the man the good news about Jesus.
As they traveled together along the road, the Ethiopian understood so well that he said, “Look here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” So the Ethiopian stopped the chariot, was baptized, and went on his way rejoicing!
God had given Philip special insight into the Scriptures. He had exposed him to the teachings and the life of Jesus in a way that Philip was able to help someone else understand why Jesus had to come and die.
The Ethiopian was smart (he was in charge of the Queen’s treasury). He loved God (he was just returning from a lengthy trip to worship in Jerusalem). And he was eager to learn spiritual truths (he was reading the book of Isaiah). But he still needed someone to explain the Scriptures to him. So God sent Philip to do just that.
Faith explains. When God gives you the faith to believe and to understand what He’s done through Christ, He wants you to share what you’ve learned with others.
I remember flying to California one time, hoping to share with someone I knew there about what Christ had done for me. But even though I tried to bring up the topic throughout the weekend, God never opened the door for me to walk through and share. As I flew home, my plane made a stop in another city before I reached home. A man boarded the plane, sat down next to me, and proceeded to open up a brand new Bible to the first page of the New Testament.
I glanced up to see his face and couldn’t believe it! It was a friend of mine from college who had been involved in some of the same things that Christ had eventually delivered me from! He was just as shocked to see me as I was to see him. When I asked about the Bible, he said his mother was worried about him so had bought this Bible for him. He thought he’d give it a try and had sat down to open it for the very first time. I knew what God wanted me to do.
We spent the rest of the flight talking about his life and talking about the Scriptures. I started with the passage where he had opened his Bible and I explained how Christ had delivered me from the very things with which my friend still struggled.
Although I don’t know what happened to him after we left the plane, I do know that God answered my prayers to be able to share what was on my heart. And He answered my friend’s prayers (or at least his mothers!) that someone would help him to understand what he was reading.
If God has given you the ability to understand the Scriptures, know that it’s a gift, and know that God wants you to use that gift to explain those Scriptures to those around you.
Prayer: Father, help me make the most of every opportunity You give me to explain to others what You’ve revealed to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 9: FAITH SURRENDERS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 9
There are times when I’ll be singing a song of worship to God when my arms almost automatically begin to rise up. Almost without thinking I’ll find myself with my arms fully outstretched above my head in praise to God. It’s a beautiful time of both reaching out to God and completely giving myself to Him―an act of surrender, you might call it―with my hands up in the air, nothing to hide and gladly submitted to the Lordship of Christ.
I remember a similar moment when I put my faith in Christ at 23, having taken control of my own life for those years and seeing where I ended up, then finally yielding to Christ to let Him call the shots from then on. It was no longer a hard thing to do, but joyous, yielding myself completely to God’s will and purposes.
The Apostle Paul experienced his own profound moment of surrender on the road to Damascus.
Even though Paul was extremely religious, he didn’t believe in Christ. He was committed to imprisoning―and even killing―those who did. He had gotten permission from the high priest in Jerusalem to go to Damascus and take prisoner those who belonged to what was then called “the Way.”
Here’s what happened to Paul that not only changed the course of the rest of his trip, but also the rest of his life. In this passage, Paul is still called Saul, as Christ had not yet given him his new name:
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ He replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’ ” (Acts 9:3-6).
When Paul got up from that experience, he was physically blinded. Those traveling with him led him into Damascus, where he stayed for three days, neither eating nor drinking.
During those same three days, a believer in Damascus named Ananias faced his own moment of surrender.
He had already put his faith in Christ, but when the Lord, in a vision, called him to go and pray for Paul to receive his sight back, Ananias wrestled with what he was going to do. He had heard reports about what Paul had done to believers in Jerusalem. He knew Paul had authority from the chief priests to do the same in Damascus. Faced with this extremely tough dilemma, Ananias chose to surrender to the will of God:
“Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord―Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here―has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength” (Acts 9:17-19).
From that day on, and for the rest of his life, Paul went on to preach boldly in the name of Christ. He wrote much of the New Testament, which has affected literally millions of lives in the 2,000 years since then.
Thank God that Paul surrendered his will to God’s. And thank God that Ananias surrendered his will to God’s, too.
Faith surrenders. Whether you’re still just considering putting your faith in Christ for the first time, or whether you’ve been a believer for years, I want to encourage you today to surrender whatever’s left of your will to the will of God. Is there something God is calling you to do? Somewhere He wants you to go? Someone He wants you to talk to? Something He wants you to give to Him?
Lift up your hands and take hold of His. Lift up your heart and give it to Him. Give up your will and get into His. Whatever you’re planning to do, wherever you’re planning to go, it will pale in comparison to what He wants to do in and through you.
Prayer: Father, give me the faith to surrender my will to Yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 10: FAITH GIVES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 10
What prompts you to give? When you see a need around you, what is it that causes you to want to reach out and help? For me, I’ve found that when my faith is strong, my desire to give is strong. But when my faith is weak, my desire to give is weak. It seems that the more I’m able to trust God with my life and my resources, the more I’m able to let go of the things that I would otherwise try to hang onto.
Faith gives. And when God sees our faith and our giving, He loves to bless us back in return.
Take a look at what happened to a man in the Bible named Cornelius when he gave to others in response to his faith. Cornelius was a commander in the Roman army and even though he wasn’t Jewish, he was a devout and God-fearing man who prayed to God regularly and gave generously to those in need. Here’s what happened to him as recorded in Acts chapter 10:
“One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, ‘Cornelius!’
“Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked.
“The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea’ ” (Acts 10:3-6).
Cornelius sent for Peter, who came in response to a vision of his own that God had given him. Peter shared with Cornelius the good news about Christ. Cornelius and the large crowd who came to his house to see Peter were baptized with water and the Holy Spirit.
God honored Cornelius’ prayers and gifts. They had made their way up to God as a memorial offering to Him. And God poured out his blessing back on Cornelius.
Faith gives and God sees those gifts. They are a natural response to the faith that God wells up inside of you. Your giving is a practical way to love God and love others.
I remember telling some friends about all that God had been doing in and through my life one time. When I finished, one of the people listening to me reached into his pocket and pulled out all the money he had. He put it in my hand.
I was totally caught off guard. Why was he giving me money? I had just been telling them about what God was doing in the world and in my life. I knew this man didn’t have money to spare. I tried a few times to put it back into his hands, but he wouldn’t take it. One of my other friends finally pulled me aside to the kitchen and said to me, “He’s giving that money to God, not to you. As you’re telling him about the power of God to work in people’s lives, God’s working on his heart and this is the way he wants to respond. Please don’t try to stop what God is doing in his life by giving the money back.”
This man was growing in his faith as he listened to my stories, and his desire to do something in response swelled up within him. When God increases our faith, he also increases our desire and willingness to give.
Are there needs around you that God might be prompting you to support with your prayers and gifts? Is God trying to increase your faith so that when a need arises, you’ll be able to meet it with both your faith and your giving?
God wants you to be devout and God-fearing like Cornelius, praying and giving generously to those who have needs. When you do, know that God will not overlook your prayers and gifts. He loves to bless the hearts of those who bless His heart, just like He blessed Cornelius and everyone who came to his house to hear the good news about Christ.
Prayer: Father, increase my faith and increase my willingness to give at the same time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 11: FAITH INCLUDES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 11
Some people think that Christianity is exclusive. They think that because Christ said that people must believe in Him in order to come back to the Father that Christianity excludes people. The truth is, Christianity is not exclusive, but incredibly inclusive. It’s open to all people, of all ages, from all races and all nationalities.
The story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts chapters 10 and 11 shows us just how inclusive Christianity really is. Peter was a Jew and one of the closest follower of Christ, but God sent Peter to Cornelius, who was not Jewish, to tell him the good news about Christ. Peter went, but not without some having to triple check with God beforehand. The Bible says that as Peter was praying one day, he had a vision from God:
“He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’
The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven” (Acts 10:11-16).
As Peter was wondering about the vision, some men arrived at his door, asking if he would come with them to see Cornelius, a man who was a Roman soldier, but who was devout and God-fearing, prayed regularly and gave generously to those in need.
Realizing the vision was from God, Peter went with them, shared the good news of Christ with Cornelius and all those at his house, and they were all baptized in both water and in the Holy Spirit.
Peter realized God’s desire to keep the Jewish people holy by not interacting with non-Jews was for their protection, but not for the exclusion of others. It was a way to keep the Jews pure, not keep others out. Others have always been welcome, and now, through Jesus, the way was made clear for them. When Peter told the other disciples what had happened, they praised God saying “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18b).
I used to think Christians were being prideful and arrogant when they claimed that you had to believe in Christ in order to come to God. But I learned that it was not Christians who made that claim, but Jesus Himself. Just before His death and resurrection into heaven, Jesus told His disciples how to get where He was going:
“You know the way to the place where I am going….I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:4,6).
There was no pride or arrogance in what Jesus said, but simple, humble truth. Christ went on to demonstrate His love for us and the truthfulness of what He said when He died for our sins and opened the way for anyone who believed in Him to come back to God, free, clean and forgiven.
Peter shared this good news on another occasion to a crowd of thousands who had gathered from all over the world. During his message, Peter made this bold claim about Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When the people heard it, rather than turning their backs and responding with disgust at Peter’s arrogance, over 3,000 of them turned their hearts towards Christ, putting their faith in Him, and being baptized in His name.
Faith includes, as Cornelius and his entire household discovered.
If you’ve never put your faith in Christ, I encourage you to do it today. If you know someone who needs to put their faith in Christ, invite them to come to Him today. He is the way and the truth and the life, and His way is open to all.
Prayer: Father, thank You for sending Jesus as the way back to You. Help me invite others back, too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 12: FAITH PRAYS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 12
If you need something supernatural to happen, do something supernatural: pray.
Prayer is not just quiet meditation. It’s not just thinking through your thoughts on your own. Prayer is having a conversation with the God who created you, who knows you better than anyone else, and who can act in ways that are both natural and even “super” natural.
One of the most dramatic answers to prayer is recorded in Acts chapter 12. I’d like to share it with you today to encourage you to pray earnestly for situations in your life for which there appear to be no earthly answers.
Here’s the background for this story: After Saul stopped persecuting the early Christians, they finally enjoyed a time of peace and continued to grow in numbers. But then King Herod took up the persecution again and began to arrest some of those believers putting a man named James to death with the sword. When Herod saw that this pleased some of the Jews, he put Peter in prison, too, planning to put him on trial after the Passover.
Things looked bleak for Peter. There was little hope for him after what had just happened to James, but those early believers weren’t hopeless. They did what they could: they prayed.
The Bible says, “but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5).
Look what happened when they did:
“The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
“Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,’ the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
“Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating’” (Acts 12:6-11).
Faith prays. It may seem obvious that when people are filled with faith, they pray. But interestingly, it may not have been their great faith that drove them to prayer, but perhaps that they had nowhere else to turn. When Peter showed up later that night at the door of a house where many believers were gathered in prayer for him, the people didn’t even believe that it was really Peter at the door. When a servant girl came to tell them Peter was there, they told her, “You’re out of your mind!” (Acts 12:15). They didn’t believe her until Peter kept knocking and they finally opened the door for him. Then they saw for themselves and were astonished.
I love stories like this where God acts in such a way that it even astonishes those who are praying. We may think we’re full of faith, but when God answers remarkably like this, we realize just how little faith we had going into our prayers. But nonetheless, they were praying “earnestly.”
That’s the kind of faith I want for you today. A faith that will pray earnestly. A faith that will pray trusting that God is ultimately in control, but that still prays with full hope and expectation for God to do a miracle.
There’s no shame in praying, just power. Abraham Lincoln confessed, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”
Faith prays. If you need something supernatural to happen, do something supernatural. Pray, and pray earnestly.
Prayer: Father, give me the faith to pray earnestly for Your will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 13: FAITH FASTS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 13
One of the best ways I’ve found to intensify, deepen or accelerate my prayers is to fast―to go without food for a period of time so I can focus more intensely on praying.
I don’t remember hearing much about fasting when I was growing up. I don’t know if it was because I was just a child, or because those around me didn’t fast, or because those who did fasted in a way that didn’t draw attention to their fasting. But I do know that when I began to read the Bible as an adult, I was surprised by the number of references to prayer and fasting throughout both the Old and New Testament. Moses, David, Elijah, Paul and Jesus Himself are just a few of the many who fasted.
As I read other Christian books, I was surprised to find that many people throughout history, including leaders of major Christian movements also fasted: Luther, Wesley, Finney, Edwards, Booth, to name just a few. I also found that many of the Christian leaders that I knew and respected living today also fasted with profound results.
After reading so many inspiring stories, I decided to try it myself. Now, after twenty years adding fasting to my prayer life at various times, whether for a few days or for several weeks at a time, I can confirm that some of the most significant words I’ve heard from the Lord have come during those times of prayer and fasting. God has spoken to me about all kinds of things, from who to marry to how to expand my ministry. It seems that when I empty myself physically, I’m able to fill up more spiritually.
Acts chapter 13 records how the earliest Christians fasted and prayed, and how God spoke to them during their fast:
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3).
This was the beginning of Saul’s (also known as Paul’s) missionary journeys. The believers were gathered in prayer, worshiping the Lord and fasting, when God spoke to them through His Holy Spirit that He wanted two of them to set off in a new direction. While this may have seemed like simple next steps for Barnabas and Paul, it began a whole new life of travel and ministry for them. These trips resulted in new church starts in city after city. Because of the prayers and fasting of those early believers, God charted a new life course for Paul, one which took him through to the end of his life.
If you’re asking God for direction in your life, for wisdom about how to move forward, for answers as to the next steps you should take, consider intensifying your prayers with fasting. If you’re praying for situations that seem to have hit a roadblock and you don’t know how to go any further in your prayers, try fasting to break through that barrier.
When Jesus’ disciples were praying for a boy who was having seizures and suffering greatly, their prayers didn’t seem to help, so they came to Jesus for help. Jesus drove out the demon that was affecting the boy and he was healed from that moment. When the disciples later came to Jesus in private and asked why they couldn’t drive it out, He said,
“Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20-21).
It seems from this passage, and from many others in the Bible, that fasting adds a dimension to our faith and to our prayers that is not available without it.
If you want to intensify, deepen or accelerate your prayers―and fill up more spiritually at the same time―try fasting!
Prayer: Father, help me to grow in my faith, even through fasting and prayer, so that I can see Your will done here on the earth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 14: FAITH PERSISTS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 14
There are times when all of us face obstacles that seem just too big to get past. Times when we’re ready to throw in the towel. Times when we want to give up and to walk away from the things we feel God has called us to do.
If you’re facing times like that today, I want to encourage you to press on, to be persistent in your faith. Don’t give up now. Now’s the time to let God work through you in a way that you can shine for Him.
Michael Jordan was an incredible basketball player. But the crowds didn’t come to watch him walk onto an empty court and shoot free-throws for an hour and a half. They came to watch him shine in the face of opposition. They came to watch him take the ball from one end of the court to the other, making his way through opponents who were doing everything they could to stop him.
When someone would try to steal the ball, Michael would dribble behind his back. When someone blocked his way forward, Michael would spin his way around. When someone would try to block his shot, Michael would leap into the air beyond their reach, swishing the ball through the net on his way back down.
The times Michael Jordan shone the brightest were the times when his opposition was the most intense.
Paul and Barnabas in the book of Acts remind me of Michael Jordan. When God sent them out to win the world for Christ, they went from city to city, winning converts all along the way. But they weren’t shooting free-throws on an empty court. One of the reasons they shone so bright was because their opposition was so intense. In city after city, they were spoken against, thrown out of town, and even stoned and left for dead.
In the city of Iconium, many people came to Christ. But others began to stir up trouble for Paul and Barnabas. Rather than running away, they pressed on. The Bible says:
“So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders” (Acts 13:4).
Instead of throwing in the towel, Paul and Barnabas decided to stay even longer. When the people of Iconium eventually made a plan to kill them, they escaped. When the people of Lystra stoned them and left them for dead, they recovered and went right back into the city. When they had finished making their way through city after city, they didn’t just call it quits. They turned around and went right back through each of the cities where people had tried to kill them before, strengthening the believers they had won in those cities, and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.
When the opposition came, Paul and Barnabas dribbled behind their backs, spun around the opposition, and leapt into the air as they swished the ball through the net on their way back down.
Faith persists. It doesn’t give up and go home just because an opponent shows up on the court. That’s the time when faith shines. That’s the time when the crowds go wild for Christ. That’s the time when God Himself will cheer you on, sending His Holy Spirit to do things through you that you could never have done on your own.
I don’t know what kind of opposition you’re facing today: problems with your marriage, your money, your ministry, your ideas. Problems with your health, your plans, your future, your dreams. Problems with your family, your friends, your parents, your kids. Problems with your business, your home, your life, your career.
But whatever you’re facing right now, I want to encourage you to press on. Press on in your faith. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter or your faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross (see Hebrews 12:2).
Press on, as Paul did, toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
If God has called you to it, press on through it!
Prayer: Father, help me to be persistent in my faith, to press on to win the prize for which You have called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 15: FAITH PURIFIES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 15
If you’ve ever read Macbeth by Shakespeare, you may remember the scene where Macbeth’s wife rubs her hands together over and over, trying to wash out an imaginary stain. What she was really trying to do was to “wash her hands” of a plot that she and her husband had planned to kill King Duncan. Even though the stain is imaginary, it represented something very real that she had done.
Many people have felt what Lady Macbeth felt. They’ve done something they can’t take back. No matter what they do, they can’t get clean. They can’t purify themselves. Maybe you’re in that situation yourself today, or know someone who is.
The truth is, you can’t purify yourself. You can’t wash, cleanse or save yourself from your own sins. But the good news is that Jesus can. And the way He does it is through faith.
It might seem odd that a mere thought―putting your faith in Christ―could open the floodgates of cleansing that you need. But it’s not just the thought that brings the cleansing. It’s Christ who brings the cleansing. It’s Christ, who died on the cross to take your sins upon Him so you could be clean, if you’ll just believe Him and put your faith in Him.
Some people wring their hands over what they can do to be clean. The earliest Christians made it clear that of all the things someone might try to do, the one necessary ingredient is faith.
One of the times the disciples had to address this issue head on is recorded in Acts chapter 15. Here’s a portion of how the issue came up and how the disciples responded:
“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’ This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question…. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.’
“The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ‘Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are” (Acts 15:1-2,5-11).
When it came down to it, Paul, Barnabas, Peter and the elders agreed: it is “through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved” and that God “purified their hearts by faith.”
I remember when my wife Lana was baptized. As she came up out of the water, she said that as the water dripped off her, she felt like her sins were being washed away. That’s the kind of cleansing that Lady Macbeth longed for, but never experienced, because she never put her faith in Christ.
If that’s the kind of cleansing that you’re longing for, you don’t have to wring your hands over and over. You can experience it, too, when you put your faith in Christ.
Confess your sins to Him and let Him wash you in His grace, removing your sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). As the Bible promises: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Let Him purify you today, by faith.
Prayer: Father, I confess my sins to You and put my faith in Christ, asking that You would cleanse me, wash me and purify me from all unrighteousness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 16: FAITH SINGS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 16
When you’re down, singing is probably one of the last things you feel like doing. But it could be the very thing you need to bring you back up.
Singing is an expression of faith that you can exercise anytime, anywhere and with powerful results, as can be seen in Acts chapter 16. Even after being beaten and severely flogged earlier in the day, Paul and Silas sang at midnight in their prison cell. God heard their song and set them free.
Paul and Silas had been sharing about Christ in the city of Philippi (to which Paul later wrote his letter to the Philippians) when they ran across a slave girl who was possessed by an evil spirit by which she predicted the future. Paul cast the spirit out of her, causing her owners to realize that they were going to lose any future profits from the girl’s unusual abilities.
The owners of the girl seized Paul and Silas and brought them to the authorities, rallying the crowds against them as well, saying that they were throwing the city into an uproar. Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten and severely flogged, then put in the inner cell of the prison with their feet in the stocks.
Even after such a grueling day, listen to what the book of Acts says Paul and Silas did that night:
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).
They prayed and sang hymns to God. I can understand their praying, but it’s hard to imagine they had the strength, let alone the desire, to sing. But the fact that they were praying and singing makes me think that their prayers were more expressions of faith to God rather than frustration with God; prayers of trusting in God rather than interrogating God. Listen to what happened next as they expressed their faith in this way.
“Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:26-34).
Faith sings. And when faith sings, God responds. God not only set Paul and Silas free, but He set all the other prisoners free who were listening to them sing. If you continue reading the passage, you’ll find that God even set the jailer free, the one who had been holding them in their prison!
I was listening to a well-known, elderly pastor who talked about those times in his life when he was the most down. He said that the only thing that he had found that could consistently lift his spirits was to sing praises to God. As he sang, his spirits would lift, and he could see clearly again that God was in control of his life and circumstances.
King David did the same. As you read through many of his songs, which are recorded in the book of Psalms (which means “songs”), you’ll see that he’s often quite downcast as he begins singing, but by the end of the song, God has lifted his spirits and set him free.
Psalm 5, for instance, starts with the words, “Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray” (Psalm 5:1-2).
But by the end of the song, David is singing out his praises to God, “But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11-12).
There’s power in singing; power to lift us up and set us free, power to set those around us free, and even power to set those who are holding us in bondage free. If you need a lift today, express your faith to God with a song!
Prayer: Father, help me to sing to You, even when it may be the last thing I may want to do, so that You can set me free. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 17: FAITH EXAMINES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 17
I’ve spent the last few weeks in and out of doctors’ offices and the hospital with my Dad, trying to discover the source of some recent health problems.
Like many people, my Dad doesn’t really like doctors, hospitals or anything to do with examinations. He’d rather live with some minor discomfort than subject himself to the tests that are needed to find out what’s really wrong. Unless he’s in dire pain or distress, why rock the boat?
But as I went with him and helped him to see why the doctors wanted to do the tests they did, he consented. In the end, it turned out that my Dad just needs a shot once a month. It’s a simple solution, but if left uncorrected, could have led to his death.
For some people, reading the Bible sounds about as fun as going to see the doctor. If you’re not in dire pain or distress, why rock the boat?
Why? Because the Bible is filled with simple solutions to some of our biggest problems that, if left uncorrected, could lead to our death, both here on earth and eternally.
For people who are eager to live life to the fullest, doing a careful examination of their life from time to time is one of the smartest things they can do. They’re like the Bereans mentioned in the Bible, the people who lived in a city in Greece called Berea who did another kind of examination, but one that was just as life-changing.
When Paul went to the Bereans to tell them that Jesus was Christ, he found that they were more noble than the people of other cities he had visited:
“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
The Bereans were eager to hear about Jesus, to find out if He really was the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ. They wanted to find out the truth, because they knew how important that truth would be to them. So they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul was telling them was true.
The reason I like the Bereans so much is because I was one myself. Although I had gone to church all my life, I never really read the Bible on my own until my mid-20’s. I began attending a church where they had a class called the Berean Class. When I asked why they called it that, they told me the story of the Bereans in the Bible who eagerly examined the Scriptures every day to see if what they were being taught was true.
So I went out and bought a Bible filled with helpful study notes. I began to read it, and really enjoyed it! The more I read, the more eager I was to keep reading! I began to discover that all that I had been taught about the Bible was true. One day, I finally put my faith in Christ. It turned out to the be single most important turning point of my life, literally saving my life here on earth and for eternity.
Paul went to many cities and reasoned with many people from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said (Acts 17:3b). As a result, many believed, both Jews and Greek, men and women.
Faith examines. If you’re curious about the Bible, about Jesus, or about any of the hundreds of other topics addressed in the Bible, from relationships to healing, from sexuality to eternal life, I’d encourage you to read the Bible for yourself. Examine it. Study it. Eagerly receive the message contained within it―and believe it.
You may find you just need a shot of B12, or you may need some serious, but life-saving surgery. Either way, when you examine the Bible like the Bereans did, you’ll find that it contains the words you need to live the fullest life possible here on earth―and in heaven, too.
Prayer: Father, help me to eagerly examine Your Word daily to find out for myself that the words are true. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 18: FAITH WORKS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 18
A friend once asked me, “Do you think God wants everyone to quit their job and go into full-time ministry?”
I thought it was a great question, because the answer can affect your view of ministry―and of work in general.
First, there’s no doubt that God wants more people to go into full-time ministry. When Jesus was going from town to town, preaching and healing people, the Bible says “when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ ” (Matthew 9:36-38).
Jesus saw the overwhelming needs of the world and asked His disciples to pray for more workers. Many of those disciples themselves had heard Jesus’ call to “Follow Me,” something which often required them to leave their profession, whether fishermen or tax collectors.
On the other hand, God has created, gifted and skilled each of us to to do meaningful work, whether it’s in full-time ministry or not. Work is a blessing from God, not a curse as some people think. Even before the first man sinned, the Bible says that God put him in the Garden of Eden with a specific task in mind:
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).
Of course, after Adam sinned, God did tell him that from then on his work would be very hard, with much sweat and toil (see Genesis 3:17-19). But the work itself was not a curse. God wanted Adam to work the land from the very beginning and to eat the fruit that came from it.
The Apostle Paul seems to have grasped both of these aspects of work. He applied himself to both jobs God had called and gifted him to do: at times doing the spiritual work of preaching and encouraging people in their relationship with Christ, and at times doing the practical work of making tents, a profession that met his own needs and the needs of those around him. In Acts chapter 18, we read that Paul went to the city of Corinth for a year and a half, staying with some fellow tentmakers there named Aquila and Priscilla:
“Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:1-4).
Even though Paul was free to earn his living from his preaching (as he wrote later in 1 Corinthians 9), he was also free to earn his living from making tents. It wasn’t the source of his income that directed Paul’s work, but serving the Lord in all that he did. As Paul wrote later to the Christians in Ephesus, some of whom were slaves and some of whom were free:
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free” (Ephesians 6:7-8).
The truth is that everything we have comes from God. As King David said in his prayer of thanksgiving to God: “Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand” (2 Chronicles 29:14).
A friend of mine, who started a business in a country that doesn’t officially allow Christian missionaries, says that his work is 100% business and 100% ministry. I think that’s a good way for all of us to view our work, whether that work is seemingly secular or religious.
Be open to God’s call to ministry. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. But also be open to using whatever gifts and skills God has given you to meet the life needs of those around you. Whatever you do, work as if you were serving the Lord. You’ll be rewarded when you do.
Prayer: Father, help me to hear Your call on my life and to follow it with my whole heart wherever it leads. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 19: FAITH BAPTIZES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 19
Of all the things Jesus could have said in His final words to His disciples, He included baptism as one of the top three. Jesus said:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a).
Go and make disciples… baptizing them… and teaching them to obey My commands.
What is it about baptism that gives it such a priority?
I think John the Baptist may have said it best when He said: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11).
There’s something empowering that happens when a person is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It’s the empowerment of the Holy Spirit―the empowerment to carry out all of the rest of the things that Christ has called us to do.
When the Apostle Paul left Corinth and went to Ephesus, the Bible says:
“There he found some disciples and asked, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’
So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’
‘John’s baptism,’ they replied.
Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.” (Acts 19:1b-7).
When these Ephesian believers were baptized, God empowered them to do things that they weren’t able to do before―supernatural things that only the Holy Spirit could have done through them.
Christ calls us to be baptized, and yet there are many people who have never taken this step to be baptized. As a result, they’re missing out on many things, one of which is the supernatural ability to do things they could never have done on their own.
I know because I was one of those people. I had put my faith in Christ and repented of my sins, but I didn’t follow it up with the step of baptism. A friend asked me to consider it, so I studied the Scriptures and asked others who had been baptized about their experiences. But it took me another two years to finally get around to it.
One day I was asking Christ to do more in me and through me when I felt Him asking me if I had been obedient to the things He had already asked me to do. I had to answer, “No,” and baptism was at the top of the list.
I knew that if I wanted to ask God to do more in my life, I needed to be obedient to the things He had already asked me to do. So I was baptized. The next day, God empowered me to do supernatural things that I could never have done on my own.
Faith baptizes. Throughout the book of Acts, when people put their faith in Christ, they got baptized as well, whether it was the 3,000 who believed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:34-38), the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:18-19), Cornelius and his friends and relatives (Acts 10:44-48), the jailer and his family (Acts 16:29-34), the many who believed in Corinth (Acts 18:8), or the dozen who are mentioned in today’s passage (Acts 19:1-7).
If you feel God prompting you to be baptized, I want to encourage you to do it. It’s not only part of being a Christian, it’s also part of receiving the empowerment of God to do all He wants to do in you and through you.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your Holy Spirit and for the empowerment that comes through Him. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 20: FAITH RESURRECTS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 20
Some people think they have power when they can take a gun and shoot someone dead. But I think that someone has power if they can take someone who’s been dead and bring them back to life. Now that’s power!
You can read about at least ten resurrection stories in the Bible, stories where someone has been physically dead and then been raised back to life.
- Elijah raised the son of the widow (1 Kings 17:17-22)
- Elisha raised the son of the Shunamite woman (2 Kings 4:32-35)
- Elisha’s bones touched a dead man who was raised back to life (2 Kings 13:20-21)
- Jesus raised a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-15)
- Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:49-56)
- Jesus raised Lazarus after Lazarus was dead for four days (John 11:1-44)
- God raised Jesus from the dead (Matthew 28:5-10)
- God raised many others from the dead at the same time He raised Jesus (Matthew 27:50-53).
- Peter raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:38-40)
- Paul raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:9-12).
Let’s take a look at this last story, since we’re looking today at Acts, chapter 20. As the Apostle Luke tells the story, Paul was speaking late into the night in the city of Troas. He was to leave early the next morning, so he stayed up all night speaking to the people:
“Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’ Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted” (Acts 20:9-12).
Faith resurrects. Not just a spiritual resurrection that will happen when those who believe in Christ will be raised to new life in heaven, but faith that even resurrects people who have died and then come back to life here on earth.
This doesn’t mean that just because we have faith in Christ, we can, or even should, raise everyone who dies back from the dead. God does have a plan and He’s limited all of our life spans for a reason.
But it does mean that all of us who have put our faith in Christ―and have been filled with, and empowered by, His Holy Spirit―have access to the same life-giving power that raised Jesus from the dead. Paul, who raised Eutychus from the dead, also wrote:
“But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:10-11).
Paul was sharing a spiritual truth, but it’s a physical truth as well. Paul knew from his own experience that the Spirit of God could literally bring people back from the dead.
If God calls you to pray for someone to be raised from the dead, by all means and by faith, do it! But God also wants you to use that power of faith to pray life back into all kinds of situations and circumstances in the world around you.
If you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and you need God to breathe life into something you’re facing today, call on the power of God’s Holy Spirit that lives within you―the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead.
If you’ve never put your faith in Christ to forgive you of your sins, do it today. You will be raised to a new life with Him here on earth, and you can be assured that you’ll be raised to an eternal life with Him in heaven.
Prayer: Father, fill me with Your Holy Spirit―the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead―and give me the faith to call on Your Spirit to pray life into everything around me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 21: FAITH DIES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 21
I remember the fear that came over me when I read the headline in our college newspaper that Congress had reinstated the draft and all men my age were to report immediately to serve in the military.
I couldn’t believe it. I’m not against serving in the military, but I had been considering studying abroad in the coming year, but I hadn’t made up my mind yet. Traveling alone, the cost of the program and other fears held me back from making a decision. But now, with the possibility that I might have to go into the service, and might even die doing it, my fears of studying abroad paled in comparison.
As I headed to the men’s showers that morning, I was still shaking my head in disbelief when someone else walked in and commented on the article. He asked if I noticed the date on the paper. It was April 1st―April Fool’s Day here in the U.S. The whole article was a hoax.
Even though my heart rate began to slow down, my mind was just getting started. Having faced the possibility of death, I felt now that I was given a new shot at life. I decided that day to study abroad and the following year I did.
Facing death has a way of waking us up and bringing us back to life. Jesus said it like this:
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
The Apostle Paul had an abundant life, in large part, I believe, because he was willing to lose his life at any moment. Although he certainly didn’t have a death wish, he wasn’t afraid to die for Christ, either.
In Acts 21, Paul was warned by men and by the Holy Spirit that if he continued on his journey to the city of Jerusalem, he would be bound in chains when he got there. Paul’s friends pleaded with him not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul replied:
“Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
Paul went on to Jerusalem, and was indeed bound and put into prison. The rest of the book of Acts documents his travels from prison to prison as his case was appealed to higher and higher authorities all the way to Caesar in Rome. Although the book of Acts ends before the end of Paul’s life, church tradition tells us that Paul was eventually beheaded in Rome for his faith.
There are times when God calls people to use their faith to raise the dead, as Paul had just done for Eutycus in Acts 20. But there are also times when God calls people to use their faith to be ready to die, as Paul was ready in Acts 21. But how can the same faith lead to two such different results? Paul tell us in Romans 14:7-8:
“For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:7-8).
It was Paul’s willingness to die for Christ that allowed him to live for Christ so boldly. Some thought he was foolish to go to Jerusalem when he was warned about what awaited him there. But as another missionary named James Elliot wrote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
God has many things He wants to do for you by faith. But God also has many things He wants to do through you by faith―for others.
How would it change your life if you were truly willing to die for Christ? If you truly no longer feared death? According to the Apostle Paul, the missionary Jim Elliot, and even Jesus Christ Himself, it’s only when you’re ready to lose your life for Christ that you will truly find it.
Prayer: Father, help me to be ready to die for Christ so that I can truly live for Him. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 22: FAITH TESTIFIES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 22
Has God touched your life in a special way? If so, that’s part of your testimony―and God loves it when you testify to others about what He has done for you.
But I also know it can be hard to share your testimony. When I first put my faith in Christ, I was asked to share my testimony with my singles class at church. “No way,” I thought! It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk about what God had done, but I didn’t want to talk about what I had done. I was way too embarrassed to talk about the sin from which God had delivered me.
Yet over the years, as I’ve shared my testimony with more and more people, I’ve seen God give hope, encouragement and eternal life to others. Some people who hear my story are encouraged because they’ve struggled with some of the same things with which I’ve struggled. Others are encouraged because they realize that the God who could deliver me from the depths of my sin can deliver them from the depths of theirs.
The Apostle Paul had a lot of good reasons not to share his testimony with others. Not only did he have to share some difficult things about himself personally, but he also faced the real possibility of being killed every time he shared it. While Paul could have been afraid for his life, he wasn’t afraid to testify about what Christ had done for him. As a result, he brought encouragement and eternal life to many.
When Paul’s friends warned him not to go to Jerusalem because he might be bound and possibly killed, Paul went anyway, regardless of the outcome to his own life. Starting with the very first day he was bound in Jerusalem, look at how many times Paul was able to share his testimony:
- Paul testified to the crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 22:1-21),
- he testified to the chief priests and religious leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 23:1-10),
- he testified to Governor Felix in Caesarea (Acts 24:1-26),
- he testified to Governor Festus and King Agrippa in Caesarea (Acts 26:1-32),
- and he testified to the people in Rome while awaiting to testify to Caesar (Acts 28:28-31).
Paul could have been killed for his testimony, but he wanted to use every opportunity he could to share this new life he had found with others.
One of the things that helped me overcome the fear of sharing my testimony was to stand in the middle of a cemetery and think about what it meant from an eternal perspective. In the end, what did it matter if I lost my pride―or even my life―by sharing my testimony? If God could use it to do for others what He had done for me, it would be worth it.
That perspective has given me a tremendous freedom to be able to share my testimony when God wants me to share it. I’m still careful and prayerful about it, but my focus now is more on how it will affect those who hear it than on how it will affect me. Even Jesus spoke about the importance of timing when He told His disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear” (John 16:12). We still need to be in tune with what our listeners need to hear.
But whatever the timing, know that the words of your testimony are like gold to God and that they have tremendous power. The Bible says:
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11).
It’s by the blood of the Lamb―Jesus―and by the word of your testimony that you can overcome Satan. When you share your testimony, you can give hope, comfort peace, strength, encouragement and life to those who are losing theirs.
What has God done for you that could bring hope and eternal life to others? Reread Paul’s simple testimony in Acts 22, then consider sharing your testimony with others, too.
Prayer: Father, give me the faith to share my testimony with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 23: FAITH KEEPS A CLEAR CONSCIENCE (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 23
A man who once walked across the entire United States said that the hardest thing about his walk wasn’t the mountains, or the extreme weather, or any of the things I would have expected. He said the hardest part of the walk was the sand in his shoes.
The little grains of sand didn’t seem like a big deal at first, but over time, the sand would build up and lead to blisters, infections and ongoing pain.
It can sometimes be the same way with sin. It may not be the big sins that threaten to undo you, but the little ones―a lie here or there, a lustful thought towards a co-worker, a glance from time to time at pornography. Because of God’s grace, He doesn’t blast at every wrong turn. But over time, those “little” sins build up and lead to a bigger problem.
The man who walked across America said that he learned to regularly empty out the sand from his shoes before it became a problem. Today, you may find that your conscience is being pricked about some “little” sins in your life that God wants you to give up. If so, I’d like to encourage you to follow those promptings, take off your shoes, and empty out the sand before it leads to a bigger problem.
The Apostle Paul knew the value of keeping a clear conscience. He would regularly do whatever it took to ensure that he was honoring God and others with his thoughts and actions. And the payoff was huge.
In Acts 23, when Paul was arrested and brought before the highest religious leaders in Jerusalem, Paul was asked to speak on his own behalf. He began by saying this:
“My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day” (Acts 23:1b).
Even though the charges against Paul could have cost him his life, his conscience was clear. He had gone out of his way when he first entered Jerusalem to enter into the strict purification rites of the Jewish people. He wanted to honor both God and those who lived in that city (see Acts 22:17-26).
So when the accusations came, Paul was able to say with full confidence that his conscience was clear. By the end of Paul’s testimony, at the end of chapter 23, the commander overseeing Paul’s case concluded that there was “no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment” (Acts 23:29b). Paul survived another day and went on to minister for many more years.
Your faith can help you in so many ways, one of which is to keep your conscience clear.
I’ve heard it said that “a clear conscience makes a soft pillow.” God gave you a conscience for a reason: not to make you feel guilty, but to keep you headed in the right direction. Like the sensitive nerve endings on your fingertips that keep you from burning your hand on a hot stove, your conscience serves to warn you from burning yourself in other ways. Not only will you sleep better with a clear conscience, but it can also save your life, your marriage, your job, your reputation, your ministry and your good witness.
As the Apostle Peter said, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).
Faith keeps a clear conscience. Is there sand building up in your shoes today? Take time to empty them out.
If you’ve sinned, confess it to God and then to a trusted friend. If you’re caught in some lies, come clean today by telling the truth. If you’ve started a habit that’s taking you where neither you nor God want you to go, give it up today. If you’re in a relationship that’s crossing lines that should never be crossed, break it off now before it destroys you and those around you.
May we all get to the point where we can say like Paul, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day” (Acts 23:1b).
Prayer: Father, help me to empty my shoes of the sands of sin in my life before they bring me down completely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 24: FAITH FLEES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 24
I often think of someone who is filled with faith as someone who can tough out any situation, who can stand firm in the face of adversity, who never walks away from a fight when their faith is at stake. But as I read through the book of Acts, and other books in the Bible, I see that there are times when it’s simple wisdom to walk away―or to run―when God wants to keep you from a dangerous situation.
For all the times when the Apostle Paul stood his ground, took a beating, and faced death, there were other times when he slipped away from those who intended to harm him.
When Paul first put his faith in Christ on the road to Damascus, the Jews there conspired to kill him. But when Paul learned of their plan, the believers in Damascus “took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall” (Acts 9:25).
Paul had to flee again when he came to Jerusalem. More than forty men had taken an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. When the son of Paul’s sister heard about the plot, he warned Paul. Paul sent the young man to the commander of the centurions who immediately gave these orders:
“Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix” (Acts 23:23b-24).
In cases like these, Paul fled for his life. Because he did, God was able to use him for many more years to testify to kings, governors and even us today who still read letters that he wrote after he fled.
There are even times when Jesus fled from those who meant Him harm. One day, when Jesus had so angered the Pharisees in Jerusalem, they picked up stones in order to stone Him to death. But John tells us that “Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:59b).
On another occasion, Jesus’ words so infuriated the people in the synagogue that Luke tells us, “They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But He walked right through the crowd and went on his way” (Luke 4:29-30).
While there may be times when your faith will help you to go to the cross like Jesus did (see 1 Peter 2:23), or face beatings and imprisonment like Paul often did, there may be other times when your faith will help you to flee from situations that are potentially dangerous, just like both Paul and Jesus did.
The key is to walk so in tune with God that you know when to stand and when to run. There’s nothing disgraceful about saving your life when God doesn’t want you to die. There’s nothing cowardly about fleeing from a potentially harmful situation when God doesn’t want you to be harmed. Walking away, slipping through the crowd or fleeing for your life could be the most faith-filled thing you could do.
There may be times when it’s more productive to walk away quietly from your boss who is treating you in a demeaning way, or to slip away for a time from an angry spouse while they take time to cool down, or to disengage from a conversation with someone that may be more destructive than constructive.
The ultimate goal in knowing what to do in situations like these is not to protect your pride or to defend things in which you strongly believe, but to follow God at every turn.
That’s why it’s so important to stay close to God, to cultivate your prayer life and to deepen your relationship with God and His Word. By doing so, God can more clearly point you in the direction He wants you to go, whether it’s to stand firm or to flee. Whatever He calls you to do, know that He’ll give you the faith to do it.
Prayer: Father, help me to stay so close to You that I can know which way to go every step of the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 25: FAITH APPEALS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 25
Some people think that when Christians are challenged, they should roll over and play dead―to “turn the other cheek” at all times. Oftentimes that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do as a way of submitting to one another and honoring those in authority over us.
But then there are other times when we, as followers of Christ, are called to defend ourselves, to take authority over wrongs that have been done to us, and to appeal to higher authorities. These, too, are biblical teachings.
Throughout the book of Acts, Paul takes care to walk through this maze of when to stand firm and when to run, when to submit to others and when to defend himself against them. In Acts chapter 25, Paul takes his boldest stand against the false accusations that were made against him: he appeals to Caesar. Paul says this to Governor Festus who was hearing his case:
“I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:10-11).
Appealing to Caesar was no small deal. Caesar was the king, the highest authority in the entire Roman Empire, and his decision would be final―and possibly fatal. The appeal would be costly in terms of time and travel to Rome. In Paul’s case, the trip itself was almost fatal, and Paul was under house arrest in Rome for at least two years waiting for Caesar to hear his case.
But there was nothing ungodly nor disgraceful about Paul’s appeal. He knew he was innocent and he knew God wanted him to continue to testify about Christ in Rome. At the very beginning of Paul’s trials back in Jerusalem, the Lord stood near to Paul one night and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” While it took great courage to appeal to Caesar and be sent to Rome, he was also simply following the clear command of the Lord.
When Paul appealed, Governor Festus conferred with his council and declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!” (Acts 25:12).
Here in the U.S., an appeal is simply another step in the legal process. It’s not a sign of defying authority, but a way of following the steps that the authorities have set up, realizing that different people come to different conclusions, even based on the same evidence.
I’m amazed at the number of cases that are decided in the U.S. Supreme Court by a 5 to 4 decision. These are the some of the brightest and most highly trained people in the country regarding the law, yet they still reach completely opposite conclusions. While it could make some people cynical of the process, it makes me thankful for it, that our country has made a way to give us as many chances as possible to prove our innocence, or for someone else to prove our guilt.
There are times when your faith in Christ will compel you to submit to a decision that’s wrong, regardless of whether you simply believe it is wrong or whether it’s in fact wrong. It can be simple prudence and godliness to submit to someone’s decision, whether it’s a judge, a boss, a spouse, a parent or a friend.
But there are other times when your faith in Christ will compel you to appeal a wrongful decision, to respectfully call upon someone else to step in and hear your case.
In the end, God Himself is the One who will ultimately decide your case. So the important thing is to stay as close to Him as possible and follow His wisdom for whether He wants you to pursue or drop any appeal here on earth. Maybe He’ll say to you what He said to Paul: “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11).
Prayer: Father, help me to hear from You if there’s ever a time You want me to appeal a decision that’s been made. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 26: FAITH MODELS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 26
The great evangelist H.A. Ironside was interrupted one time by the shouts of an atheist. The atheist yelled, “There is no God! Jesus is a myth!” and finally, “I challenge you to a debate!”
Ironside responded, “I accept your challenge, sir! But on one condition. When you come, bring with you ten men and women whose lives have been changed for the better by the message of atheism. Bring former prostitutes and criminals whose lives have been changed, who are now moral and responsible individuals. Bring outcasts who had no hope and have them tell us how becoming atheists has lifted them out of the pit!
“And sir,” he concluded, “if you can find ten such men and woman, I will be happy to debate you. And when I come, I will gladly bring with me two hundred men and women from this very city whose lives have been transformed in just those ways by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Ironside knew that atheism doesn’t change lives. Jesus changes lives.
If you’re a Christian, your testimony is like gold to God. The story of how you came to Christ, how He forgave you of your sins and how He gave you the assurance that you will live with Him forever will speak volumes to those around you.
You may not consider yourself a great evangelist. You may not feel like there’s much in your life that others would want to emulate. But the truth is that when others see your changed life, it can lead them to put their faith in Christ, too.
The Apostle Paul knew the power of a testimony. He shared it on many occasions, one of which is in Acts chapter 26 when he was on trial in front of Governor Festus and King Agrippa. After hearing Paul’s story, King Agrippa said to Paul,
“Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul replied, “Short time or long―I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:28-29).
Paul didn’t claim to be perfect. But he did claim to be changed. He claimed to have had an encounter with the Risen Christ that transformed his life and then he prayed that all who were listening to him would become what he was.
Faith models. Just like a fashion model wears cool clothes to show others what their life might become like if they put on the same thing, a Christian model is one who shows others what their life might become if they put their faith in Christ.
I had a friend who was living an immoral lifestyle. I knew that if he kept it up, it could kill him. I knew because I had lived a similar life, until I put my faith in Christ. I prayed with him one day that he would become what I had become, a Christian. It wasn’t that I thought I was perfect. I wanted him to follow me, because I followed Christ.
Paul called others to follow his lead when he said in 1 Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). It’s not prideful to ask people to become what you’ve become. It’s simply faithful.
An athlete once told his coach he didn’t want to be a role model. His coach said, “It’s not a question of whether you want to be a role model or not. You’re already a role model. The question is whether you’ll be a good one or a bad one.”
You’re already a role model, too, whether you’re a Christian or not. If you’re a Christian, God wants you to model your faith, to let others see it in your life, to let them hear it from your lips―that Christ has truly forgiven you, changed you and given you the assurance that you’ll live with Him forever. If you’re not a Christian, my prayer for you is the same as Paul’s, “that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am…”
Prayer: Father, give me the faith to model my life in a way that leads others to Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 27: FAITH WARNS (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 27
Is there anyone in your life who could use a good warning right about now? Someone who is straying from God’s path and needs help finding their way back? Or someone who is headed for danger―and even trying to take you along?
If so, I want to encourage you today to give them a godly warning about what lies ahead. As hard as it may be, know that even if they don’t listen to you right now, your warning may help them to listen closer in the future.
I’m sure it took a lot of faith for the Apostle Paul to warn those around him of the danger facing them in Acts chapter 27. After all, Paul was hardly in a position of authority over any of them, being himself a prisoner on board a ship bound for Rome. Yet after his first warning proved to be true, even those who had authority over Paul began to regard his advice as if their lives depended on it―because it did!
Take a look at the first warning Paul offered when he foresaw the winter storms which loomed ahead:
“ ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there” (Acts 27:9-12a).
So much for Paul’s warning! But it wasn’t wasted. When the wind whipped up with hurricane force and the crew had to let the storm drive them along in a direction they hadn’t planned to go, the crew eventually began to listen to Paul. He stood up before them and said:
“ ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island’ ” (Acts 27:21-26).
From that point on, the crew listened to everything Paul said. When some men tried to escape in a lifeboat, Paul warned the centurion that they must stay with the ship or be lost. The centurion brought them back. When all aboard had not eaten for fourteen days, Paul encouraged them to finally eat some food as they were about to be saved, but would need the remaining food to survive.
In the end, their ship ran aground on a remote island and was blasted apart by the pounding waves. But just as Paul had foretold, all 276 of the men on board survived.
I would love to be able to speak to others with the confidence which came from the faith that Paul had when he said, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” I pray for that kind of faith for myself, and I want to encourage you to pray for it for yourself as well.
Faith warns. Even when your warnings may not be heeded the first time, they might still be necessary to help others believe in what you say the next time…and the next…and the next. If there’s someone in your life who needs a good warning today, ask God if you’re the one to give it to them.
If there’s someone in your life who is headed in the wrong direction, or even to hell, ask God to give you the faith to point them in the right direction today.
Prayer: Father, help me to have the faith to give godly warnings to those who need it today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LESSON 28: FAITH SUPPLIES (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Acts 28
One of the natural responses that often bursts forth when someone’s faith increases is the desire to give. Those who are touched by a message of faith often respond by giving back to those who touched them.
When I first put my faith in Christ, I was so moved that I instinctively began to support the church where I was saved. As I began to hear about missionaries who were taking the same message that touched me to others throughout the world, my natural response was to give. I wanted everyone to experience the same thing that I had experienced.
I still do. It’s not that I feel that I have to give. It’s simply the response of my heart to what God is doing in my life. I also believe that the increased desire to give comes from my increased trust in God; that He will continue to supply all of my needs, even as He uses me to help to supply the needs of others.
Those who were touched by the ministry of the Apostle Paul on the island of Malta had a similar response of giving.
Paul, along with his shipmates, had been shipwrecked on the island. The islanders showed unusual kindness to Paul and the others by building a fire for them because it was raining and cold. When a viper bit Paul on the hand as he threw some brushwood into the fire, the islanders thought Paul must have been guilty of a deadly crime: even though he had escaped from the shipwreck, they thought he would now die from the snakebite. When Paul didn’t die, the islanders changed their minds and thought he was a god!
Even though Paul wasn’t a god, God still had work to do through Paul. Paul and the others were invited into the home of Publius, a chief official of the island. When Paul found out that Publius’ father was sick in bed with fever and dysentery, Paul went to see him, “…and after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured” (Acts 28:8-9).
While Paul’s faith in Christ allowed him to do many miracles in Jesus’ name, look at the response of faith that took place among the islanders who were touched by these miracles. The very next sentence of the story says:
“They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed” (Acts 28:10).
Faith supplies. When God works in powerful ways, people naturally want to respond in kind. They want to give freely to others as others have given freely to them.
In this way, Paul and the crew were able to go onto the next leg of their journey to Rome, where God had told Paul he would have to testify before Caesar. God had provided everything Paul needed to get as far as Malta. When the supplies ran out, God provided still more through those believers who had just been touched by God through Paul’s ministry.
Supplying the needs of others is a natural response of faith.
Have you been touched in a special way through someone’s ministry? Maybe someone in your local church, which nourishes you and perhaps your family? Maybe someone who has stopped by to pray for you? Maybe someone who has sent you a special gift or card or email or text message when you needed it? Maybe a ministry on the TV, or radio, or even this one on the Internet, that God has used in a special way to reach out to you to help you to increase your faith?
If so―and if God is causing your faith to well up within you with the desire to give―I encourage you to respond in faith and give. It’s a way to not only help that person or that ministry on the next leg of their journey, it’s a way to let them know that your heart is going with them as well. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
Prayer: Father, show me how to respond in faith to those who have touched my life for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
CONCLUSION: THE POWER OF FAITH (Back to Table of Contents)
Scripture Reading: Matthew 17:20
At the end of the book of Acts, you’ll see that Paul finally made it to Rome. He stayed there for two years awaiting his trial before Caesar, living in his own rented house under house arrest. He welcomed all who came to see him, preaching boldly about the kingdom of God and teaching about Christ.
And that’s where the book of Acts ends.
In some ways, it seems like the book ends in mid sentence―like there’s a page or two still missing. What happened to Paul? Did he ever make it to his trial? Was he ever able to testify before Caesar?
Even though the Bible doesn’t record what happened next, I believe that Paul did make it to his trial and that he did get to testify before Caesar. Why? Because the same God who brought Paul this far had also told Paul that he would one day testify in Rome. Back in Acts 23, when Paul was first arrested in Jerusalem and when many were plotting to kill him, God said to Paul:
“Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11).
Then again in Acts 27, when Paul’s shipmates were about to give up hope that they would ever be saved from the storm, an angel of God spoke to Paul again, as Paul told the men:
“Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me” (Acts 27:23-25).
That’s the kind of faith I’ve been praying for myself and for you as well all throughout this study, the kind of faith that says, “I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.” Because I know, like Paul knew, and like Christ knew, that when you have faith in Christ, nothing will be impossible for you.
In the mid-1900’s, there was a woman who did all kinds of miracles in the name of Christ, seeing people saved, healed and delivered from various addictions. When asked what kind of gift God had given to her to be able to do so many things, she said she didn’t have the gift of evangelism, or healing or prayer. She said she had the gift of faith. And with faith, all kinds of things are possible.
We’ve seen through the book of Acts how faith helped these earliest of believers to do all kinds of things. We’ve seen that faith waits, acts, heals, saves, obeys, fills, speaks, explains, surrenders, gives, includes, prays, fasts, persists, purifies, sings, examines, works, baptizes, resurrects, dies, testifies, keeps a clear conscience, appeals, models, warns and supplies. And I have a feeling that’s just the beginning.
The truth is the book of Acts really is unfinished. Jesus is still alive. He’s still working through people today. And He still wants to work through you. You may be surprised at what you can do when you put your faith in Him. For all the incredible things that Jesus did, here’s what He said you could do if you had faith in Him:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:11-12).
As we finish this study together, my prayer is that the following words of Christ would echo in your ears in the days ahead, words that will give you the faith to do all that Christ still wants you to do:
“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
Prayer: Father, give me the faith to move mountains and more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
SMALL GROUP STUDY GUIDE FOR ACTS: LESSONS IN FAITH (Back to Table of Contents)
The following questions can be used for personal reflection, group discussion, or a combination of the two. Each set of questions corresponds directly to each of the thirty lessons contained in this book, counting the Introduction and Conclusion.
For groups wanting a shorter study, with more time for personal reflection and preparation between group discussions, group members could study five lessons on their own each week, then come together and discuss the highlights of those lessons, for a total of six weeks.
For groups wanting a longer study with less study and preparation time during the week, they may choose instead to study just two, three, or four lessons per week on their own, then come together and discuss those lessons over a period of seven, ten, or fifteen weeks.
For groups wanting to read and discuss each lesson together, without needing to do any study or preparation on their own during the week, they could complete this study together in thirty weeks.
1. What did Mrs. Incredible mean when she said, “Doubt is a luxury we can’t afford anymore”? Can you think of any situations where this might be true in your life?
2. From where did Paul get his confidence to say, “I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me”? And from where can you get the same confidence?
Lesson 1 – Faith Waits
1. Which is harder for you: to muster up the faith to do something, or to muster up the faith to wait for something? How might God want to increase your faith in either area?
2. In your own words, what’s the difference between waiting idly and waiting expectantly? How could you apply these ideas to something you’re facing in life right now?
Lesson 2 – Faith Acts
1. How can exercising your faith make it grow stronger?
2. What evidence did the Apostle Peter give to show that he was really trying to exercise his faith? What were some of the end results of his spiritual workouts?
Lesson 3 – Faith Heals
1. Whose faith seemed to be at work in the healing of the crippled man at the temple? On whose name did they call for the healing?
2. Have you ever prayed for someone’s healing at the time they asked for it, right there in front of them, or on the phone with them, or in an email to them? If not, are you willing to try it?
Lesson 4 – Faith Saves
1. Why did Jesus tell the woman who wiped His feet with her tears, “your faith has saved you”? And from what, exactly, had she been saved?
2. What is so unique about Jesus that caused Peter and John to say, “Salvation comes from no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved”? Why can’t we call out to some other religious leader to save us?
3. If you’ve never asked Jesus to save you, are you ready yet to put your faith in Him?
Lesson 5 – Faith Obeys
1. How did Peter and John display their faith when told to stop preaching in the name of Jesus? Who did they decide to obey, even when faced with death?
2. What words did Jesus use as the ultimate model of a faith that is willing to obey God regardless of the cost? Is there something in your life that God might be wanting you to step out in faith and obey?
Lesson 6 – Faith Fills
1. Stephen was described as a man who was “full of faith.” What are some ways you can become “faith full,” too?
2. What role did C.S. Lewis’ friends play in helping him move from simply believing in God in general, to putting his faith in Christ specifically? How can other believers help you to increase your faith in Christ as well?
Lesson 7 – Faith Speaks
1. Why did Jesus say we wouldn’t have to be afraid to speak when He calls us to speak (see Matthew 10:26-28)? How did Stephen put this into practice?
2. Stephen’s words from 2,000 years ago are still echoing throughout the centuries, thanks to what biblical principle (see Isaiah 55:11)? How can that principle encourage you to speak the words God has given you?
Lesson 8 – Faith Explains
1. Why do you think the Ethiopian eunuch couldn’t understand the scriptures he was reading by himself? Was he just not smart enough, or was there some other reason?
2. How can you take encouragement to explain the Scriptures to others based on the eunuch’s response to Philip?
Lesson 9 – Faith Surrenders
1. Why are people asked to raise their hands when they surrender? And why might God want you raise your hands when surrendering to His will?
2. What can keep people from surrendering completely to God’s will? Is there anything holding you back from surrendering completely to Him as well?
Lesson 10 – Faith Gives
1. Why do you think God took notice of Cornelius’ gifts? What did God do for Cornelius in response?
2. Why would an increasing faith and trust in God also lead to an increasing willingness to give? Are there needs around you that God might want to meet through your prayers and gifts?
Lesson 11 – Faith Includes
1. Why did it take faith―and a vision from God―for Peter to be willing to go to Cornelius’ house? Why might Acts 4:12 sound “exclusive” to some people, while to others it sounds supremely “inclusive”?
2. What is it about Jesus that makes Him unique among all other religious leaders, past or present? On whose shoulders does the choice lie whether you’re included or excluded–saved or unsaved–in Christ’s kingdom?
3. If you’ve never made the choice to put your faith and trust in Christ, are you ready yet?
Lesson 12 – Faith Prays
1. What’s the difference between praying in fear and praying in faith, even though both can certainly be done “in earnest”? What attitudes and actions might accompany your prayers if you were to pray in faith (like carrying an umbrella when praying for rain!)?
2. What might be different in your own prayers if you were to pray in faith rather than praying in fear?
Lesson 13 – Faith Fasts
1. Why might fasting help to intensify, deepen, or accelerate your prayers―and the answers that come from those prayers?
2. What role has fasting played in your own prayer life? What role would you like it to play?
Lesson 14 – Faith Persists
1. What seemed to motivate Paul and Barnabas to persist in their faith, even in the face of tremendous opposition? How might that same thing motivate you?
2. Is there a specific area in your life where you’re tempted to throw in the towel? How can the words of Jesus (in Hebrews 12:2) and of Paul (in Philippians 3:14) encourage you to press on in your faith?
Lesson 15 – Faith Purifies
1. Why is it that all of our hand-wringing can’t wash away our own sin? Why is it that putting our faith and trust in Christ can do it?
2. Although Christ has already died for our sins, what do we need to do in order to “purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)? Is there anything you’d like to confess to God today?
Lesson 16 – Faith Sings
1. How might singing to God have influenced Paul and Silas’ prayers to God? How might singing to God influence your prayers to Him?
2. Have you ever experienced a change of heart through singing, as King David seems to have experienced in Psalm 5? Why not try singing to God today?
Lesson 17 – Faith Examines
1. What were the Bereans looking for in the Scriptures as Paul spoke to them about Jesus? While “examining the Scriptures” for some could be an indication of their lack of faith, why did it seem to be a demonstration of faith on the part of the Bereans?
2. Do you have questions about Jesus that you’d like to have answered more fully? How could examining the Scriptures help you to discover your answers?
Lesson 18 – Faith Works
1. What role did making tents seem to play in Paul’s commitment to preaching the gospel? How does secular work compare to ministry work in your own mind?
2. Why did Jesus tell His disciples to “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field”? How do you feel God might want you to balance―or shift the balance―of secular work and ministry work in your own life?
Lesson 19 – Faith Baptizes
1. What did Paul say was the difference between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism? In what ways did God change and empower the twelve men who Paul baptized that day?
2. What level of importance do you place on baptism when sharing the good news of Christ? In light of Jesus’ “great commission” to His disciples, and the example of the various stories cited throughout the book of Acts, what what level of importance does God seem to place on baptism?
3. Have you been baptized? And if not, would you like to be?
Lesson 20 – Faith Resurrects
1. Why might Paul say so confidently in Romans 8:10-11 that the Spirit of God can give life to our mortal bodies? If God’s Spirit can resurrect those who have physically died, what other kinds of “resurrections” could perform?
2. Is there any area of your life where you could use a dose of God’s resurrection power? How can Paul’s experience of praying for Eutychus encourage you to pray for your situation?
Lesson 21 – Faith Dies
1. Is it contradictory to say that faith in Christ can both raise people from the dead, as well as lead people to their deaths? How can such different results come from the same faith?
2. How does Paul reconcile these two outcomes, according to his words in Romans 14:7-8? As difficult as it may be to answer, are you ready―as Paul was ready―to die for the name of the Lord Jesus?
Lesson 22 – Faith Testifies
1. What could have happened, and did happen many times, when Paul shared his testimony with others? Why didn’t he stop?
2. When considering sharing your testimony, what might be the response of some of the listeners, both positive and negative? What role can “timing” and “audience” play in determining when to share your testimony?
Lesson 23 – Faith Keeps A Clear Conscience
1. How can sand in your shoes eventually turn into a big problem? What other kinds of things can creep into our lives, perhaps even in relatively harmless ways at first, but could eventually turn into big problems?
2. In what ways can having a clear conscience help you in your life? Are there any areas where sand is getting in your shoes, and it’s time to dump it out?
Lesson 24 – Faith Flees
1. While faith often calls us to take a stand for what we believe, what are some examples from today’s lesson that suggest that it can sometimes be just as faith-full to flee a dangerous situation?
2. Have you ever had to exercise your faith to flee from a fight, rather than stand up to it? How did you know which way God wanted you to go?
Lesson 25 – Faith Appeals
1. Was Paul defying authority, or exercising his authority, by appealing to Caesar? What did Paul say in his speech in Acts 25:10-11 regarding his willingness to submit to the decision? If you’re willing to appeal, are you also willing to submit to the decision?
2. How did God say He would use this appeal process for His glory in Acts 23:11? How could God use an appeal for justice in your life?
Lesson 26 – Faith Models
1. While Paul could have sounded prideful by hoping that King Agrippa would become like him, what was at the heart of what Paul said? How can asking others to follow your lead be helpful to them, as Paul asked in 1 Corinthians 11:1?
2. How does your life model what Christ has done for you? How can your words help others to understand the changes that have taken place within you?
Lesson 27 – Faith Warns
1. How did Paul’s first warning to his shipmates help him when he had to give them a second warning, even though they ignored the first? How can your warnings to others help them eventually, even if they ignore your warnings at first?
2. How was Paul able to have such a strong faith in God that things would happen just as God had said? Are there people in your life who could use a good warning right now, based on what you know about God’s will and their lives?
Lesson 28 – Faith Supplies
1. Why were the people of Malta willing to supply Paul’s needs as Paul continued on his way? In what ways had Paul invested in their lives prior to this point?
2. Have you been touched in a special way through someone’s life or ministry? In what ways might you want to offer your thanks to them and help to supply their needs for the future?
Conclusion – The Power of Faith
1. Although the book of Acts doesn’t recorded what eventually happened to Paul, what do you think happened to him? Do you think he made it to Rome to testify before Caesar?
2. What are a few of the things that faith helped the earliest believers do, as recorded in the book of Acts? What did Jesus say would be impossible for us, if we put our faith in Him today?
3. In what ways has your faith grown during the course of this study?