THE ACTS 9
CHRISTIANITY…HOPE AND HAPPINESS
The experiences of the Apostles in the beginning of their work, recorded here at the first of The Acts, reflects the problem which will be faced throughout the ages, in trying to get the Gospel message across. Peter and John are first arrested after they healed a lame man. Their message conflicted with the beliefs of the Jewish leaders.
Their faith was based in the expectation of an earthly kingdom in which they would have supreme power and rule the world. The message of the Apostles was that all men would share in a kingdom of love and peace, and that it would be an eternal spiritual kingdom with Jesus the risen Christ as the way to God the Father and King.
We may talk about the problems the Apostles faced as they were twice arrested and even threatened with death. However, the Jews faced an even greater problem. They were totally locked into their
position, and their minds were permanently closed to the truth. So,
the Apostles posed a real threat to them. However, the crowds were so solidly on the side of the Apostles that the Jewish leaders were
helpless to do them any overt harm that would be made public. On the second arrest of the Apostles, the Jews had to persuade them to come with them without using force, the account states, because they feared the reaction of the people.
I want you to see the difference in the attitude of the leaders and the attitude of the people, who were also nearly all Jews. The leaders staked their entire lives and all the meaning of their lives on what they thought they would enjoy that this life had to offer. The power
and prestige of an earthly kingdom would be a prize any man on this earth would want. However, the multitudes had no such dream, and saw no meaning or purpose to their, mostly miserable, lives. Even with an earthly kingdom, they could not see themselves in positions of power and privilege.
Therefore, the preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven offered nothing for men to enjoy with their human senses and earthly aspirations. However, it did offer rewards to man’s spiritual needs.
It offered hope and peace. Not things to enjoy, but things to make you happy. There is a great difference in pleasure and happiness. Pleasure is always temporary and can be lost. Happiness is a state of being that leaves all stress and anxiety behind and gives ease to the soul.
“Money can’t buy happiness” is a common adage, often quoted but seldom believed by a hedonistic society today. The greedy quest for money is evident in every advertisement assailing us from TV, news media and on every street and byway we travel. The acquisition of wealth and, in the political arena, the power it brings is a prime motivation for most people today. To get and to have what the world has to offer overrides all other considerations for citizens of our world. But it is transient and evanescent, and there never is enough.
It is unfortunate that many religious leaders and preachers are trying to make Christianity a path to riches, and they would even make Heaven a place of physical joys. They ignore the fact that God wants a personal relationship with His creature, man, and that God is Spirit. The relationship we will have with Him in eternity and our relationship with Him here is not one of earthly joy and pleasure. Jesus promised His disciples that the way ahead in this world was filled with trouble and persecution. What Christianity does offer, and what would make it attractive to the poor and down-trodden of this world, is hope…meaning…a purpose to life, and eternal happiness for the soul in a never ending home with Him.
The basic idea of this essay, that I want you to remember, is that this earth tempts people to seek pleasure and they do, at the cost of a much more lasting and valuable thing called happiness. Happiness is not bought with the coins of this world. They purchase enjoyment and pleasure, which are temporary and fade away. The spiritual coins of eternity purchase peace, and hope and joy, which never fade but last forever. The Jewish leaders wanted power to enjoy, but the multitude found the message of hope so exciting that they thronged after the Apostles who brought the message.