It was now about 4-5 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Looking back it still fills me with wonder that a bumbling, stumbling group of previously self-absorbed, working-class men like us could have been leading this new Way. Of course we weren’t leading it, we were only doing our part, as each was assigned his task.
The Holy Spirit was in charge. And we were grateful for that.
Although many were afraid of the Sanhedrin, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to our number. Crowds gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that even my shadow might fall on some of them as I passed by.
Can you imagine what this was like for me? The old Peter would have been bursting with pride – silly, self-pride. But I know now it is not so much what I do for the Father, but it is vastly more important what he is doing in me. As I grow closer and deeper in my relationship with him, it is he, not me, who will produce “rivers of living water” flowing from within me.
Reflecting back on those early years I can see that God wanted to display his awesome power and presence through these healings. He did the same in the Gentile churches such as Corinth, where he displayed his power and presence through the gift of tongues.
These obvious and overwhelming displays of the Spirit’s power are meant to confirm to the new Believers that the Holy Spirit is indeed real, he is present, and he is active in the details of our lives. As the Master used to say so often, “The Kingdom of God is here, and you can live in it now.”
But often a new Believer will very early on encounter a challenge, a testing of sorts, or a potential setback. This is simply Satan trying desperately not to lose them to Kingdom living. He knows he has already lost them to the Kingdom, but if he can waylay them early on, they may become discouraged, and therefore distracted and therefore miss the “life to the full” Jesus wants for all of us.
They are still saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
But in those times of testing for these new Believers, the Lord will show up mightily, as a sign of assurance of his presence and his power. The Father allows the new Believer to be tested, but he turns the test into an affirmation of his perfect love.
As we grow more mature in our walk with the Lord, he will allow these times of testing to stretch out a bit longer. He does this simply to strengthen our trust in him. Similar to strengthening our muscles, this extended time of testing requires us to stretch our trust muscles, by praying patiently, and waiting for the Holy Spirit to move.
My trust was about to be tested, as our increasing numbers and increasing miracles were pushing the Sanhedrin to their breaking point.