Recently, I have been studying about the early Church on the first 100 years of its existence. And even though we often go to the book of Acts and crave the movement and the experiences told about the Pentecost, I often meditate on how it must have been for the next generation right after that Pentecost experience. I know that we want to see miracles, but what happens if we don’t see them? I am not sure what it is that we want sometimes when we talk about experiences instead of transformation.
The early Church after 60AD really suffered. Many were persecuted, tortured, mocked, burned, and experienced a pain for the sake of Christ that a lot of us on this side of the world have never experienced. And I wonder, what was the evidence of them being filled with the Spirit? They were not miraculously delivered but instead were only strengthened and filled with a boldness that is hard to understand combined with an inexplicable joy.
I must be honest, I sometimes think that we want the Holy Spirit to fix our problems, but what if the Holy Spirit only wants to strengthen us through the trials. I don’t have the answer, but I know that each one of us know, and will know how close we are to God the Father, and we will know if the Holy Spirit is with us when we go through trials.
I only wish I can have the courage to stand firm on my faith in Christ when trouble comes; because it will come.
Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle and aged bishop of Smyrna was martyred in the middle of the second century and is a great example of boldness and courage for Christ.
Dragged before the proconsul in the year 155, Polycarp bore with dignity the taunts and jeers of the mob in the crowded stadium. Before him stood the altar of Roma; a pinch of incense dropped in the flame would suffice. The magistrate was not unkind.
"Remember your age," he said. "Swear by the divinity of Caesar?"
Others urged the old man. "What harm is there is saying Lord Caesar....swear by him ...curse this Christ.”
Polycarp looked at him steadfastly.
"Eighty and six years have I served Him and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?" [He responded].
And they led him away, like the thousands before and after him who were tortured and burned, stoned by the mobs, torn apart by the wild beasts of the arena, or crucified in imitation of the Lord for whom they served.
May be next time we feel overwhelmed by the inconveniences of life, we can be reminded that in Christ we have life; eternal life. And that the Holy Spirit can certainly strengthen us and fill us with joy no matter what we go through.
(Powel Mills Dawley, Ph.D., Chapters in Church History, New York, The National Council, 1950, p. 17).