Bible Study with Jairus – Acts 3
During exhausting and depleting times, we all yearn for rest, refreshment, restoration, and hope. Acts 3:19 promises a wonderful blessing to God’s people: “times of refreshing” which come straight “from the presence of the Lord.” (NASB)
These times of refreshing are not just a vague memory from the past or a vague hope for the future. Instead, they are a present reality that we can experience every day. When we repent and turn away from our daily worry and wandering away from God, we can experience these “times of refreshing” anytime and anywhere. Hebrews 4:11 (ESV) says: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” As we call on the Lord’s name and enter His presence, God saves us from worries and brings us into his rest.
Surfing the Waves of God’s Working
In Acts, we see Peter being used greatly by God. But we also see him stumbling greatly. On the one hand, he healed lame people and performed miracles. On the other hand, he cowered in the face of legalistic Jews, pretending he didn’t care about the Gentile Christians. Even Barnabas was led astray by Peter’s hypocrisy.
This discrepancy demonstrates a profound interaction between human and divine effort in the early church. When Peter cooperated with the Holy Spirit, he performed great acts of service for the Lord. But when he got out of step with the Holy Spirit, he fell and failed.
The Holy Spirit can be compared to a puppeteer who directs the puppets, and believers can be compared to the puppets acting on the stage of life. Unlike a puppeteer, however, God does not control us or force us to act a certain way. Instead, we can liken God’s influence to ocean waves. The power of the Holy Spirit can carry us along, like a wave carries a surfer. When a surfer stays in sync with the waves, he will surf the waves and troughs. But when he gets out of sync with the motion and rhythm of the waves, he will be knocked over. Overwhelmed, he will crash to the ground. A surfer needs to understand the wave patterns and how waves move so that he can move in cooperation with the waves’ power.
In the same way, if we move in sync with the Holy Spirit, we rise to new heights. However, if we fail to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, or fail to grasp the wave patterns, we may get stuck or fall. Rather than a powerful force to propel us forward, the waves have become a force that hinders us and even kills us. When we don’t stay in sync with the Spirit, we will be overwhelmed by worldly trends, worries, and opposition from the enemy. However, when we let his power propel us forward, we can thrive—even during times of opposition and difficulty.
Persecution in the Book of Acts
On the one hand, the book of Acts retells the history of the church. It recounts powerful preaching and miracles performed by the apostles through the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, it is also the history of their constant persecution. After Peter rebuked the Jews for crucifying Jesus, he suffered for it. Paul was later flogged and mistreated, just like the Lord Jesus. Peter was imprisoned.
Why is there so much persecution in the book of Acts? When we demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, Satan will do everything he can to hinder us. This is a clash between two kingdoms, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light.
Wherever the Lord Jesus or the apostles went, they aroused fierce resistance from the evil spirits.
One way to know whether we are filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is by asking ourselves whether we have encountered persecution and opposition. If there is no opposition or persecution in our lives, perhaps we do not pose a threat to the evil spirits. We can infer that the power of the Holy Spirit is lacking in our lives.
The more I seek the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit, the more opposition I face. Although
I am deeply disturbed by these unprecedented attacks, I accept them as an inevitable part of following Jesus.
We Christians not only face outward pressures, potentially including imprisonment, but we also are subjected to inward pressures, such as fear and worry. Our fear and lack of confidence keep us from riding the waves of God’s power.
Prophetic dreams: big bowl of noodles and small bowl of noodles
Acts 3:19-20 says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Let’s dive in deeper and seek to understand what God means by these “times of refreshing.” This verse looks forward to the millennial kingdom, a future time of restoration that God has promised. However, we can begin to experience this blessing right now. If we draw near to God with prayer and faith, we can have a foretaste of God’s promised blessings today.
In a church meeting, one of the men in our church shared a testimony about his stressful job. He shared that as a stockbroker, he handled tens of millions of dollars in transactions every day. He realized that if he made the wrong decision, it could cost the company millions. He had never dealt with such large amounts of money before. Sometimes the stress of his responsibility kept him up at night.
Two days before the meeting where he shared this burden, I had a dream about him. In the dream, I was eating noodles with him. I had washed two small bowls and was preparing to make noodles for the both of us. Suddenly, I saw a huge bowl appear. It was as big as a jar. I heard a voice saying, “That bowl is too big, you can’t eat such a big bowl of noodles right now.”
I have been having prophetic dreams since 2015. God often speaks to me and those around me through prophetic dreams. God speaks to me with personalized metaphors and imagery. As a Chinese immigrant, I have many dreams about eating noodles. Slowly I began to understand that God used “noodles” to represent “food”, which demonstrates his provision.
Since God instructs us to comfort, strengthen, and encourage others through prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:3), I shared this dream with him. I knew he was under a lot of pressure. I then asked the believers in our meeting to share their inspiration with him.
The man’s wife shared that this dream reminded her of the story of five loaves and two fishes, which teaches us that God will give us even greater blessings through our small contribution. Because of his excellent upbringing and streamlined journey through college and into his career, it was easy for him to depend on himself. His current difficulties would help him rely on God’s strength and support, rather than on his own ability.
My wife had an important insight to share. She wondered if God had chosen me and this man to work together. God was preparing us for future cooperation and service. He wants us to band together to preach the gospel to the Chinese people. I was preparing to serve the Chinese by studying theology and Bible truth, and perhaps God had sent this man to me so we could serve together. Perhaps he will use his financial acumen to help me manage my finances in the future. Or perhaps God will bless him financially so he can make large contributions for His kingdom.
The ministry God will give us in the future may be huge, just like that big bowl of noodles. But our capacity is still small right now, and God will continue to increase it. What this man is currently experiencing may be a process through which God increases his capacity. Perhaps God is allowing him to go through a lot of pressure so he can realize his endless potential. After he has gone through this difficult process, he will find that his capacity has increased.
I also shared my own insights. I think we need to focus on serving God in the present and achieving the things within our reach. Although the large bowl of noodles seemed like a promise, the voice said, “You can’t eat such a large bowl right now.” We must take things one step at a time and slowly increase our capacity.
I shared with this man that recently I’ve been very busy. There have been so many things I needed to do. I was not efficient enough to multitask and complete all the tasks I was hoping to do. So I made some adjustments. I decided to focus my entire energy on whatever I was doing at the moment. If I only have 20 minutes to pray, I will focus entirely on praying, instead of praying for 20 minutes and thinking about things for 20 minutes in my 40-minute prayer time. Although I only have 20 minutes to pray, my mind is completely focused on praying, which is actually more effective. In all of our daily tasks, we will be much more efficient if we concentrate on one thing at a time.
It is very difficult for us to focus. Many people find themselves procrastinating, unable to focus. Because of their half-hearted attitude, they get very little accomplished. In reality, the ability to focus is strengthened through our spiritual disciplines and our fellowship with God. Meeting with the Lord every day, listening quietly to his voice, taking time to be still, and fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit will increase our ability to focus.
Every morning, I pray for at least half an hour. At noon, I set aside time for contemplative Bible reading and meditation on God’s word. In the past, I would also fast and pray once a week. These habits help me stay in the presence of the Lord and stay in sync with the “waves” of the Holy Spirit. They help me keep in step with the Spirit and follow in his footsteps. As we keep in touch with God, we can surf the waves and ride the wind. As our lives flow in rhythm with the Holy Spirit, we will do great things.
However, if we lack fellowship with the Lord, the same force that helped us move forward will become a force that suppresses us. If we neglect our fellowship with the Lord for a long time, we will find that we are overwhelmed by the forces of work and life. Why? Because the Lord is a river of living water within us; He always flows out of us. He is a powerful force. Only when He flows out of us can we withstand the pressure from the world.
We can compare God’s power in our lives to centrifugal and centripetal force. The Lord attracts us towards heaven, just like the moon or other planets attract the earth. His centrifugal force pulls us towards our eternal home. In addition, the Lord is at the center of our being, attracting inward closeness to him. This is an inward or centripetal force. As we maintain a balance between these two forces, we can stay strong against outside pressures. Without the inner strength that comes from fellowship with the Lord, the pressures we are facing will crush us.
Christ is our center. We must focus on Him. When we focus on Christ and his word, rivers of living water will flow out of us. Just like this man, the stress of this life can keep us from resting in Christ. The more we fellowship with the Lord, the more inner strength we will receive from Him, which can help us beat all of our worries and pressures. As we allow God to set us free from worry and the pressures of this life, we will enter the “times of refreshing” mentioned in Acts 3:19.
Prayer and repentance bring times of refreshing
Like this man, many Christians lack the inner strength that comes from fellowship with the Lord. They are overwhelmed by the busyness and pressures of the world, and their lives are full of worries. When we are overwhelmed and stressed, we must ask God to help us enter the rest he has prepared. We must prioritize our fellowship with God. We must let go of our busy lives and focus on worshiping, praying, reading God’s word, and waiting on Him. As he delivers us from our stressful lives of hurry, we will enter God’s rest and peace. The more we practice a disciplined and quiet life, the more we will grow in our ability to focus. Even when we are outwardly busy, we will be able to enjoy God’s rest on the inside. We will be able to maintain our focus and concentration, get twice the results with half the effort, and become highly efficient.
The beauty of the Chinese language contains hidden wisdom to help us understand these concepts. For example, The character “忙” (busyness) is composed of two parts. On the left is the word “heart” and on the right is the word “dead”. It means that when we are busy and preoccupied with worldly tasks, our hearts are dead. Paul said that setting our minds on the spirit brings life, but setting our minds on the flesh brings death (Romans 8:6).
True repentance includes a change in attitude as well as a change in behavior. The former is aimed at our heart, while the latter is aimed at our life. If we really want to repent before God, we must change our attitude and our actions. For example, if we repent of being busy, but make no changes to our busy lifestyle, our repentance has no practical worth. We must actually set aside time to pray and connect with the Lord. We must schedule time for spiritual practices such as prayer, praise, reading the scriptures, speaking in tongues, etc.
The Holy Spirit is a river of living water. He promises that those who believe in Him will have rivers of living water within them (John 7:37). Our responsibility is to have fellowship with Him, remove the mud and stones that block the channels of his love, and allow the rivers of living water to flow out of us without hindrance.
We don’t need to wait for the millennial kingdom to have “times of refreshing”. This future promise is real. Like the big bowl of noodles I shared about earlier, it is a promise for the future. But today, we can start enjoying the small bowl of noodles. We can increase our capacity and grow our ability to focus on the present. We can repent from our busy lives and focus on the Lord. In this way, our sins will be wiped away and we will experience times of refreshing every day. The inner peace and strength brought by fellowship with the Lord will prevent us from being entangled in worldly trends, and will help us surf the waves of God’s love. In the strength of the Holy Spirit, we will impact the world like Peter did.
 All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.