"And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews." Acts 12:11
Thomas Goold, a leading property owner in 17th century Charlestown, Massachusetts and a wagon maker by trade, created quite a stir. He, the writer of the Confession of Faith for the Charlestown Church began to openly espouse Anabaptist doctrines. Along with Mr. And Mrs Osborn, he caused such concern that the leaders were compelled to write the first records of discipline in the First Parish Church of Charlestown, April 6, 1658.
"...it was consented to by the brethren that his wife [Mrs. Osborn], leavened with principles of Anabaptisme and Quakerisme, should receive an admonition for her notorious neglect of the publique worship of God, denying our churches to be true churches, and denying her membership with us,..."The end result: excommunication.
These people would be removed from the care and protection of the community. For taking a stand, Thomas Goold would lose not only his social standing but eventually be fined on many occasions, and when he refused to pay the fines, imprisoned.
But Mr. Goold did not focus on the bad. He saw God's hand. When messengers of the church came to argue that he had lied regarding a date for baptism of his child, he recognized God's protection. A friend, who had borrowed his breeches, found the letter confirming Goold's words in the pocket. He also recognized God's protection in having his friend there at the time of this confrontation.
Based on what I have read, I wonder if Mr. Goold still waivered in his convictions at this early date of his trials. I wonder if God saw fit to use this time of testing to help Mr. Goold see God's protection so that he would trust God in future events.
When Peter was arrested, James the brother of John had already been killed by Herod. No doubt Peter feared he'd meet the same end. Yet God spared him. Did that mean Peter would never again face dangers? Not at all. History tells us he was crucified upside down. But between this arrest and his death, Peter would have much work to do for the Lord and would require great faith and trust in God.
As a chapel speaker at a children's camp, I'd listen to girls tell stories of how they hid their Bible under their beds so as not to provoke the anger of their mothers. Or tell of threats by other children in their school yard because they profess the name of Jesus. They, even as young children, stood by their conviction of faith and endured.
Today we see many Christian businessmen and women facing a financial noose. Like Thomas Goold, because of their convictions they may lose all they have gained via fines, and others will suffer because of the stand they take. I wonder if they, like Thomas Goold and Peter, see God's hand and are encouraged to persevere.
While I read through the documents of our past and rejoice at the battles for freedom fought and won, I marvel at how quickly we are giving up those freedoms. Can you not see the similarities between what Mr. Goold experienced and what those Christian businessmen today who are taking a stand on their convictions are enduring? Even if you do not agree, surely you can see how we are going backward instead of forward in freedom.
We must pray. We can pray for the troubles to be removed, but we must also recognize that God may have a plan higher and greater than our own. The persecution the church in Jerusalem experienced caused them to run to other locations. The apostles had been given a commission:
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8They had not yet gone to the uttermost part of the earth. Comfortable, enjoying the fellowship of others and the growth of the church, they stayed in Jerusalem until God scattered them by using persecution as a catalyst.
Every trial comes for a purpose. Whatever we endure can stand as a testimony of God's work in us and through us, if we chose to look for His hand. Thomas Goold, admonished and put away from the church, could well have been left alone, but God had another plan.
"Now after this, considering with myself what the Lord would have me to do; not likely to join with any of the churches of New England any more, and so to be without the ordinances of Christ; in the meantime God sent out of Old England some who were Baptists;..."Again Goold saw God's hand. He gave God the glory for the relief and encouragement he received.
Thomas Goold, quoted by Nathan Eusebius Wood, The History of the First Baptist Church of Boston (1665-1899) p. 50.
What about you? Is your faith proven by your ability to see God's hand in your circumstance? Does seeing His hand in your situation strengthen your resolve to stand by your convictions?
I am praying for our country and for those men and women who courageously remain resolute against those who seek to take away their freedom. I also pray that when the testing of my faith comes, I will be counted among the faithful and found to be without compromise.
"My breathren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers tempations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience...
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."