In a now famous hall of fame speech Deion Sanders told us exactly what motivated him to become one of the greatest football players of all time. What kept him sprinting when he was exhausted? What got him up at four am every morning when he was tired? What gave him the extra strength to do ten more push-ups when the average person would just give up? The answer? His Mama. He said,
I was ashamed of my Mama. My Mama worked in a hospital. She pushed a cart in a hospital. I was ashamed of my Mama, who sacrificed everything for me to make sure I was best-dressed in school. One of my friends in high school saw her pushing a cart and clowned me because of my Mama. So I made a pledge to myself that I don’t care what it takes, I’m not gonna do anything illegal, but my Mama would never have to work another day of her life.
As motivated as Deion Sanders was, his motivation paled in comparison to the disciples. Peter, John and the rest were arguably the most motivated people in history. They were bold, courageous and literally turning the world upside down.
Then you add John 20:18 and it changes everything. Jesus says,
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.
Jesus tells Peter that he will die on a cross. That is the only way to explain that verse. Well, reading his five sermons in Acts (Acts 2:14-39; Acts 3:11-4:4; Acts 4:8-12; Acts 5:29-32; Acts 10:34-43) takes a whole new meaning when you include the fact that he knew he could die at any moment. This could be his last sermon.
So what motivated these guys? How can we be as bold as they were?
Well in order to see what motivated them we don’t need to look further than the first eleven verses of the book of Acts. Here are four powerful truths that made the disciples the boldest individuals in history.
They were chosen by Christ
… until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. (Acts 1:2)
Luke right away reminds us that these were the guys who were hand picked by Jesus. Throughout Jesus’ ministry He loved reminding them of this truth. In John 15:16 he says, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit…” Not only were they thankful to Christ for choosing them, but they were motivated by the fact that their Creator hand picked them for a task, the huge task of going out into the world and making disciples.
The truth is that it is no different for us. Christ literally chooses you as well, for salvation, but he doesn’t stop there. He chose you before the foundation of the world in order that you would be an ambassador for him (2 Cor 5:20). He has hand picked you to be his mouthpiece and to glorify him with your life. His incredible love towards us should compel us to boldly proclaim Him to the world (2 Cor 5:14).
They witnessed the resurrection
To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God… (Acts 1:3)
The disciples had witnessed a miracle. They knew Christ was dead. John and Mary and probably others had witnessed his death. Nicodemus carried his dead body to the tomb. Everyone knew he died, and yet He was raised from the dead and spoke to them for 40 days. While witnessing a miracle cannot bring you to salvation (Luke 16:31) it certainly can give a believer the boldness and an added level of trust in the truth of God.
But there is a sense in which we are better off. We believe and yet have not seen. Jesus tells Thomas in John 20:29, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” The fact that we believe in the resurrection of Christ is an absolute miracle. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 18 that it is foolishness to those who are perishing. And yet you believe this, sitting wherever you are, you believe Christ was raised from the dead. Not only is this an incredible miracle and should give you confidence in your salvation, it should propel you to be bold and confident in sharing your faith to the world.
They had the Holy Spirit
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.
Jesus tells the disciples that the Holy Spirit will be living in them for the duration of their earthly lives. A member of the Trinity will allow them to do things that are beyond understanding. It interesting that whenever Scripture talks about being filled with the Spirit it usually has to do with the fact that individuals are being faithful. They are fighting sin and living in obedience to Christ. This isn’t a feeling or something you can capture through an emotional experience. It is by walking in obedience to Christ. The command to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18 in its context is a call to be imitators of God as it says in Ephesians 5:1. And the disciples were great examples of a consistent and pure walks with the Lord.
While unlike them we are incapable of performing miracles, the Holy Spirit dwells in us as well. He is performing miracles even in our own life. He gives us understanding of Scripture (1 Cor 2:12-13), He convicts us of sin (John 16:8), and enables us to be effective in evangelism (John 14:26). The fact that the same Holy Spirit lives in you, works in you and empowers you just as He did the disciples, should motivate you to live in obedience to your Savior and open your lips to preach Christ anytime you are around unbelievers, despite the threats.
They believed the second coming was imminent
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.
They watched Jesus disappear into the sky, and they’d probably still be looking up into the sky had the two angels not appeared. Their message was simple, “Jesus will soon be returning, let’s get to work” (Jordan’s paraphrase). I believe this was their greatest motivation. Not only had Christ chosen them, not only had he been resurrected, and not only had He given the Holy Spirit, but He was going to return at any moment. A simple reading of the New Testament shows that the disciples believed that Jesus could come back in their lifetime. In fact, it seems like the early church expected this to happen.
The funny thing (or sad) is that we are two-thousand years closer to His return and it’s barely ever on our minds. Maybe it’s the missing motivation we need to get us off the couch and into the streets preaching repentance. Perhaps its what will cause us to stop wasting time and start working hard for Christ. Maybe thinking about Christ’s return is the motivation we need to finally share the Gospel with our neighbor or coworker who we have wanted to speak with.
The disciples were motivated individuals, they had been chosen by Jesus himself, they had seen and believed His resurrection, they had a member of the Trinity living inside them, and they believed that Jesus’ return was imminent. The same is true of us. I believe that if we recognize these truths we can live lives that are as bold and courageous as theirs.
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