“Whack-a-Mole” is that wonderful arcade game where each time an adversary is “whacked”, the mole pops up again somewhere else.
The actions and faith of the apostles of the early church resembles that of the Whack-a-Mole game. Where despite being “whacked” by the Sadducees, the apostles of Jesus just kept on popping up again and again to proclaim the name of the Lord even stronger than before.
While we see evidence of “Whack-a-Mole” faith all over the Bible nowhere is it more prevalent in the accounts of the apostles as chronicled in Act 5:17-41.
In these verses we see examples of great faith as the apostles’ deal with the “whacks” – being knocked down and “moles” – getting back up with even more power and greater grace.
Whack: The apostles are arrested by the jealous high priest (Acts 5:17-18)
Moles: During the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. The angel commanded the apostles to “tell the people all about this new life”. (Acts 5:19-21)
Then at day break the apostles entered into the temple courts to proclaim the Word of God.
Whack: When the apostles were discovered teaching at the Temple Courts instead of being in jail they were rearrested and brought to be questioned by the high priest who said: “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” (Act 5:24)
Moles: Peter and the other apostles responded by saying “We must obey God rather than human beings! (Act 5:29)
Whack: When they heard this, the chief priest and his associate were furious, and started calling for putting the apostles to death. (Act 5:33)
Moles: Hearing this, Gamaile a respected Pharisee teacher of the law, argued that the apostles should not be put to death saying: “Consider carefully what you do to these men” (Act 5:35)
Gamaile then recounted incidences where authorities killed two apostles Thedas and Judas. The tumult these situations caused increased the passion for Jesus instead of damping them as the authorities had hoped.
Gamaile ended his plea to the chief priest and his associates with this warning: “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” His speech persuaded the chief priest to spare the lives of the apostles. (Act 5:38-39)
Whack: The chief priest and his associates called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
Moles: Then the apostles left, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name of the Lord.
What can we learn from all these Whacks and Moles?
1. Believers will be whacked for their faith
Blessing and hardships are part about the Christian life. The apostles “left everything” to follow Christ, and the Lord promised them “a hundred times as much” blessing in return (Mark 10:28-30).
However, Jesus also warned that all who follow Him must deny themselves and bear a daily cross (Luke 9:23).
2. Despite the whacks we must keep on proclaiming God
Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 puts the whacks of the Christian life in perspective: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Therefore despites the whacks we should do as the apostles did “Keep on rejoicing in the Lord at all times. I will say it again: Keep on rejoicing!” Philippians 4:4
3. The hardship of our whacks have a purpose
God is the source of everything in our lives all the goodness, all the joy and yes even all the suffering.
Like the apostles the purpose of our suffering is to be refined by God for greater service.
God in Isaiah 48:10 explains His refinement strategy on our behalf: See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this”
For emphasis, God repeats the phase “for my own sake” to remind us that we grow closer to God in our suffering.
The Success Of the Apostles Whack-a-Mole Faith
The Whack-A-Mole game is designed to increase speed as play continues with more moles appearing along the way.
The success of the apostles can be measured by the increase in the “moles” – Disciples of Christ that they produced. This is the real testament of the apostle’s suffering in support of Jesus call in the great commission. That made “moles” of you and me.
However with this increase in “moles” the forces of evil have also increased the number and the brutality of the whacks.
Despite in what would some suggest a more difficult environment than the apostles faced. But God is still with us providing, guidance, love and protection against the whacks of our lives.
Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:3 provides us with a template for having “Whack-a-Mole” faith when he says this: “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”