INTRO.- ILL.- A man who had been caught embezzling millions from his employer went to a lawyer seeking defense. He didn’t want to go to jail. But his lawyer told him, "Don’t worry. You’ll never have to go to jail with all that money you have." And the lawyer was right. When the man was sent to prison, he didn’t have a dime.
Prison vs. Work
* IN PRISON...You spend the majority of your time in an 8x10 cell.
* AT WORK....You spend most of your time in a 6x8 cubicle.
* IN PRISON...You get three meals a day.
* AT WORK....You only get a break for 1 meal and you have to pay for it.
* IN PRISON...You get time off for good behavior.
* AT WORK....You get rewarded for good behavior with more work.
* IN PRISON...A guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.
* AT WORK....You must carry around a security card and unlock and open all the doors yourself.
* IN PRISON...You can watch TV and play games.
* AT WORK....You get fired for watching TV and playing games.
* IN PRISON...You get your own toilet.
* AT WORK....You have to share.
* IN PRISON...All expenses are paid by taxpayers with no work required.
* AT WORK....You get to pay all the expenses to go to work and then they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.
* IN PRISON...You spend most of your life looking through bars from the inside wanting to get out.
* AT WORK....You spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars.
* IN PRISON...There are wardens who are often sadistic.
* AT WORK....They are called supervisors.
Prison might be better than some work places but I still don’t want to go there!
Peter was imprisoned for doing something good. Most of the time people go to prison for doing bad things. Peter was spreading the gospel of Christ and was imprisoned for it, but apparently, he took it in stride, knowing that anyone who would follow Jesus would also be persecuted.
John 15:19-20 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ’No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also."
In one sense, we’re all in prison. How so? There are all kinds of prisons. The prisons of doubt, fear, disbelief, greed, lust, anger, jealousy, power, etc. All these and more have imprisoned us at times. We are a prisoner to these desires or emotions. Some of these are so powerful that they keep us from living the abundant life that Jesus talked about.
What are we to do when we know we’re imprisoned and can’t get out but want out? We look up. Jesus is the only person who can make things right when things go wrong!
PROP.- While Peter was in prison some things were happening. 1- the church was praying 2- the angel was working 3- the apostle was waiting
I. THE CHURCH WAS PRAYING
5So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. THE CHURCH WAS PRAYING.
ILL.- One day the minister visited a hard-working farmer who was in his congregation. The minister marveled at the change in the farm, from dilapidated buildings and poor, worn-out land to modern, brightly-painted buildings and rich, abundant cropland. “My, Bill,” said the minister, “the Lord and you have certainly worked wonders with this farm.”
“Yes,” replied the farmer laconically, “but you should have seen the place when the Lord had it by Himself.”
Sometimes in life we humans think we are pretty good at what we do. In fact, we might even wonder what the Lord could do without us. WRONG! It’s the reverse of what we should be thinking. It should be: what would we do without the Lord’s help in life?
We don’t get anywhere in life that is good without the Lord’s help and blessing! Some people don’t believe this but I am convinced of it. Therefore, it seems only natural that we need His help every time we turn around.
We shouldn’t open our eyes without offering a prayer of thanks to Him. We shouldn’t take a drink of water to our lips without saying "thank you, Lord." We shouldn’t ingest one bite of food without giving thanks. We shouldn’t receive one paycheck from anyone without praising God for it. IF IT’S GOOD, IT’S FROM THE LORD!
Now likewise, when life gets tough we need to seek Him, seek His will, His blessing, His help, His grace. I’m saying that we should be a praying people! The church should be praying. We should be praying privately and congregationally. In church and out of the church. Anywhere and everywhere. Driving, etc.
Matthew 7:7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
II Cor. 1:10-11 "He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers."
Eph. 6:18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."
Phil. 1:19 "Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance."
Phil. 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
Col. 4:2-3 "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains." It sounds to me like we should be a praying people!
5So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
Whenever a brother or a sister is burdened or is in trouble, etc. we should be praying for them! That’s what the church did for Peter. And knowing that people are praying for you can make a big difference in life.
This is probably one of the best things, if not THE best thing that we could ask of others.
ILL.- Walter Knight wrote: The ancient church had a minimum of organization, but it had a maximum of power. The average church today has a maximum of organization but tragically lacks power. Dr. G. Campbell Morgan once warned, “One of Satan’s methods today is to start so many organizations in a church that the members have no time for unhurried communion with God. Many Christians are so busy that they can hear only the clink and clatter of church machinery.” Too often we are over-organized and under-agonized.
Let’s pray! Let’s pray more! Let’s more fervently! Let’s pray more believing prayer! Let’s pray more for others!
II. THE ANGEL WAS WORKING
You know about angels, don’t you? If not, here’s what some kids are saying or are teaching about angels.
ILL.- Olive, 9 "It’s not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to heaven, then there’s still the flight training to go through. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes."
Mitchell, 7 "My guardian angel helps me with math, but he’s not much good for science."
Henry, 8 "Angels don’t eat, but they drink milk from Holy Cows!"
Daniel, 9 "When an angel gets mad, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And when he lets out his breath, somewhere there’s a tornado."
Reagan, 10 "Angels have a lot to do and they keep very busy. If you lose a tooth, an angel comes in through your window and leaves money under your pillow. Then when it gets cold, angels go north for the Winter."
Jared , 8 "All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn’t go for it."
Vicki, 8 "What I don’t get about angels is why, when someone is in love, they shoot arrows at them."
The angel was working, speaking, etc. Angels are supposed to work, are they not? Do you mean we’re going to work in heaven? I don’t know but the angels do.
6The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him.
Heb. 1:14 "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"
Angels were created by God to work and serve. He made them to serve us! To serve His children. Guardian angels. We’ve always heard of such but didn’t know for sure and I suspect that we all have them or have at least one.
ILL.- When I was 18 years old I had a car wreck that totaled my old 55 Chevy. I went through a curve that was probably a 20 mph curve, only I was doing 50. There was no way I was going to navigate that curve. I knew that I was going to wreck my car. I saw a telephone pole ahead of me and just knew I was going to hit it head on. I didn’t know what to do except to lie down in the front seat of my car. I did and then I felt my car thrashing all over the place and crashing through something.
It wasn’t until my car stopped that I knew what had happened. Instead of hitting that telephone pole head on, I went between the guy wire and the telephone pole. And then I hit and destroyed a farmer’s wooden fence.
I totaled my car, but I simply opened the door and got out without a scratch. Why was I not hurt? Why did I not hit that telephone pole head on? Why did I survive when others had been killed in similar accidents?
I can’t honestly say that it was because an angel protected me, but I do believe that the Lord spared me in a miraculous way. And I believe that He has done this sort of thing for millions of people, time and time again. We apparently do have angles watching over us.
In Peter’s case, the angel’s appearance was rather obvious. He appeared with a light and actually touched Peter. Struck him! Woke him up!
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL? Maybe you have and didn’t know it but Peter knew it. And that angel directed Peter in what to do. He said, "Follow me." It’s better to follow an angel or someone angelic than someone devilish. Bad company corrupts good morals.
ILL.- There’s a painting that depicts a Christian farmer who has left his plow and turned aside in the early glow of morning to pray. The outstanding thing about the picture, however, is that while the man is lifting his heart to God, an angel is going on with the plowing for him! It may be that while we are praying, angels are working!
III. THE APOSTLE WAS WAITING
6The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Peter, the apostle was waiting. What was he doing? First, he was sleeping. Why? He was in prison. Was he nuts or what? Not only was Peter sleeping, he was also sleeping between two soldiers. Some nerve he had! No, some faith he had!
ILL.- Elaine has to read every night in order to go to sleep. When I get in bed I can generally go to sleep in a minute or two. That aggravates Elaine that I can do that. Of course, when you’re right with God, you can always go right to sleep. If not, you might not be able to go to sleep quickly.
NO, the reason I can go to sleep quickly is two-fold: number one is that I’m getting older and I fall asleep very easily....as on the couch, sitting up straight in a chair, behind the wheel of my car, etc. Secondly, I can go to sleep and not worry about much because I do trust the Lord.
I do believe that He will take care of all things and most of the time I try to leave those things with Him instead of worrying over them.
Prov. 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
Trust in the Lord is the answer and the cure for most things in life. Later in this chapter, the inspired writer says these words in verse 24 "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet."
Trusting God to take care of you does relieve a person from a lot of worry and stress and give you better sleep. Best Sominex there is!
ILL.- It was said of Martin Luther that before he learned the secret of living by faith, there were periods of great depression and discouragement in his life. On one occasion, his wife came down to greet him at breakfast, dressed in black. He exclaimed, “Why in the world are you dressed in black?” She replied, “Have you heard that God is dead?” Luther got the point.
Peter’s sleeping was a matter of waiting on the Lord. Sometimes all we can do is wait on the Lord. Trust and wait.
Ps. 37:7-8 "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil."
As much as we may want an answer, sometimes we must pray and wait on the Lord. In His time, He will answer.
Isaiah 40:31 "Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
How long do we have to wait for the Lord to answer us in regard to certain requests and prayers? That is the million dollar question for which I have no answer.
Sometimes God answers quickly, almost instantly, it seems. And sometimes we must wait for years to get an answer.
ILL.- For example, more than half a century ago, George Mueller, that prince of intercessors with God, began to pray for a group of five personal friends. After five years one of them came to Christ. In ten years, two more of them found peace in the same Savior. He prayed on for twenty-five years, and the fourth man was saved. For the fifth he prayed until the time of his death, and this friend, too, came to Christ a few months afterwards. For this latter friend, Mr. Mueller had prayed almost fifty-two years!
Some answers may come slowly. God is God and He knows best.
Acts 12:7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.
Not only was the apostle waiting on the Lord, when God revealed His will to Him, he obeyed, he followed the angel.
That’s a good thing. When God says, "jump," we should say, "how high, Lord?" No, not exactly, but whenever the Lord’s will is clear we should follow Him. If we want to stay out of some trouble we should follow His leading. God often says, "Follow me to the church." Are we listening? He says, "Follow me to your friend and speak for me." Are we listening? He says, "Take time to help that person." Are we listening? He says, "Think of others. Reach out to others." Are we listening? Peter was willing to follow the angel or the Lord’s leading. To be blessed in life we must do the same.
You’ve heard it said that bad things happen to good people.
It’s true and bad things happen to Christian people. What things? Prodigal children, financial drain and disasters, divorce, illness, extreme illness, death, and some innocent people even get put into prison, etc. But these are not always the end of the story! By faith, we trust God to change the end of the story.
ILL.- Remember Job of old? It seemed like everything bad happened to him. He lost everything: he lost all his wealth, all 10 of his children, and he even lost his health. BUT, THOSE THINGS WERE NOT THE END OF THE STORY FOR JOB!
Job 42:10 "After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before."
Job 42:12 "The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first."
How was this possible? How did God turn Job’s life around? First, because God is God. Second, because God loves us with an undying love. Third, because Job trusted God and surrendered to His will. He prayed for his friends who had been so critical of him. That’s when God turned his bad into good. And He can do the same thing for us. But we must trust and obey. Surrender. Wait. Pray and follow.