Summary: When Peter was imprisoned in Acts 12, the church in Jerusalem prayed fervently...but not in faith. The results were comical, yet God answered their prayer. This sermons examines the importance of faith in life and especially in our prayers.
Astonished by Answered Prayer!
February 24, 2016
TEXT: Turn in your Bibles please to Acts 12
Have you ever been in a really BAD situation?
JOKE: Three guys are stranded on a desert island, which was bad enough. Then they find a magic lantern containing a genie, who grants them each one wish. The first guy wishes he was off the island and back home. He second one wishes the same, and he gets off the island and goes back home. The third guy says “I’m lonely. I wish my friends were back here.” Bad situation!
Well, the believers in Acts 12 were not in just a bad situation—they were in a DESPERATE situation, as we’ll see in just a moment. And you would think that with all the miracles that the church of Jerusalem had seen and experienced back in the days of Jesus and the Apostles, they would filled with great faith. But in our text today, we’ll see that they struggled with unbelief just as we sometimes do. But one person shines out as someone with great faith—and that’s Peter.
Today we’re going to look at Peter and his miraculous escape from prison in Acts 12.
But before we do, look at 1 Peter 3:12 on the screen: “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.”
Believe it or not, this verse makes a good outline for Acts 12. Let’s look at both passages to see what I mean…
I. NOTE FIRST OF ALL THAT GOD SEES OUR TRIALS – “Acts 12:1-5a – “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in prison…”
This was indeed a grim time for the church of Jerusalem—a very bad situation. Herod had been actively persecuting the church, having arrested several leaders, including James, the brother of John, who was beheaded. If killing James pleased the Jewish leaders, imagine how delighted they would be if Peter were slain.
So Herod had Peter put in prison with the intention of killing him also. Now remember back in chapter 4, the last time Peter was in jail, he was mysteriously and miraculously delivered. So Herod wasn’t taking any chances this time! Verse 4 says that Herod had Peter put under heavy guard with SIXTEEN soldiers assigned to him—four for each watch. What a mess the believers were in—a VERY bad situation!
But as you think about that, remember the words of Peter years later in 1 Peter 3:12 when he said “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous,…”
God had not forgotten His people—nor had God forgotten Peter. In fact, God had this whole thing under control. God HAD allowed James to be killed, but in His divine purposes, Peter was about to be miraculously delivered. Herod thought HE was in control, but he was helpless before God’s sovereign will. He couldn’t do ONE THING against one of God’s servants without God’s express permission.
The Bible teaches the sovereignty of God. This is the teaching that God is in control of all events and circumstances. He is the Almighty Boss and He turns everything to His ultimate plan and purpose, even if we cannot always see or understand it. Isn’t it good to know that no matter how difficult the trials or how disappointing the news—God is still on the throne and has everything under control?
Illus. – We used to have a member in our church in Wiesbaden who, whenever you asked him how he was doing, would always say, “Pastor, God is still on the throne.”
But one day he came is all down in the dumps because of a deep trial in his life.
I said, “Steve, how are things going?”
“Terrible, Pastor. Terrible.”
I responded, “Steve, did God suddenly step off His throne.”
Shocked, he said, “Of course not.”
I said, “Well, leave your troubles with Him. He’s still on the throne, and He’ll work it out for your best and His glory. Just trust in the sovereign God.”
He said, “You’re right. God is still on the throne and I’m going to believe it!”
You see, “We may not always be able to trace the hand of God, but we can always trust the heart of God.”