Summary: Do you often think that because God doesn’t answer prayer quickly that He is not going to answer at all? That doesn’t matter. Don’t be surprised WHEN He answers your prayer.
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
April 10, 2005
“Don’t Be Surprised”
INTRODUCTION: When has God surprised you by intervening in a situation that you thought was hopeless? Probably you can think of a time when at the last minute things began to miraculously turn around, things started to get better, and you said in amazement, “I can’t believe this is happening! It must be the Lord! or you might have said, “Do you think this is God?” It could be an incident where you had prayed and prayed and nothing happened, but then suddenly when something DID happen, you were surprised and had difficulty believing it.
In the account in Acts, Peter was in a situation where hope was almost gone. Herod meant business and fully planned to execute him the next day. In fact he had already killed James, the son of Zebedee, and had others on his hit list. At this point Peter could do nothing to help himself. He seemed abandoned by everyone including God. The gates and the guards kept all of his friends from getting to him but could not keep the angel of the Lord from him. The church was fervently praying for him and God stepped in. Yet, they too, were totally surprised when He did. Even though they kept praying for him the night before the expected execution, their reception of the report that Peter was at the door showed how low their hopes of his deliverance had really come.
Let’s take a look at what happened. In spite of there being no visible way out, Peter was not in a terrible state of anxiety that night. He was chained between two guards, but he slept peacefully. He may have resigned himself to what was about to happen, but in his case the Lord was not finished with him yet. He still had work for him to do. We don’t know why that James the son of Zebedee was not spared earlier, but Peter’s life was spared. In the middle of the night God chose to send an angel and a light shone in the prison to wake him up. A number of things had to be done quickly. His chains fell off, he had to get dressed, and put his shoes on. The angel gave him minimal instructions as to what to do and Peter followed without first hearing the entire explanation. Peter was not fully awake and thought it might have been a vision. The angel led him past the first and second wards and through an iron gate that opened up by itself. The angel led him safely out of danger to the end of the street so that he knew where he was and then left him. Peter had been miraculously delivered from prison but now he was on his own. When he came to an awareness of where he was, he went to the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, where a prayer meeting was going on. He knocked on the door and a servant girl, Rhoda, came to the door. Upon seeing Peter she ran back to tell the others, and they didn’t believe it. They said, “You’re crazy! He’s in jail. It’s his angel!” They finally opened the door but were astonished. Even though they were all praying fervently for his release, they were surprised when it happened.
TRANSITION: What does this say to us today? I believe that it says several things of which I want to point out four things:
1. Don’t Be Surprised at the Way God Intervenes: God uses many different ways to step into our situation when we pray or have others praying. All the time that these friends prayed for his release from prison, they could not see what was happening on the other end. They didn’t know if anything was happening. They didn’t have any idea of how God could get Peter released in time for his life to be spared. But these people cared enough about Peter that they were interceding on his behalf throughout the night. God honored their faithfulness to continue praying right up to the last minute. Do we give up too soon thinking that it is a hopeless cause? Don’t be surprised at how God works in your life. God uses many different ways, and in this situation, He used a visible angel. Scripture tells us that angels still work in our behalf today to minister to us.
Psalm 34:7 tells us that “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him and delivereth them.”
Hebrews 1:7 speaks of “ministering angels who are sent to help us”
Psalm 91:11 says “he shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all they ways.”
You might say, “Oh, I don’t believe that.” But if we could see what goes on in the spiritual realm we would be surprised at how many times the Lord send angels to protect us and intervene in our behalf. This is the way he did it for Peter and in the middle of the night at that.