Summary: Make the glory of God the story of your life.
Over 8 years ago, Beth and I had the privilege of going to Israel. We were impacted by the people we went with and the places we visited. Our team consisted of 30 Asian believers from seven different countries and was led by friends of ours who teach at the East Asia Theological Seminary.
It was very moving walking where Jesus walked and getting to know people who have been walking with Jesus in hard places. One of my prayers was for God to teach me and reach me; to rearrange and change me. We didn’t want it simply to be educational, we wanted it to be transformational. It was.
• We got to know a missionary from East Timor who started a church planting school which launched 30 churches. One of these pastors has since been martyred.
• One sister ministered for many years to women who were forced to have abortions in China.
• A disciple from South Korea reached out to North Korean refugees in China. He told us about police raids and torture…but he couldn’t wait to go back.
• I became friends with the national director of Cru in Mongolia. He told us the church in his country was growing rapidly.
• One sister worked in IT at a well-known international firm and was using 90% of her income to support multiple missionaries. She lived on 10%.
• One pastor headed up a literature ministry in Myanmar, which translated Anchor for the Soul into Burmese.
• Another brave brother ministered in China. His Bible studies were being bugged, so they moved his meetings to motel rooms to avoid being arrested. He told me, “We experience amazing things.” When I asked him about the persecution, he smiled and said, “Yes, but that’s amazing, too.”
• One fellow follower from South Korea served on a team in Turkey where three of his missionary teammates were brutally martyred for their faith. I’ll come back to him later in the sermon.
One of the most beautiful sights we visited was Caesarea, a port city located on the Mediterranean Sea, built by Herod the Great to honor Caesar. With the smell of sea salt in the air and blue water as far as the eye could see, our guide led us to the Hippodrome. This was a place for chariot racing and for leaders to address their people who sat on tiered seats in an outdoor amphitheater. Herod made his way to the throne located high above the crowds. This is the setting for our passage today.
Listen as I read Acts 12:20-25: “Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’ Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. But the word of God increased and multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.”
I see two main points from this passage.
• God always wins.
• The gospel always works.
Here’s what I’m hoping we learn today: Make the pursuit of God’s glory the story of your life.
1. God always wins. Last week, we saw how God often does the unexpected when we’re earnest in prayer. Herod’s plot to kill Peter was turned upside down when the Angel of the Lord set Peter free. Herod was so angry, he had all the prison guards put to death. According to Acts 12:19, he headed home to Caesarea because he was humiliated.
Verse 20 tells us he was annoyed for another reason: “Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord…” The word for “angry” means, “furious, exceedingly hostile and enraged” and is in the present tense, indicating Herod was continuously angry. Proverbs 29:2 comes to mind: “when the wicked rule, the people groan.” We’re not really sure how these cities got on his bad side or why Herod was so lit up. Perhaps it’s because of some unfair trade competition from these two seaport towns.
Tyre and Sidon were independent city-states, but they came together to make an appeal: “…and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food.” A “chamberlain” was a personal assistant who was responsible for the king’s living quarters and guarding his personal finances.