Summary: In this sermon on Acts 12 and Peter's miraculous escape from prison, we wrestle with the truth that God is in control. This leads to a lot of assurance, but it also leads to trust.
A. You have probably heard the glib saying, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
1. Although it is true that suffering can lead to blessing, it is easier to say it than experience it.
B. One day a young man who sold magazine subscriptions door to door, came home with $25 which he earned that day by selling magazine subscriptions.
1. His father asked him, “How many sales did it take for you to make $25?”
2. “Just one,” the boy replied, “I sold all the subscriptions to one man.”
3. “Really,” his father asked, “why did one man buy so many magazine subscriptions?”
4. “The man’s dog bit me!” answered the boy.
C. That’s a cute story about what we might call minor suffering, but what happens when you or I face major suffering?
1. A man named Howard Rutledge was shot down on a bombing run during the Vietnam War and he suffered for more than seven years in a Vietnam prisoner-of-war camp.
2. In his book In the Presence of Mine Enemies, he recounts many episodes of intense physical and emotional pain and suffering.
3. When asked how he endured the suffering he said, “I was able to sustain life and hope through the faith I have in God.”
D. How can we, like Howard Rutledge maintain our faith when we face such dire circumstances?
1. It’s one thing to say we got through it by faith, when the suffering is over and done, but what about when the suffering continues with no end in sight, or when it leads to death?
2. How do those kinds of circumstances stress our faith, and threaten to erode the foundation of our faith?
E. I want us to have these kinds of questions in mind as we return again to our series on the life of Peter, and as we look at Peter’s experience in Acts 12.
1. Here we find Peter in prison for the third time.
2. Here we see that he was awaiting trial and certain death.
3. Years later, when Peter wrote his first letter, he may have had the miraculous experiences of Acts 12 in mind when he quoted Psalm 34:15-16, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Pt 3:12).
4. That quotation adequately summarizes what God did for Peter, and it reveals to us three wonderful assurances that can help us and encourage us in the difficult days of our lives.
5. Let’s examine these three wonderful assurances.
I. Assurance #1: God Sees Our Trials (Acts 12:1-4)
A. Let’s pick up the story in Acts 12:1-4: 1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.
1. This episode reminds us that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.” (1 Pt 3:12)
2. God watched and noted what Herod Agrippa I was doing to His people.
3. This evil man was the grandson of Herod the Great, who ordered the Bethlehem children to be murdered, and he was the nephew of Herod Antipas, who had John the Baptist beheaded.
4. The family of the Herods were a scheming and murderous lot, and they were despised by the Jews who resented having Edomites ruling over them.
5. For that reason, Herod tried to score points with the Jews by persecuting the church that was also despised by the Jews, especially now that the church was welcoming Gentiles.
B. Herod had several believers arrested, among them was James, the brother of John, whom he beheaded.
1. James, therefore, became the first apostle to be martyred.
2. His death takes on special significance when you ponder the episode in Matthew 20 when James and John along with their mother requested special places in Jesus’ kingdom.
3. Jesus made it clear that there can be no glory apart from suffering and that the two of them would drink from the cup of suffering that Jesus would drink.
4. So, James was arrested and killed, and John later became an exile on the Isle of Patmos.
5. James was the first apostle to die and John was the last.
C. Now, if it pleased the Jews when James was killed, just think how delighted they would be if Peter was executed!