Date Written: March 21, 2015
Date Preached: March 22, 2015
Church: OPBC (AM) Sunday
Title: There is ALWAYS Darkness before Deliverance!
Text: Acts 12:1-19 (NASB)
ETS: Peter and the church experienced great darkness before God brought deliverance!
ESS: Today we as we experience darkness God has promised He will deliver those who serve Him!
On Sept 11, 2001 terrorists struck on U.S. soil and killed almost 3,000 people in one day. It was one of the darkest days in the history of our country. For many in the Twin Towers in NYC it would be their last day on this earth.
For others in the towers it would be a day of fear, pain, courage and bravery. For those who responded to the emergency, there were 2 who experienced a day of darkness that NOT many people in this world could ever imagine.
Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin of NYC Port Authority police force went into the substructure of the twin towers with 3 other men to help survivors escape. When the towers collapsed all but Jimeno and McLaughlin were killed. They were left trapped almost 30 feet below street level with millions of tons of steel and debris on top of them.
It was a DARK time for these men and they could hear each other but could not see each other. They talked as much as they could but they were quickly losing hope.
Earlier that day, some 54 miles north of NYC in Wilton, CT a man heard about what had happened and was bound and determined to help those in need. He was a former marine, but had kept 2 sets of fatigues starched and clean in his closet since he had retired a few yrs earlier.
He quickly gathered his gear he had collected from years in the marines and put it in his brand new Porche 911 convertible. He took the top off because he hoped with the top off he would be able to get thru the ckpoints … they would see a man in fatigues and all his gear and just waive him thru…
Before he left, he went by his church, called together his pastor and some church mbrs and they prayed for his safety and that God would help him to find and rescue survivors.
He left Wilton and drove at 120mph down I95 to NYC and just as he had hoped for… the police saw him in his fatigues and waived him thru all the chkpoints and before he knew it he was at ground zero.
It was about 5:30pm...and the last tower had fallen at 10:30am, so if there were any survivors they had been trapped in the rubble for 7hrs by this time.
He saw another marine in fatigues and they began to look for survivors in the rubble but were told by rescue workers to get off the rubble because it was too dangerous. They refused and moved further onto the rubble and away from those telling them NOT to go…
After yelling and banging on the exposed steel and calling out for any survivors for 2 hours, he heard a voice! He and the other marine had found Officer Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin.
It took them another 3hrs to dig out Officer Jimeno and another 6hrs to free Sgt. John McLoughlin, but these men whose world had come literally crashing down around them earlier that day… had been delivered!
They had started the day like any other day, but it got dark and desperate very quick. They had seen their colleagues die, they did not know how bad things actually were, they did not know if anyone would ever find them OR if they would ever see the light of day again! The darkness of terrorism and evil had buried them in a grave of steel and concrete…
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never had a day THAT bad, have you? However, what I DO know is that we all experience dark times in our lives!
Have you experienced dark times in your life? Have you ever been at a place in life where you thought all hope was lost? Have you ever been to a place where you thought God had turned His face away from you and you were all alone?
You know the dark times are NOT limited to individual experiences. We can experience the dark times as a group, more specifically we can experience the dark times as a church fellowship!
Those dark times come upon us FAST and unexpected… Those dark times put in a place where we see brothers and sisters abandon the fellowship.
It is a time where those trapped in that dark time don’t really know or understand how bad things REALLY are! It is a time where we begin to believe that there is NO hope of rescue, no hope of deliverance. There is a fear that we will come to believe all hope is lost!
But just as these 2 men were about to give up hope there was one who came to the rescue… There were those who refused to give up, refused to let the bad situation scare them away, refused to worry about themselves… and they rescued these men.
I want us ALL to know here at Oak Park we may feel like the darkness is closing in…
We may feel like the weight and destruction of the world is covering us and that we are trapped in a situation where NO hope can be seen…
We may have many in our congregation who have LOST all hope… because it is DARK… we are in a DARK time!
But the message I want you to hear this morning is that there must be darkness BEFORE deliverance! This morning you have already heard about 2 people in Scripture who faced dark times… Jonah from the belly of the great fish AND Daniel from the bowels of a den of lions! They were facing DARK times…
But we KNOW the end of their stories… the darkness came, but we also know that deliverance came in the form of God’s miraculous hand.
Like Jonah, sometimes the darkness we find ourselves in is of our own doing… we are in the darkness because of our disobedience! OR there are times like Daniel we can be thrust into the darkness because of the evil actions of others people trying to tear us down! Either way the darkness is THERE… and it is still real!
Background on Passage:
In our passage this morning, we find that the church had been growing and expanding at a geometric rate. The Jewish religious leaders were outraged by this! They wanted this new group stopped…
AND their main ally had just been ‘stolen’ by the other side as Paul had just been saved on the road to Damascus (Ch9)… in ch11 the church has just ordained and sent out Paul and Barnabas on their 1st missionary journey…
Things were LOOKING up and the church was growing, but then the enemy stepped up and took his shot…
In a flash the darkness fell over the church in Jerusalem!
Dark times: v1-4
1Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church, in order to mistreat them. 2And he had James, the brother of John put to death with a sword. 3And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people.
Herod here is the grandson of King Herod who tried to kill all the babies under 2yrs old when Jesus was born… He was just as ruthless and godless as his grandfather had been.
When we look at v1 we see the reason behind his attack on the church. It states that he did this, “…in order to mistreat them.” Now I want us to understand that this is the Modus Operendi (MO) for the Enemy! Peter tells us that the enemy is like a roaring lion roaming back and forth looking to devour us!
Herod was taking aim as the church, just because it was the church… Jesus told us that the world would hate us because of His name and this was a fleshing out of that hatred by the world toward the followers of Jesus!
Earlier in the book of Acts we learn the church was growing in number but also in favor with the people, but Satan could not let this continue unabated… he had to act and after Paul was saved, he uses any method he could to destroy the church!
Let me share what this part of the Scripture means for us today. This lets us know that #1 we have an enemy who simply wants to hurt, mame and destroy us, but also #2 that the ‘darkness’ can come upon us at ANY time! There was no warning… things seemed to be going well and then the darkness fell!
Also we can know that Satan is not satisfied with harassing the church, his ultimate goal is far more heinous. Look at v2 where Herod arrests one of the church leaders and quickly puts him to death… People Satan wants to see Oak Park DEAD, BURIED and forgotten! We are in a battle with the enemy and he had brought the darkness down upon us!
And just when it seemed as if it was REALLY bad, it got even worse! Peter was arrested and thrown into jail and WOULD have been put to death, but Herod adhered to the Sabbath rules and decided to wait until after the Sabbath to execute Peter.
One leader dead, another leader in jail waiting to be executed… the church MUST have been feeling like a thick dark cloud had settled down over them…leaving them hopless and helpless in this situation.
They felt hopeless because James had been killed and they felt helpless because Peter was locked up tight and guarded by 4 squads of soldiers and chained between 2 of them… they had NO reasonable hope that they would ever see him again.
A squad of soldiers consisted of 4 men, and they would each keep a 3 hr watch, and the squads would rotate every 12 hrs. This meant Herod had detailed 16 men to watch over Peter!
How could fishermen, tax collectors and a group of women go up against 16 trained Roman soldiers? It was IMPOSSIBLE, they could ONLY see the darkness!
But there is something ELSE we can learn here from this passage and that is when the darkness feels unbearable and all hope seem lost, we become desperate!
The people of the church were desperate, so they did what Christians SHOULD do when facing the darkness…they hit their knees in this desperate time… look at v5-6 with me!
Desperation time: v5-6
5So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church of God. 6And on the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between 2 soldiers, bund with 2 chains; and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison.
Now the point here is short and simple, when we are facing something hopeless and we feel helpless we have somewhere to turn… ALL is NOT lost when we serve the Master!
When the darkness closes in around us and when the darkness seems like it is NEVER going to end, we must throw ourselves upon the Master and seek Him!
This is exactly what the church did, they had NO where to turn so they turned to God. Well pastor we ALL know that… when I get in a jam I can call on God…that is not news to me!
Well what we can take away from this is that this is the path we should ALWAYS take… it should not take the darkest of darkness to get our attention, but we should be going to the Lord in prayer ALL the time!
Prayer and leaning on God should be our 1st plan of action, but sadly it is often our action of last resort! Admit it, most of the time you want to try to do things on your own and ONLY when the situation becomes unbearable, unwinnable, hopeless and helpless do you cry out to God!
I know I have found myself in that group FAR too many times! WE must make prayer and reliance upon God our FIRST action!
They were desperate and the situation looked hopeless. The next morning Peter was scheduled to be executed and the hours were ticking away, and the enemy seemed to have victory ONCE again… 1st James and now Peter…I can imagine the hopeless and helpless feeling that ran through that prayer meeting that night!
You may ask the question why I believe there was a sense of hopelessness in that prayer meeting… Regardless of what Wren says about me, I was NOT there, but I know 2 things! 1st I know human nature and our ability to jump to the absolute worst scenario… I can imagine this was playing out in their heads all night long.
2nd I also see how they react when God DOES move, and see their hopeless spirit fleshed out with a weak or non-existant faith.
They were desperate, but they did what we are supposed to do when we don’t know where to turn… we are to turn to God! When we turn things over to God we KNOW He is going to deliver, we just don’t know how he is going to do it OR when he is going to do it…
These believers were facing a dark time and they were in the midst of desperation, but then God answered their prayer and we find in v7-11 where God provides a…
Deliverance time: v7-11
7And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and roused him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. 8And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9And he went out and continued to follow, and did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10And when they had passed the 1st and 2nd guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and when they went out and went along one street; and immediately the angel departed from him. 11And when Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.
Just when all hope was lost, God moved! An angel shows up in the prison cell and wakes Peter up… now this tells me something about Peter, how was he able to sleep at time like this? I am not sure I could go to sleep knowing that when I woke up I was going to be put to death… but here Peter was fast asleep!
In fact he was sleeping soundly because the angel could not wake him with his voice, but had to physically shake him awake! Now what I see here is a man at peace where God had him…
I am sure Peter did NOT want to be executed but Peter had seen Jesus transfigured, Jesus crucified and resurrected and had experience the forgiveness of Jesus after he had betrayed Jesus… he had seen God move in a mighty way at Pentecost, so Peter was at peace with God and WHATEVER God had in store for him.
But as AT PEACE as Peter may have been… he was so groggy that the angel had to give him step by step instructions to get out of the jail…
Get up! (v7)
Put your pants on! (v8)
Put your shoes on! (v8)
It’s cold out there, put on your coat! (v8)
Follow me to get out of here! (v8)
Peter was so groggy that he thought this was all a dream (v9) and really did not know what to think, but he was obedient even in his groggy state…
Now when I look at how Peter responds and acts in these verses I believe it reveals something to us that we can use in our day to day walk with God.
Has God ever surprised you with something and told you to do something, but you were out of it, not understanding what was going on, he was giving you step by step instructions and leading you but you were not all the way there…
Peter reveals here how we must TRUST God enough that when He is leading we must trust and follow. It doesn’t matter if we UNDERSTAND it or not, it doesn’t matter if we know what is going on or what God is doing or not… all that matters is to be obedient to God’s leading!
Now Peter gets out of the prison and the angel leaves him and Peter comes to himself and realizes what God has just done in his life! Isn’t that where we find ourselves a lot… we wake up and realize what God has been doing and where God has been leading us…and we realize that is was all the hand of God!
People when God delivers, He owes us NO explanation of His methods or timetable … We do not have to understand, we simply must follow and obey and He has promised to deliver us! Peter is a great example for us to follow!
Oak Park is in a dark and desperate time right now, but I know that our God is faithful and that He WILL deliver us! We may not know just WHEN it is going to happen, we may not understand WHY He chooses to do things and we may not fully grasp WHAT He is doing… but we must trust in His promise that He will deliver.
In a dark and desperate time… the church turned to prayer for God’s time of deliverance, but we can see that they did not know how to respond when God DID move…I want us to look at what I want to call…
Decision time: v12-17
12And when he realized this he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13And when he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14And when she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15And they said to her, “you are out of your mind!” but she kept insisting that it was so. And they kept saying, “It is an angel.” 16But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. 17But motioning them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, “Report these things to James and the brethren.” And he departed and went to another place.
Peter is out, standing in the street and finally realizes just what a miracle God had just worked. Not ONE person had tried to stop him and the gate of the prison had opened by itself! Peter does what he thinks is the best thing… he goes to his friends house. I believe Peter knew where they would be!
You see when James had been taken prisoner, I believe Peter had led the church in a time of prayer. I also believe that he knew after he had been arrested the church would do the same thing for him. He knew what they were doing and he knew where they were going to do it…so he goes to Mary’s (mother of John) house
Now here is where we see ‘church people’ and their reaction to God’s movement! I believe the actions we see here are typical to our human nature…
Peter is delivered BY God’s hand and he comes to the place where they are having a prayer meeting…now remember this was not just any ole’ Wed night prayer time…they were there to pray FOR Peter’s deliverance!
So Peter shows up at the door, knocks on the door, calls out from the door… the girl answering the door hears his voice and recognizes it and RUNS to proclaim God’s deliverance of Peter! Her joy overrode her common sense here as she did not let Peter in…
The people in the prayer meeting did not believe her… 1st telling her they thought she was crazy, and then they said that it HAD to be an angel… that it just COULD NOT be Peter! He was in prison and was going to be executed the next day!
How many times does God answer our prayers and we keep praying because we don’t believe the answer is there! We refuse to accept that God has worked and moved and has provided us with deliverance… How many times have YOU refused to believe God had come thru, only to realize you were wrong!
I can just imagine the bittersweet hearts when Peter walked in that room. They were overjoyed to SEE Peter and that God had delivered him, but I am sure they were a bit ashamed that they had doubted God could do it… they had come to ask God to deliver Peter, and when He did, they doubted…
How often do we see God deliver and we are in the same boat. We either don’t believe that God is doing it… OR we beat ourselves up for NOT believing what He has done!?
Oak Park is going to be delivered my brothers and sisters! It is GOING to happen! But I don’t want us to be like these believers… I don’t want us so focused on the problems that we cannot see God’s answers and deliverance.
The enemy is strong… He is evil and smart… he can and will trap us into believing His lies. Let us NOT fall prey to His lies! Let us trust in the God we pray to, and when He delivers… we rejoice!
The dark times are here…
The desperate times are here…
However, God’s deliverance is coming…we must go thru the darkness to discover God’s deliverance.
You see as Jonah was sitting in the belly of the whale I can guarantee you that he was thinking times were pretty dark and didn’t know if he would ever get out of it…
As Daniel was being thrown down into the den of lions, I believe HE was thinking times were pretty dark and wasn’t sure if he would survive…
But I want you to know just as God delivered Jonah from the whale…
Just as God delivered Daniel from the lions den…
God is going to deliver this church from where we are now to a place HE has set for us… to be a light for Him in this community, to be a beacon of Christ’s love for ALL to see and experience!
We may be in dark times but I believe God is going to deliver us as he delivered Jonah…as He delivered Daniel… he will deliver US…
The great song writer Andre Crouch had a song that speaks to understanding that God will deliver, even when we cannot see it! Andre said…
I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know God could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do
Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.
People we are IN the dark times now in our church, and we must respond like the church responded in this passage, we must hit our knees in prayer… we are in dark times and this is a desperate situation where we don’t know what to do or how to handle it!
We must turn to God for deliverance, but when we do this, I encourage us to NOT be like these believers in Peter’s day, that doubted when God delivered. They were doubting the very thing they were praying for…
The final thing I believe we can take from this is that when we hit our knees in the dark times… when we plead to the Lord in our desperate situation… we must pray with the expectation that God is going to deliver! WE must expect God’s deliverance and we must DECIDE to listen to Him!
Believer invitation – are you willing to hit your knees in prayer now? Are you ready to turn this over to God today? AND if you are… are you ready to listen to Him when He does answer us?
I open up this altar for you to come and ask God to move in your life so that you can be a part of what He wants done here at Oak Park.
Lost invitation – you may be here and do NOT know Jesus as your Savior. You may be searching and seeking something you don’t understand and you don’t know how to express…
I am going to say that is the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart to get right with God. Today we have ministers who will be up here to pray with you… and show you how you can know Christ as your Savior today… as June comes to lead us and Mrs Judy comes to play, I ask you to stand as we sing…