Summary: I preach expository messages, and this is the 22nd in my series on the Book of Acts.
November 4, 2007
Front page of the AJC every day has a headline like this: “Water Wars Land in Washington’s Lap”, and the editorial page contains two or three pieces on our need for water. Meanwhile, church signs plead, “pray for rain”. Can we just be gut-level honest here? Are there not times when each of us wrestle with doubts and questions, wondering why it is that God chooses to act as He does? Take this drought, for instance. If I were the PR guy for God—and it’s a good thing I’m not, of course—I’d be real tempted to have a conversation that went something like this: “Lord, there are many people praying for the drought to end, for You to open up the skies and dump a good bit of rain on Georgia, and the fact that You’ve not done it yet doesn’t look real good. Your poll numbers are on a downward trend, Lord, and so if you could just do the “Perfect Storm” thing, and dump a whole bunch of rain on Atlanta metro, it’d sure be a good thing. If you could pull off like a localized Lake Lanier thing, that’d be even better.” Or take my house in PA. We’ve been praying for over a year now for that thing to sell—and it hasn’t. And it’s frustrating, and for the life of me, I don’t know what kind of lesson, other than maybe patience, I’m supposed to learn from this. Maybe there’s something I’m missing that’ll be obvious one day, but right now, I’m not really jumping up and down with the circumstances. Why doesn’t God do something, we ask.
What are some things that most make you wonder, “why does God act as He does”?
Each of us could point to things in our lives, if we’re honest, that fall into a file folder something like I’ve described. Why did the little boy die in the freak accident on a four-wheeler a couple years back? Why doesn’t God seem to answer prayers we pray for prodigal kids? Why is Roe v. Wade still the law of the land? And so on. And sometimes we doubt God, wonder what He’s up to, even if He’s really got things under control after all. Got news for you: we’re not alone in that, I guarantee. Some of the stuff that happens in today’s narrative is confounding, and some of the followers of Jesus we read of today didn’t have great faith, didn’t get it, couldn’t understand what God was doing. And this is when it comes down to our faith in God, in His Word, in His promises, that despite appearances and circumstances and events that shake us or scare us or frustrate us or cause us to have crises of faith, God is in control. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God, for those who come to Him must believe that He exists and that He is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” With those thoughts in mind, let’s read today’s text, Acts 12:1-24.
Gentile Christianity has begun to grow, and in the book of Acts the rest of the way, it’ll take center stage. But here in Acts 12, we see that God is still at work in the Jerusalem church as well, through a variety of circumstances, some seemingly good and some seemingly bad, to accomplish His purpose.
Let’s not make the mistake of getting caught up in the details of Acts and miss the forest for the trees. The “trees” are the characters and the plot line, the events and the personalities, the good and the seeming bad, but the “forest” is the hand of God moving to accomplish His purpose in the forward movement of the gospel of Christ for the purpose of the building of His Kingdom. That remains His purpose today.
If we looked at the “trees” today, we’d see a nice mix of the good and the bad, and a story that combines tragedy, intrigue, humor, and what might strike us as a fitting “moral” to the story. We read about a pompous king named Herod, a martyr named James, a prisoner named Peter, a praying church (that forgot that God actually…answers prayer!), an excited little servant girl named Rhoda who forgot her manners, and some misguided folks who decided to worship a man. And we’ll look at that story some, to be sure…but let’s not lose sight of the hand of God as we look at the plot line of the story, because we must be clear about this: through everything that happens, the sovereign hand of God is at work—and He is at work in your life and your circumstances as well. And He is at work in your life and your circumstances, not primarily so you can “Become a Better You” or live “Your Best Life Now”, but rather so that He can bring glory to Himself, because while we are the actors on the stage, if you will, He is the Writer, Director, Producer, and Audience of it all.