August 9, 2020
Finding Rest in Times of Adversity – Acts 12:1-17
On August 9th, 2020, Pastor Eric spoke on “Finding Rest In Times Of Adversity”.
Watch video here
Finding Rest in Times of Adversity
If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Acts 12.
We are going to look at a narrative where you will find 3 things:
One of destruction and one of purpose
- A Prison
Where a prisoner was bound in chains but it lead to quite the prison break
- And you will find a prayer meeting.
That started off in petitions and supplication and ended in praise and powerful testimony.
Now, we are going to read Acts 12 in just moment but just to give you some context.
In the chapter before, there’s a prophet named Agabus who prophesied in the Spirit that there would be a severe famine that would hit all of the Roman world.
So the church got together the disciples and put some stuff together as they could to help the church in Rome and Paul and Barnabas were on their way to give those gifts.
Now Acts 12, it’s a tuff time for the church during that time, Herod was persecuting the church.
He just put James the brother of John to death.
He was one of the brothers that Jesus gave the name: Sons of Thunder.
That’s the James whose mother kneeled on the ground and asked Jesus if one of her sons can sit at his right side and the other at his left, and the rest of the disciples got mad at that request.
He’s one of the brothers who when messengers were sent to a samaritan village to prepare the way for Jesus to come and the people are like no we don’t welcome Jesus here.
We don’t want to have anything to do with your religion.
James asked Jesus:
Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?
Remember him? That James.
There’s a lot of James, a lot of Maries and a lot of Herods in the Bible that it can be confusing so this James is not to be confused with James the brother of Jesus that we have letters of in the New Testament.
So Herod just had that James put to death.
And it really pleased the jews that he did.
See, the jews were not aloud to kill anyone, the Romans were kind of lording over the Jews at the time.
And so the Romans would need to sign off on any execution.
It’s also what we see with Jesus , the jews couldn’t kill him so they had to present him to Pilate, the roman emperor to sign off on it.
So Herod had James beheaded and it pleased the Jews.
He’s doing our job for us.
He’s helping us.
So Herod took note of that, the Jews are happy, they love me for it so he had Peter arrested. Because Peter, was out of control
He was preaching everywhere, people were healed, I mean he preached one sermon and 3000 people got saved. The next day 5000 people were saved.
Peter was making the Jews upset and angry.
He needs to go.
So Herod put Peter in Prison.
The Herod referred here would be Agrippa the 1st.
Agrippa the 1st was the Grandson of Herod the great.
You guys remember Herod the Great?
Herod the great if you recall was that Herod that demanded that all the male children under the age of two be murdered when he heard that king Jesus was born.
He wanted to hold on to power.
He felt threatened by the idea of another king so he had all the male babies under two killed.
Herod the great according to history tells us that he had eight wives and would of murdered six of them by fear that they wanted to turn against him.
And he would of killed fifteen of his sons.
So that’s who his grandfather was.
Now his uncle was quite a character as well, his uncle was Herod Antipas. This is the guy who beheaded John the Baptist.
So this is our guy Agrippa the First.
He comes from a very dark and dysfunctional family.
He was someone who knew how the masses profoundly hated his family for everything his family did .
And so history tells us that he would of taken every opportunity during his administration to win peoples affection.
He supported the majority within the land and ruthlessly suppressed minorities when they became disruptive.
He regularly according to Jospehus the jewish historian, offered sacrifice at the jewish temple, he loved judaism.
He loved the respect of the Jews.
He was liked by the jewish population more than any roman overseer in these days.
In fact, do you know how this king died?
He was so liked by the people that after delivering a speech, they said dude, your a god, and he’s like your right, I’m a god – my words 🙂 but you get the point.
And because he refused to give God glory, the Bible says that he died on the spot, you can read about this at the end of Acts 12.
But while he was living, He viewed Jewish Christians as divisive and felt their activities could only disturb the people and inflame opposition and hostility.
So he arrested some of the christians .
And had one of the original disciples of Jesus, James beheaded by the sword.
The jewish leaders were so pleased by that and Agrippa took note of that so he had Peter arrested
and that’s where we find ourselves this morning. Acts 12:1-17
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “
There are four lessons from this narrative that I want us to look at this morning:
Four Lessons from this narrative
It is possible to sleep in the face of adversity
It is possible to sleep in your darkest moments.
Look at what’s happening.
James was just killed, Peter is put in jail, Peter knows what happened to James, and he also knows what Herod intends on doing to him.
He’s not ignorant or downplaying it.
How is Peter dealing with all that stress and fear and anxiety?
Acts 12:6 NIV
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
The night before he would probably be sentenced to be beheaded.
The night before horrible things would of happened to Peter and how it could affect the church at the time.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping…
One may say: “how can you sleep during such a time?”
How can you sleep during kos?
Do you know that sleeping during your darkest hour is a blessing?
Since March, there’s a new phenomenon called:
Corona somnia or
It’s basically how the pandemic is interrupting sleep for many.
Now there are many things that contribute to that, some who are working from home are not following the same routine they used to have.
So maybe they go to bed latter. Maybe they eat more. Maybe they exercise less and it could affect their sleeping.
But the majority of those with covid somnia is caused by fear, anxiety and worry.
Worried about the kids going back to school.
Worried about their kids staying at home and not being able to work from home who watch them.
Worried about catching Covid-19.
Worried about having Covid-19 and giving it to someone else.
Worried about the border being opened.
Worried about what’s happening in the news, and nation against nation ect…
Worried about their Investments .
Worried about their jobs.
Worried about the economy.
Some of the reports that are coming out on the news is that they’re expecting that the visits to the psychologists office will increase, the number of meds that will be prescribed for depression and anxiety will increase, the number of sick leave due to mental health will increase significantly.
People are going to need meds to fall asleep.
But Peter reminds us that no matter what you are facing, you can still find rest in your darkest hour, you can sleep.
It echoes what Jesus said in:
…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
So I understand there’s some medical issues for some I don’t want to sound like I’m insensitive here. All of us who are struggling with sleep that is related to stress, anxiety, fear, worry let me say this; what good will it do for us to lose sleep over issues.
Jesus said do not worry about tomorrow.
Let tomorrow worry about itself.
Because who knows what will happen tomorrow everything can change in a day or in the night.
And as we will see with the rest of this story, things did change for Peter, and not the way people expected.
So turn to the person next to you and say, you can find sleep even in your darkest hour.
Renew yourself in the presence of God.
Find the peace of God by trusting Him .
And let God be God in your life.
The second thing we learn here is that
There is a plan for your life
And no matter how many times you heard that whether you heard it in Sunday school or your hearing it when your 80 years old.
I came to say to all of us that God has a plan for your life.
And just as there is a plan for your life,
There is si·mul·ta·ne·ous·ly a plan against your life.
God was not finished with Peter and still had a purpose for his life while at the same time there was a Herod that too had a plan against Peter’s life to bring destruction.
You know what this tells me? That tells me, that as your sleeping, there are two powers at work.
While Peter is sleeping there is a Herod that wants to harm Peter and there is a God that wants to help Peter.
Are you still with me?
One has a plan of purpose and the other has a plan of destruction.
And isn’t that the truth in our lives ?
While you sleep there is an adversary that has an agenda against your life.
And at the same time there is a God that has a good plan for your life.
There is one who’s plan are to steal kill and destroy you, and there is one who’s plans are to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God’s plans for your life can be in motion while you are sleeping.
While you are sleeping God is working.
But at the same time there is an adversary that has a kill order over your life.
But here’s the good news folks, nothing can separate us from the plans and the Love of God.
Not trouble not hardship not persecution not famine not danger or not the sword?
We are more than conquerors in Jesus.
Greater is He who lives in us than he who is in the world.
I love what I heard one preacher say this week, Robert Morris he said:
Spiritual warfare in the believers life is normal but not losing.
Losing in those battle is not normal.
We are more than conquerors in Jesus.
We have been given weapons that are mighty before God to fight back the enemy of our soul.
Now that doesn’t mean that christians wont die under persecution.
But what it means is that you and I can always follow God’s plan for our lives and not let the enemy who wants our destruction have a foot hold.
We don’t have to heed to his demands or loose sleep over his agenda.
We have authority.
We have prayer.
We can ask “Thy will be done” in my life and it shall be done.
The enemy’s plans can be frustrated and aborted in our lives if we will only welcome and submit daily to God’s plans in our lives.
There is not a prison to hard for God
4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each.
Four times four = sixteen.
So Peter was guarded by sixteen security guards.
You say why so many?
That’s the way maximum security worked back in those days.
You had a few guards chained to the prisoner inside the cell, a few outside the cell in case people wanted to come in and so Peter was treated like a dangerous offender a dangerous criminal.
Why did Peter pose such a threat?
Well, if you read Acts chapter 5, you will remember that the first time Peter was in prison an
angel of the Lord broke him out.
He had a history of prison breaks.
So the Jews probably told Herod that the last time he was in prison he escaped.
So they must of added security to avoid this public embarrassment.
Yet, no matter how well guarded his cell was God still delivered his servant.
I want you to think about that thing in your life or in your circle that seems to be a prison. Maybe it’s an addiction maybe it’s a drug problem, maybe it’s a habit a behaviour. You feel like that’s a prison that’s well guarded. That addiction will never be broken it’s just so impossible. Maybe it’s a marriage and that person you like, he’s never going to change ect…
I want you to find that impossible situation in your life, that thing you consider so hard and so impossible and I want you to start thinking what if the narrative would change?
What if God sent his angels to take away these shackles and chains?
What if these locked doors would begin to open.
What if I started passing the first obstacle in the second obstacles and then realize I’m out but this prison that kept me a prisoner all this time.
And things can actually start changing.
What if the Lord would come and rescue me in that situation or that trial?
I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
With God all things are possible.
Just because you pray doesn’t mean you believe
12 … he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
This is one of those moments I would love to have a sneak preview of.
They are praying for Peter, probably something like: Lord have mercy on Peter, protect Peter, set Peter free. You did it in chapter 5 do it again. Your the same God who sent an angel to rescue Peter yesterday so your the same today and forever.
Maybe they were loud and weeping and intense, there was great petitions before God.
And during that moment, Rhoda hears knocking on the door it’s Peter, she interrupts the prayer meeting to say Peter is at the door, I heard his voice it’s him I’m sure of it.
And they say you are out of your mind.
And the Bible says that she kept on insisting.
So they were not convinced at all for the longest time.
Meanwhile peter is knocking at the door.
Let me in.
Before Herod finds out I’m not in the cell anymore and comes looking for me.”
So they needed some convincing.
So this tells me they were praying but not really expecting anything to happen.
And would you say that happens to you sometimes?
You know how to pray.
You know how to quote scriptures in prayer for certain situations but when God answers your prayer your like, wow, deep inside is like I didn’t expect him to do so.
Your surprised that God answered your prayers.
So the whole time you must of been praying but not really expecting anything.
This one is super important
Just because you and I pray doesn’t mean we believe.
See the Bible doesn’t instruct us just to pray, it instructs us to pray with faith.
God is not pleased because I pray, God is pleased when I pray believing in Him.
When you and I just pray for religiosity purposes or rituals but there is no faith, we are not doing anyone a favour.
Because the prayer that counts to God is a prayer with faith.
Here’s some verses, there’s a few I’m going to share but there’s a lot
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
He couldn’t perform a miracle there except to lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their unbelief.
So Mark 6 says that Jesus couldn’t do any supernatural work there because of their unbelief.
…let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Are you seeing this?
It’s not just about praying, it’s about praying believing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord…