Last night at community group, we discussed Acts 12-13:3. Herod has just killed James, Peter is imprisoned and the Church has gathered to fervently pray. This seems to be a major setback in the growth of the Church. However, an angel appears to Peter and guides him out of prison. At first the church is in disbelief as a young girl tells them that Peter is at the gate, that he is free. Then they see and hear for themselves that God has rescued him. This miraculous wonder was another means for God to reveal his glory, character and continue to spread the gospel. There is so much to take away from the passage, but we focused on a just a few truths.
- God's plan continues to unfold despite "setbacks" - This stood out to me the most. Setbacks can be personal...perhaps an attitude or habit that is keeping you from living in obedience to Christ or career oriented...you have a vision for the work God is calling you to, yet you seem to be a long way off from living reaching that destination. Regardless of the circumstance, God can use each setback for His glory. He may be shaping you or a community for what he has in store; preparing to use us in his grand plan to share his gospel message with the nations.
- We are called to fervently pray in community - When do we find ourselves in fervent prayer? Typically, its when we've exhausted all of our resources and find ourselves in desperation; when we need rescuing. But is that the only time we should be in fervent prayer? Perhaps we need to spend time allowing the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts and bring us into fellowship with God more frequently; purifying our hearts and allowing God to rescue us from ourselves and situations on a daily basis.
- God is one who rescues - Looking back over the history of mankind and his relationship with God, it is apparent that God rescues. Whether the Israelites, Moses, the Woman at the well; all of them and really every person that has ever lived needs rescuing from sin and death by the saving grace of Christ, but then we continually need to be rescued as we walk through valleys of sin in our personal lives, encounter hurt and pain from others and sometimes take a detour away from the plan that God has intended for our lives
- Finally, I was struck by the humility of Peter and the Church. When Peter is freed from prison it isn't a big show with lights and thunder, rather the Angel quietly leads him out. He doesn't join in a big celebration with the Church when he returns to tell them the news, rather he moves on to the next place God has called him. And after the miraculous rescue of Peter, the Church goes back into worshiping, praying and fasting in order to hear from God and be guided in their next steps. In contrast, when Herod appears to a crowd and they call out to him as a god because of his sparkling physical appearance and status. He tries to steal God's glory and take it for his own, by not denying that he is not worthy of their praise. And God being a rightfully jealous God, strikes him down with severe stomach pains and he dies being eaten by worms.
God is at work. A story of redemption has been unfolding since the beginning of time. He is using ordinary people to accomplish his purposes. Setbacks do not stop God from doing his work. He will continue to reveal his glory, draw people to him, and rescue us until His work is complete. What great encouragement, to pray and connect with God; to catch a glimpse of what he is doing and his vision for how he wants us to be a part of it even on a daily basis. Fervent prayer and fellowship with God will help lead us into humility; to the place where we are broken and realize that it is not on our power or might that God's plan unfolds, but solely on His and with the purpose to reveal His glory and nature to save the world.