Every so often we come to an industrial-strength crisis and we really don't know where to turn. Peter encountered such a crisis in Acts 12. After Passover, Herod planned to present Peter before the crowds and then kill him. How would you have handled this crisis? Here are four reflections that I pray will help you.
Respect the Mystery of God's Providence
We do not live by explanations. Life is not a problem to be solved; it is a mystery to be lived. We have to back off sometimes and just simply respect the hidden hand of God (see Isaiah 55:8-9).
In Acts 12, we see Herod's ungodly power, the unfair death of James, and then all of a sudden — Peter is released! God, in His wisdom, mixes these things together for His glory and all things work together for good. We cannot live by explanations. Instead, we live by promises. If you're in a crisis, trust that God knows what He is doing and what is best for you and everyone involved (read Proverbs 3:5-6).
Request the Ministry of God's People
Acts 12:6 tell us that Peter was under maximum security and had a death sentence. Friend, that crisis shut every door, but one. That was the door of prayer. When there is no hope on the horizontal level, there's always hope on the vertical level.
The church was praying around the clock for Peter! We are to persist in prayer. Luke 11:9-10 tells us that we are to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. God's delays are not denials.
Does prayer come easily to you, or do you genuinely agonize in prayer as you intercede for others? Prayer is work. And sometimes we don't feel like praying. If there was ever a time that you needed to pray, it's when you don't feel like it. We need to pray until we feel like it. The world may laugh, but friend, the devil doesn't laugh. Someone has wisely said the devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.
Rest in the Mastery of God's Peace
Acts 12:6 tells us that Peter was sleeping the night before he was to be executed! Acts 12:7 tells us that he was sleeping so soundly that the angel had to punch him in the ribs to wake him up! How could Peter sleep in such a crisis? First, it was because Peter was no longer afraid of death.
Death holds no real terrors for a man who has had a saving encounter with Jesus Christ. If a man who is facing death because of his faith can see through that empty grave to being one with the Lord Jesus Christ, then that can give him peace to stand through any trial. The Lord Jesus came to deliver us from the bondage of the fear of death (see Hebrews 2:15).
Second, Peter knew the church was bombarding heaven for him and that's the reason he was asleep. Are you in the midst of a crisis? Turn your problem over to God — just roll it on the Lord. I don't care how big it is. God has peace to give you in exchange. The soldiers thought they were guarding Peter in prison. No. God's peace was guarding him. God's peace had garrisoned Peter about on every side.
Rejoice in the Majesty of God's Power
You might be thinking that God is weak and cannot do anything. Or that God is unconcerned and does not care. You may even say, "Where is God? Is He able? Doesn't God care?"
I believe it is important to this account that Peter's deliverance came at the last moment. God seems to be very leisurely resolving the crisis for Peter. As a matter of fact, this entire story in Acts 12 is marked by leisure. The angel came in, poked Peter in the ribs, and said, "Hey Peter. Wake up." Maybe Peter responded, "What time is it?" Then, there is no sense of racing or sneaking around. They simply walked out. Every soldier was either asleep or in a trance. Every locked gate opened. And then the angel left him.
If you are in a situation and God doesn't deliver you, remember He didn't deliver James and it is not because He cannot. You can respect the mystery of God's providence, request the ministry of God's people, rest in the mastery of God's peace, rejoice in the majesty of God's power.
When we come to Him in repentance and faith, we are empowered-and expected-to live the Christian life not by trying, but by trusting. Faith is not only how we receive salvation, it is how we walk, day by day, in grace. Only by faith can we extend forgiveness to others, share God's truth, and leave a godly legacy. As the tapestry of your life unfolds, may you begin to see the wonders of living each day, moment by moment, a life of faith and forgiveness.