The other day I was in Acts 12 as part of my reading. It's an engaging narrative, an account that Luke is giving as God continues to building his young church. As you read over this chapter, you see that King Herod has just killed James and has the plan to do the same thing to Peter. King Herod loved the acclamation of the Jewish people for killing James, so he has not set his sights on Peter. You can see how much King Herod is against the work of God. He's not for the same religious reason as Saul, but just because Herod really enjoyed having his back patted. As you read this account of what is happening, you really can see the excitement of Luke as he writes about what the early churched faced. But more importantly, how God continued to grow His church, pointing to an even greater power than Herod or Satan.
This obvious desire to be "liked" was what caused Herod's fall. Herod as he gave a speech accepts the praise of the crowd as they compare him to a god. Throughout the Bible, God is continuously teaching that if someone is to exalt himself, he will bring them down. So God brings Herod down, and in that act, God accomplishes something great, "The word of God increased and multiplied," as verse 24 says. God has directly intervened to eliminate another obstacle to his plans. No human can stand in the way of God's work of salvation, his redemptive work. As we live in this world, we are going to see and experience distress and mourning. Still, it can't ultimately shake those who have been touched by the power and grace of one who has been raised from the dead, Jesus Christ. In verse 15 of chapter 12, the church prayed fervently in the middle of persecution, threat, and suffering, and God works beyond even what they can ask or imagine.
The big idea that we need to look at from this story is that nothing can stop God when he has in mind to accomplish his design for the church. The Word of God is imperishable. In this world that is perishable, our world is full of uncertainty. The virus has just made that more evident to us, we are faced with the realities of we can't gather as the church, we don't know for how long we will be apart, we miss being together as the church, some of us have lost our jobs, some of us are walking through a major sickness, or even facing death. If you are like me, you might have a bit of worry in there too as you are facing uncertainty. I need this reminder as much as you do, that the gates of hell will not prevail against the purpose of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 16:16-18). God's church grew, as Luke says, she "multiplied" in times of peace like we see in chapter 9 and in war: "But the word of God increased and multiplied."
As we are in these uncertain times, we need to trust our God, who is unstoppable in accomplishing what he has in mind to accomplish. None of what we see around him is a surprise, he has decreed it all. Nothing is outside of his control because he is sovereign. And just as God accomplished his will to grow his church both in peace and war, God will accomplish what he wills in the circumstances that we find ourselves in today. Let us rest in him this morning.
On commentary on this chapter said it so well: "There is no way of stopping the fire that God implants in the lives of his people once it is kindled. The Holy Spirit employs the trials and difficulties that his people experience to drive them even further along the pathway of living exclusively for Jesus Christ. Taunts and mockery only sharpen the resolve.
Be careful what you pray for. Yes, for if you pray for greater holiness, God may answer by sending you through fires similar to the ones detailed in this chapter. In a way, we are never prepared for such trials; but we should rest in the assurance that no matter how difficult they may be, God will never abandon his own. In the midst of the fires, he will be there to help us."
In the midst of hardships, let us be a people of prayer, resting in our sovereign God who conquered the grave. From a tyrant to a virus, nothing can stop our God. He has given multiple examples of working "out all things for the good of those who love him." We may not ever know the why, but we know that God who sits on the throne. As a reminder of this, listen to this song by Shane and Shane called Oh Lord Almighty. I praise God for how he has gifted godly men and women to write songs that constantly point our eyes up.
All God's children singing Holy
Nothing left to say but Holy
Oh Lord Almighty