Chuck Swindol wrote, “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”
John Walsh, the host of the T.V. reality program America’s Most Wanted, in 1981 had his 6-year-old son Adam abducted outside a Florida shopping mall. Adam was found two weeks later murdered. John Walsh and his wife Reve, were devastated and angry.
They wanted to sue the department store from which Adam had been abducted. When Adam first disappeared, no one at the store wanted to help them find their son and they later discovered that a security guard who worked there had actually ordered 6-year-old Adam out of the store. The Walshes were outraged. But the Walshes soon dropped the suite. Instead, John Walsh focused on solving the growing problem of child abduction.
In 1984, Walsh cofounded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an organization that works to prevent child victimization. This organization has a program called, “Aide Adam” which has been implemented in 1300 stores. When a customer reports a missing child, a storewide alert is announced, and a description of the child is given to designated employees, who then search for the child and monitor the exits. If the child is not found in 10 minutes, employees contact the police. This organization has helped parents to recover more than 48,000 missing children.
The Walshes did not curse the darkness they lit a light. They did not run from their problem, they ran to their problem. They did not focus on the cloud but the silver lining.
What is your problem? Is it physical, financial, relational, personal, or spiritual? In Acts 12, Peter is unjustly imprisoned. Are you incarcerated in a prison without bars?
1. Is Our Problem a Humanly Insolvable Problem?
A. This was the 5th and the worst persecution. Peter’s life was not getting easier, but more difficult.
The First Persecution: In Acts 4, Jewish leaders threaten Peter and John
The Second Persecution: In Acts 5, Jewish leaders beat all the apostles including Peter
The Third Persecution: In Acts 7, the enemies of the gospel martyr Stephen, the deacon
The Fourth Persecution: In Acts 8, the entire church is persecuted and scattered
The Fifth Persecution: In Acts 12, the church’s first preacher is murdered and Peter is arrested. This is Peter’s third imprisonment and this time it is maximum security on death row. Peter was surrounded by 4 guards and bound by 2 chains. This was the last day before his execution.
B. Is your Problem Humanly Insolvable?
Some believers really have the kind of problems as did Peter. Others only think they do. Have the authorities threatened us? Some believers wilt under the slightest criticism. Have we been beaten with rods? What would really be good for some of us is to visit the ICU of High Point Regional or Brenner’s Children Hospital at Baptist Hospital and stand for a few minutes in the rooms of people dying of brain cancer or some other terminal disease. Or go to the family waiting rooms of the ICU and watch family members come back from their loved one’s room where they had held back the tears but now can’t hold them back any more.
Has anyone threaten to kill any of us? Go to Voice of Martyr’s website and read about present day martyrs. A friend of mine who has done mission work in Egypt, told me of a believer who was witnessing and caught by the Muslim authorities and stripped of his clothing and hung upside down for a week in a solid concrete room where he was fed but defecated on himself for a week. When released, he was told, next time you are caught, you and your family will be killed.
Have we been forced from our home as fugitives for our faith? Have any of us been homeless for Christ?
2. How Are We Responding to Our Problems?
A. By Praying to the God of the Impossible. How can we pray to the God of the impossible?
1) In Acts 12:5b, the church prayed “without ceasing.”
In Luke 22:44, this word is used to describe Jesus praying in the Garden. He prayed “earnestly” or desperately. The other option is to worry. Worry has never helped solve any problem it only compound the problem.
2) The church prayed corporately.
Luke writes that “the church” prayed. There is closet room prayer and there is prayer room prayer. On Wednesday evenings we pray corporately. The early church prayed corporately in Acts 1, 4, and 12. Warren Wiersbe has a little but book entitled, Something Happens When The Church Prays.
3) The church prayed specifically.
The church prayed “for him.” On Wednesday evenings we pray for pastors. E. M. Bounds wrote, praying for pastors would help the preacher. It would also help the listeners. “Preaching never edifies a prayerless soul.”
4) The church prayed patiently.
For one week they prayed up to the last night before Peter was to be put to death. Why did not God answer on the first day instead of the last? For their sake. They needed the practice. For Peter’s sake. He needed the testing. For our sake. We needed an example. “It is always to soon to stop praying.”
B. By Resting in the Promises of God in Acts 12:6
1) How was Peter reacting in prison the night before his death?
He was sleeping. He was resting on the promise Jesus gave in John 21:18 that Peter would not die until he was old. You and I also have promises: “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind in stayed on you.” Are these promises a soft pillow for your weary mind at night?
2) Are you resting or resisting?
Instead of quoting verses to God and praying to God are you talking to every one else? Are you reacting like a mature, adult believer or like a babe in Christ? The answer is in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. If instead of praying and claiming God’s promises we are envious, causing strife and division because of our gossip and complaining then we are reacting not as Peter but as immature babies.
At one of John MacArthur’s pastor’s conferences, a pastor walked out on the platform dressed like a big baby. All he had on was an adult pamper, a bottle in one hand, a pacifier around his next and the Bible in the other hand. His sermon was on Christians who act like babies.
3. How Does God Respond to Prayer and Resting on His Promises?
A. He intervenes (Acts 12:7-11)
Someone said, “A humanly impossible situation is the platform from which God loves to work.”
Thomas Watson, the puritan preacher wrote about this miracle, “The angle fetched Peter, but prayer fetched the angel.”
B. God did not do what is possible for us to do. God miraculously removed the chains. But Peter had to put on his clothes, shoes, and coat. We must pray, rest on His promises and then He will do the impossible.
C. God answers prayers in one of three ways.
1. He says no! James was not delivered (12:1, 2) but Peter was (12:11). God said, “No, I will not spare his life but I will bring him home.”
2. God says yes. When a sinner prays, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner” God immediately answers with a “yes”. When we believers confess our sins according to 1 John 1:9, God instantly answers our prayers with a “yes”.
3. Other times God says not now but later. This is the case with this praying church.
4. What Should We Do However God Intervenes?
Tell others and give God the glory. Peter told others the good news and gave God the glory in 12:17. When you text, tweet, face book, email, phone call, stand around and talk to believers, share the good news of what God is doing and give Him the glory.
This passed week, we had a friend of one our members saved at the cottage prayer meeting on Thursday evening, over 200 men responded to our Men’s Breakfast, 30 preachers and eleven churches participated in our conference. This morning the man saved is coming forward plus our new student ministries pastor and wife are coming to join our church. Tell others this good news and give God glory!