Monday, 19 September 2016

Sunday the 18th September: The release of Peter

Word to the young of heart:

Reading: Acts 12:1-1

It is wonderful when we get a blessing from God, but it is not unusual that soon afterwards comes trouble, even persecution.  So has your faith ever got you into trouble? It probably should! This is what happened in the early church.  Peter received tremendous blessing, then found himself in prison.  Christians should expect to suffer - as Jesus told us, the world hates us (Jn 15:18).

Persecution of Christians is actually irrational - they give no reason or threat.  (this has not always been the case, as the church has at times itself persecuted, like parts of modern Islam.) Jesus did good by word and deed, then suffered.  Is persecution due to fear and envy?

If we do find ourselves in trouble, especially for our faith, as Peter was, what should we do?  The reaction of the church was not violence, protests, etc, but to pray without ceasing, earnestly, and with others.  The prayer meeting is vital!

If we are in trouble, we can still have faith. Peter was so confident that he slept!  He was helped because he had experienced God's help before (Acts 5).  But the Church found it hard to believe!  We can be encouraged by that.  It should be pointed out that our faith is no guarantee of safety - James had been killed.

But there was a miracle!  But they were sceptical then, just as we would be today.  Indeed, God never does unnecessary miracle, but only for good reason.  As soon as the need passed, the angel left - Rhoda had to open her own door!  In particular, God is unlikely to grant us a miracle for OUR comfort, but so we can serve better.

He also waited until the last moment!  Why the delay?  God is concerned to grow our faith, so wants to test us.

God acted not directly, but by an angel.  Usually God acts through agents, and so also through us.  Angels are "ministering spirits" (Heb 1:14), sent for others, and so are we.

When Peter met the church he told them to go and tell it to James.  People are blessed and strengthened by the experience and testimony of others - we should share!  In particular, the church will never grow unless everyone shares what God has done for them.  It is not just for the preacher!  It should be natural for us to tell about God whenever we can - if he has done so much, how can we be silent (Acts 4:20).  Surely we are not ashamed of the gospel (Rom 1:16) - it is GOOD news!

Prof David T Williams
Theology (retired)

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