Dear Hope Family,
Our sermon series through the book of Acts presses on this week and brings us to the 12th chapter. After several weeks of chronicling and celebrating the triumph of the Gospel in unexpected places among unlikely people, we are given a glimpse into the status of the church and the ministry in Jerusalem – the place from which the faithful believers have been scattered because of intense persecution. We quickly learn that persecution persists and even has intensified since the last check-in. James, one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples succumbs to a violent execution at the hands of the Roman ruler, King Herod, and Peter is taken captive while he awaits the same end as James. However, in a stunning and encouraging reversal, Peter is miraculously delivered from prison and escapes the execution designed for him by the authorities.
While we certainly rejoice and marvel at God’s gracious deliverance of Peter, we also do well to wonder at the tragic lack of deliverance for James. There truly is a tension between God’s deliverance of Peter and James’ demise in the passage. I am aware that many of us are dealing with threatening situations personally, relationally, vocationally that leave us powerless and in need of rescue, escape, or deliverance, and we pray earnestly and sincerely for God to bring the relief and redemption we desperately need. If God wills to bring the deliverance, we rejoice, and friends celebrate alongside us. If God does not, we often are puzzled and wonder what went wrong.
The record of the angelic rescue of Peter that we find in chapter 12 functions as a foretaste, a preview of what is in store for every believer when Christ brings His ultimate Deliverance through His triumphant return. This side of heaven, this side of Christ’s return, we might not experience every small “d” deliverance we desire or need, or we might, indeed, be on the receiving end of miraculous rescue from circumstances. Whatever our experience may be, the ultimate, certain Deliverance Jesus is preparing and bringing helps us endure and make sense of the things we do suffer from with no apparent deliverance.
So much of what it means to live by faith is learning to interpret the present with all of its complexity and questions by remembering the certainty of the future. We are free to articulate our bewilderment and utter our complaints – to be sure. However, we know the end of the story. We have glimpses and reminders of what God is busy accomplishing on our behalf. And that empowers us to trust even when the details of this life are unwanted, unpleasant, and unclear!
Grace and peace,