Church Empowered – Message 11
November 29, 2020
I. Introduction: Continuing our survey of Acts called, Church Empowered.
A. Today’s message is entitled, Impossibilities.
- Theme verse: Acts 12:11b (NLT)… “The Lord has sent His angel and saved me…”
- We will see that Peter was delivered out of prison in a way that was humanly impossible—but God is not human—and nothing is impossible for Him! (Matthew 19:26)
- What kind of seemingly impossible situation or circumstance are you imprisoned by, that you need God’s deliverance from?
II. Overcoming impossibilities: (Acts 12:1-25; C/R: Matthew 19:26)
A. #1 - Rely on the power of prayer. (Acts 12:1-5; C/R: Philippians 4:6-7; James 5:16; 1 Peter 5:7; 1 John 5:14-15)
- Acts 12:1-2 (NLT)—1 About that time King Herod Agrippa [grandson of Herod the Great, ruled over Judea and Samaria AD 37-AD 44] began to persecute some believers in the church. 2He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword.
- Agrippa had a strained relationship with Rome; to keep his position (his throne) he had to prevent unrest and uprisings by maintaining the loyalty of his Jewish subjects.
- He sought the approval of the Jewish religious authorities by persecuting the hated sect of Christians, especially the apostles who led them.
- Acts 12:3 (NLT)—When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. [the leader] (This took place during the Passover celebration.)
- Agrippa thought the execution of Peter would increase his popularity with the Jewish people, especially during Passover when the city was full of devout Jewish pilgrims.
- Acts 12:4 (NLT)—Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. [They remembered Peter had escaped before; Acts 5:19] Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. [After the busyness of the festival ended, but before the crowds left the city.]
- Acts 12:5 (NLT)—But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. [Gk. adv. ektenōs (‘to stretch out,’ medical term meaning to stretch a muscle to its limits) referred to unceasing activity involving a high degree of intensity and perseverance, in this verse, to pray continuously, constantly.]
- The same verb was used to describe Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (to agonize in prayer).
- These people knew God, but only God, had the power to release Peter, so they prayed!
- They knew the truth of James 5:16 (NLT)—…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. [APP.: Do you know that truth?]
- In prayer, we acknowledge God’s ability, and our inability, to accomplish all things.
God responds to prayer, which is an expression of our faith, trust and reliance on God.
- The way we pray, the intensity of our request, reveals what we believe about God.
- APP.: What problem are you facing that is beyond your control? Are you praying or pouting? Calling out to God or complaining? Crying out or giving up?
- APP.: Do you pray immediately when an impossibility arises, or do you only pray as a last resort, when all other resources are depleted?
- 1 John 5:14–15 (NLT)—14And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. 15And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for. [In accordance with His will, not ours.]
To overcome impossibilities…
B. #2 - Remember God’s control over circumstances. (Acts 12:6-19; C/R: Job 42:2; Isaiah 14:24; 46:10-11; John 21:18)
- Acts 12:6 (NLT)—The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate.
- Despite his circumstances, Peter was sound asleep—the hard floor, painful shackles, the presence of guards, and the imminent threat of execution, didn’t keep him awake.
- How did he sleep in such a threatening situation? Peter trusted Jesus, who had told him that he would die later, when he was old (John 21:18); furthermore, he had already been miraculously released from prison once before by an angel, (Acts 5:19) so he rested.
- APP.: Do you rest in God in circumstances or are you tormented by worry?
- Acts 12:7-8 (NLT)—7Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” [Peter was sleeping very soundly.] And the chains fell off his wrists. 8Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” [He was still half-asleep.] And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
- God will lead us clearly when we are half-asleep or paralyzed with fear; just follow.
- Acts 12:9- (NLT)—9So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. 10They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. [No prison can hold, no bars or gates can restrain a person God wants free, for He controls even inanimate objects.] So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. [Don’t stay.]
11Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent His angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!” [execution]
12When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark [Peter’s companion], where many were gathered for prayer. [He went to be with other believers to tell them he was free, to show the God had answered their prayers, so it must have been customary for them to meet there.] 13He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. [She must have asked who was knocking, since it was night-time.] 14When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” [This humorous story reveals the truth of Scripture.]
15“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” [Some of them did not believe their prayers would change anything.]
16Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. [The door was obviously locked; they were afraid of persecution, arrest, even execution, as James had been.] When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. 17He motioned for them to quiet down [they cheered!] and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James [Jesus’ brother (Matthew 13:55), who was now the head of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13)] and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place. [He knew Agrippa would be looking for him; he wanted to protect the believers.]
18At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 19Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. [cruelty] Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while. [A vacation from stress.]
- APP.: What negative circumstances are you facing? A financial crisis? Medical complications? Business challenges?
- Will you remember that God controls ALL circumstances and cry out to Him for help?
- Isaiah 46:10 (NLT)—Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.
To overcome impossibilities…
C. #3 - Recognize God’s sovereignty over people. (Acts 12:20-25; C/R: Proverbs 21:1; Isaiah 40:22-24; Daniel 4:35; John 19:10-11)
- Several months passed since Peter’s escape from prison when this occurs.
- Acts 12:20-23 (NLT)—20Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. [Since Old Testament times they had been dependent on the region ruled by Herod Agrippa for food; they needed good relations with him to prevent a food blockade and starvation.] The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant [possibly with money], 21and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. [To arrogantly display his power.] 22The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!”
23Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms [tapeworms released from a ruptured cyst filled with worms] and died. [According to historian Josephus, Herod lingered for five days in terrible pain.]
- God ended the life of this proud, ruthless, king; He is sovereign over all people!
- Proverbs 21:1 (NLT)—The king’s heart [and life] is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; He guides it wherever He pleases [and ends it when He chooses].
- Other people cannot control our lives—whether they be government officials, employers, family members, co-workers or friends (perhaps so-called).
- Though it may appear that others have the power to dominate us, they can only do so if God, or we, grant them that authority or influence. (Jesus’ words to Pilate; John 19:10-11)
- APP.: Who do you need to ask God to sovereignly change (beginning with YOU)?
- Acts 12:24 (NLT)—Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers.
- God’s purposes cannot be halted by people, regardless of how powerful or evil they are.
Memory verse: Matthew 19:26 (NLT)—Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
Spiritual Practice: Practice these three T’sbased on Philippians 4:6 (NLT): Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.1) Tell God what you need; 2) Thank God for what He’s done; and 3) Trust Him for what He’ll do.