Does it sometimes feel as though, in your Christian journey, you take a few steps forward only to get buffeted by some trial or tribulation which seems to set you back? Do you ever struggle, thinking that maybe you’re not doing this right, that you shouldn’t have so many troubles now that you’re a Christian?
We’re going to be reading Acts 12:1-25 this Sunday in our ongoing study of the Ragamuffin Revolution, the book of Acts.
Luke has been developing this story along a regular beat – a rhythm of the gospel advancing and the gospel being opposed. We left chapter 11 on a high note of a new, gentile church who is maturing and demonstrating the values of God’s kingdom, only to walk into chapter 12 and find an increased and deadly persecution.
A mistake is made sometimes, when people give their lives to Christ. An assumption develops that things should go smoothly now, now that I’m on “God’s side”. There are some presentations of doctrine that actually seek to reinforce that idea; that God’s intent is to lead us into a trouble-free life of wealth and prosperity and if we have enough faith, God will grant it to us.
That’s a lovely notion…but counter to the Bible’s explicit statements and implicit narrative. It’s pretty clear that we never really knew we had troubles until we started following this Jesus. The early church experienced that. Trouble happens – it comes from kings and chains and iron gates – it comes in bills and doctor’s reports and a culture’s growing hostility.
What is our response to this? Fatalism? Shrug and say “oh well, everything is awful and there’s nothing we can do about it.”? What did the church in Jerusalem do when Peter was put in prison? What do you think they were praying for, given their reaction at the end of the story? How do you think prayer affects things? Do you find yourself viewing prayer as a first response or a last resort?
Herod had James executed for being faithful to God. How does this end for Herod? Who has the last word (v24)? What does that tell us about the troubles of this fallen world? How can we be encouraged to transcend our troubles from this account in Acts 12?
Hope to see you Sunday!
*by the way – Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, also records the death of Herod: Antiquities 19.8.2 343-361 – it’s an interesting parallel to the Biblical narrative.