Yesterday, Roarke and I were meeting for coffee and chatting about things, and he reminds me of a passage of scripture. That passage is Acts 12:6-19 and reads as follows from the New Living Translation (NLT) bible:
Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison
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. Suddenly, 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!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
So 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. They 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. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.
Peter 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!”
When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When 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!”
“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”
Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place.
At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.
I have a few questions about this. Firstly, what were they praying for? If they were praying for Peter to be released, why were they shocked when he was? Did they lack faith, or did they have to have faith to pray in the first place? Did Peter have faith, why was he shocked when he realised that he was actually being rescued? What does God want us to learn from this?
Let me start by saying that what I write from now on is my opinion, me trying to get my head around this story. I welcome any more thoughts on this passage.
I think that they had faith, faith that God would do something within their understanding. Maybe soften Herod’s heart so that he let Peter go, maybe some ‘more likely’ scenario, maybe something that wasn’t ‘impossible’ like him just walking out of prison! If we knew the answer to the first question, we’d know what they had faith for, as that is what they were praying for. I believe that they had faith, the question may be, had faith for what? They believe that God ‘could’ get Peter released, and possibly even mustered up the faith to believe that God ‘would’ release Peter, but
were they without a shadow of a doubt that Peter would be released. No, otherwise when there was a knock on the door, they would have said, please let Peter in, instead telling Rhoda that she was out of her mind.
Next we look at Peter. He had to get released from the chains, then he got dressed, then put on his coat, left the cell, past two guard posts, they then passed through the iron gate which miraculously opened by itself, then the angels left.. Only then did Peter realise that he had been freed.. Clearly he wasn’t expecting it either, where was the faith?
Now in Mark 5:34 and Mark 10:52 (to name a few), Jesus says that peoples faith has healed them. Clearly showing that faith is a powerful weapon in this life, and has the ability to see miracles happen. However, in our story, there didn’t appear to be any. What is this trying to show us?
I believe in a very powerful God, one who is capable of almost anything (yes I said almost, just in case anyone says, well He can’t go against His word, so that means He can’t do anything..). I believe (as the scriptures say) that WE can do ALL THINGS through CHRIST who gives us strength. I also believe that we need faith, it is a fundamental part of our.. um.. faith, but I believe that God is so good, and so powerful, that with even a mustard seed worth of faith, we can move mountains.
Even with just enough faith to pray, the disciples saw a miracle. They not only saw a miracle, but they got more than what they were expecting. They were praying for plan B, because plan A was impossible, yet God still executed plan A, to perfection. Imagine if they had the faith to believe for plan A, imagine their spiritual growth when they had heard Peter knock on the door, imagine the testimonies.. If only they had believed in plan A, that surprise wouldn’t have been surprise, but confirmation of what they believed!
Now I know what you’re thinking, but they got plan A, so what is the problem? I think that God was making a point here in this story, I think that sometimes, what we see here on earth is a direct result of our faith (or more so unbelief). We only see plan B (at best) because we are only praying for plan B and we only have the faith for plan B.. If only we had the faith for plan A. I am ‘preaching’ to myself here too, I think that most of us believers could ‘step it up a notch’ when it comes to our faith in God, or cut the unbelief down, whichever way you look at it.
So here’s the challenge. If you believe in a powerful, awesome God who can help us do all things through Christ who gives us strength.. Let’s show it. Lets start believing and trusting for plan A, let’s start praying bigger prayers, with our bigger faith, in a bigger God! Just think what may happen..