The ups and downs that the early Christians experienced must have been challenging. I’m sure it’s the
same for us.
In Acts 12, we read of Herod having James, the disciple of Jesus and brother of John, executed. Herod
was coming after Christians and we’re given one of the reasons: “he saw that it pleased the Jews…” The
same Jewish leadership who despised Jesus despised His followers and Herod needed their support to
stay in power. He was a people pleaser, but he was also arrogant.
After Herod killed James, he went after Peter. Peter was arrested and then we read this: “but earnest
prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5). That word “earnest” has to do with
persistence, another way of translating it: fervent. There is a steady confidence in this kind of prayer
which is amazing since they just watched their brother James be killed. That didn’t change their trust in
the Lord, in some ways it seems to have drawn them closer to Him. They press in through prayer.
Something else interesting to me in verse 5 is this: the “church” was praying. God’s people are praying
people and we should be too! We should gather for prayer (like we see in verse 12 of this chapter,
“many were gathered together and were praying”) but we should also pray for the same things, a
unified vision and purpose. In this case, they were praying for Peter to be rescued from imprisonment
and the risk of execution.
These were faithful people! What’s amazing though is that they also displayed a profound lack of faith.
What do I mean? They were gathered together praying for the Lord to intervene and suddenly Peter
shows up and they don’t believe it. In other words, God answers their very prayer and somehow they
cannot believe that He has done so—have you ever experienced this dissonance? We pray, God
answers, we’re shocked and then convicted that we’re shocked! They would rather believe that poor
little Rhoda (the servant girl) saw Peter’s “angel” (not sure what they were thinking…) than believe that God had answered directly and rescued Peter.
See, this side of glory, our faith will not be perfect, it will not be complete. We will have ups and downs,
we will be confused at times, but in the end, it is not our faith but the One in Whom we put our faith
that matters. Notice that God didn’t send Peter back to prison because the prayer warriors seemed to
lack faith and understanding. No, He continued to protect Peter and the church and do glorious things
in their midst, because He loves them.
Speaking of protection—read verses 20-23. Herod who stood against God and His people would no
longer harm God’s children. His arrogance and self-deceit led to God’s judgment. And don’t miss verse
24 as a wonderful concluding comment of God’s victory: “But the word of God increased and
What do we see in this chapter?
Trials will come to God’s people. God’s people find their strength in Him through faithful and fervent
prayer. God reveals His power and can rescue His children from the seemingly impossible. He judges
those who oppose Him. His Word cannot be stopped. Trust Him.