Who's in control?
What next? Do you ever ask that question when ANOTHER bad thing happens? What next?! What could possibly go wrong now? As we've been reading through the book of Acts, we've seen God do incredible things - showing his power and control over everything. But the bad things keep happening. Christians are now being killed and as we come to chapter 12, John's brother, James, is killed and Peter is arrested. The situation does not look good.
1It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
So James is killed and Peter is arrested, and guarded by 16 soldiers in prison. If you know the story, Peter has a miraculous escape as an angel appears and opens all the prison gates. Peter just walks out and returns to the other disciples. Herod could not locate him and so he had the guards put to death.
But then something BIG happens. Herod gets up and makes a public speech. It is such a good speech that people comment that he must be a god! This is a Roman King's aim in life! Herod is feeling very accomplished. Then the tables are turned...
21On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.24But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.
Another angel, another messenger from God, arrives. This time, Herod is struck down dead. Why? Because he did not give praise to God. Now, Herod has just killed James, arrested Perter, and killed 16 guards for losing Peter. He was not a nice guy. But he's struck down by God... eventually. And why? Because he refused to give praise to God and instead, he counted himself as a god.
Why did God wait until THIS moment? Why not knock him off earlier? Why does God let evil people go on for so long before he does something? Why does God allow evil to continue for so long? Sometimes he seems to do nothing. Other times he strikes people down.
Why? Because God knows what he is doing. God knows how to run his world. The key to this is actually in verse 24.
24 But th word of God continue to spread and flourish.
You see, this is God's mission. That is the important thing. We often don't understand the way God intervenes or does not intervene in our day-to-day life. But we can be assured of this: His mission is to spread the gospel and see people saved in eternity. Often, that means persecution continues. Often it means Christians suffer. Often it means we don't understand the daily circumstances we face. But God has an eternal plan and an eternal perspective.
Heavenly Father, we are often confused about the way you work in our world. We are often saddened by the pain and persecution many Christians face. We pray for them. We pray that they would know your comfort in times of trouble and sorrow. We pray that they might stand firm under daily struggles. But most of all, despite our hardship in this life, we pray that your gospel which brings eternal hope might continue to spread no matter what we face in this world.