Adrian Rogers - Christ of Every Crisis
Would you turn to acts chapter 12, please? And I want us to think today about the Christ of every crisis. Now, we all have troubles, we all have troubles. They come every day. But every so often we come to a crisis. I mean an industrial-strength crisis. And, we really don't know where to turn unless we turn to the Lord. And, a crisis may come unexpectedly. It may come ferociously, just out of the blue. I mean, a full-blown crisis. Chapter 12 verse one, "Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also".
Uh, "Then were the days of unleavened bread. And when he had apprehended him, he put him," that is, Peter, "In prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers, to keep him: intending after Easter," that literally means after Passover, "To bring him forth to the people. Peter, therefore, was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined into the prison," or, "In the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, 'arise up quickly'. And the chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, 'gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, 'cast thy garment about thee and follow me'. And he went out, and followed him: and wist not," or knew not, "That it was true which was done by the angel: but thought he saw a vision. And when they were passed the first and second ward, they came unto the iron gate which leadeth unto the city: which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street: and forthwith the angel departed from him".
Now I'll stop there: we'll take up the reading here a little later. But let me give you the background again and reiterate what happened. Herod was a wild, a ruthless, a wicked and a vile man. He wanted to torture, to vex, to disturb the church. He had already taken James, the brother of John, and had put him to death. He saw that pleased the multitude. He said, "All right, I'll get the big guy. I'll get Peter". And so he put Peter in prison. Said, "After Passover, I'm gonna bring him out and I'll make him a foot shorter at the top, I'll take off his head". Herod was absolutely ferocious, vile, wicked and cruel. Now that's the situation, and it was indeed a great, great crisis. How do you handle a crisis? What do you do in times of crisis? Well, I want to give you, I want to give you four thoughts today and,put them down because you will need them. You may need them right now: some of you who are listening to me right now are in the very midst of a genuine crisis. But if not, you will be.
Number one, we should respect, respect the mystery of God's providence, of God's providence. As you look in this chapter, there's one word that comes through: it is providence. That is, you're going to see the hidden hand of God. God is gonna be working in a mysterious way, an inexplicable way. God is going to be in the shadows arranging things, moving things that people cannot see and that may be very true in your life right now. God is working, but you cannot see God working. Uh, you may be in the middle of chaos right now, nothing seems to be making sense, everything that you thought you had nailed down is coming loose and the devil is pulling nails.
Now listen to me. Just because it doesn't make sense to you doesn't mean that it does not make sense. Many of us have many questions. As we look at this chapter we would say, "Well, why? Why did God let Herod be king anyway? Isn't God, God? How could God let a rascal like Herod be the king? If I were God, I'd turn him into a frog. And why, why should James be killed and Peter released? Why is that? Does God have favorites? Is God capricious? Or has God lost control? And, and why all of these things happen"? Now friend, I want to tell you something. We do not live by explanations. Life is not a problem to be solved: it is a mystery to be lived. You should respect, listen to this, the mystery, the mystery of God's providence. Allow God to be God, and just because it doesn't make sense to you doesn't mean it doesn't make sense. And if you're in a crisis, don't demand to understand, okay?
Number two, you should request the ministry of God's people. Now, what is the ministry of God's people? It is prayer. Look now in verse five, "Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him". That is a great verse on prayer. Look at it again, "But Peter therefore was kept in prison, Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him". Now there seems to be no hope for Peter. Peter is in,maximum security. The prison is guarded on the outside with two guards by the door. There're sixteen guards who are guarding Peter: he must've been fairly important for sixteen personal guards to guard him. And besides all of that, he's chained to a guard on this hand and he's chained to a guard on that hand. Huh, huh. I would say, brother, you talk about a man who is in a pickle, he's in a pickle. And on top of that, on top of that, he is sentenced to death and a wi,uh, a wicked king says, "Soon I'm, I'm going to, I'm going to execute you".
Now, that, friend, is a crisis. You may think you have a crisis,but Peter is really in a crisis. There seems to be no hope for Peter. Every door is shut: every door, except one, and that's the one that goes straight up. That was the door they could not shut. That,uh, you, we can pray. In a crisis there's always prayer. And when there's no hope on the horizontal level, there's always hope on the vertical level. Now I want us to look at this prayer and I want us to just pull over and park here for a moment because when there's the, the mystery of God's providence, there's the ministry of God's people. Now watch it. I want you to see first of all what I'm going to call the frequency of the prayer.
Look at verse five, "Prayer was made without ceasing". Now they prayed and they did not stop praying. And they may have asked, "Why doesn't God answer our prayer"? Peter's kept in prison and,God doesn't seem to be in a hurry to get him out. But God is trying to teach them a lesson about prayer, and one of the great lessons about prayer is persistence. The Bible says, "Ask, seek, and knock". But it literally says, "Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking". And in Luke chapter 18 and verse one the Bible says, "And Jesus spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint". That is, not to stop praying. And you need to learn that,God's delays are not denials, okay? There's the frequency of the prayer.
And then also notice the fervency of the prayer. Got it? The fervency of the prayer. This word without ceasing may be translated intensely. They were praying intensely. I wonder, what do we know about intense prayer? Tell you one thing, when you're in a crisis you learn how to pray with intensity, don't you? Many of us prayed this morning, but I daresay that there're those in this building today, if I were to ask you, interrogate you, you could not tell me with specificity what you prayed for this morning. It's just sort of a general prayer, but no real intensity. I love Jeremiah 29 verse 13, where God says, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart".
Do you know the Bible calls prayer wrestling? Romans chapter 15 verse 30, Paul said, "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, for the love of the spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me". "That you strive together". Have you ever thought of prayer as striving, as wrestling? How much genuine agonize, agonizing do we do in prayer? If you really get into intercession, you're gonna find out that the devil will fight you and oppose you. Prayer is work. I'd rather preach for an hour than to pray for a half an hour, as so far as the labor,that it takes for genuine prayer. Uh, there, there's the frequency of the prayer, there's the fervency of the prayer. Sometimes we don't feel like praying so we say we'll not pray.
Friend, if there's ever a time that you need to pray, it's when you don't feel like it. And you pray till you do feel like it. But pray. Uh, pray not only with frequently but fervently. And then there's the fellowship of the prayer. The Bible says that it was made, "Of the church". Look in verse five again, "Prayer was made without ceasing of the church". That is, they came together to pray. Didn't Jesus say, "Where two or three of you are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them"? And, "If any two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it will be done for them of my father which is in heaven"?
God is pleased when his children pray, but God is more pleased when his children pray in fellowship. There's nothing that will bind us together as a church more than praying. If you've ever had a prayer partner, you know that your heart and his, her, heart or her heart are linked together. There are times when God comes, when the church prays, that is glorious and wonderful. It is what we call,the, the fellowship of prayer. This prayer was made of the church for Peter. And then I want you to notice the faith of the prayer. The prayer was unto God, it was unto God. Prayer was made unto God. They were not: they were not praying to one another. They were not praying to impress one another.
You know, today I think the reason we don't pray with frequency and fervency is because we think we can do it without prayer. You know, perhaps the worst thing about us is not our prayerlessness but our pride. I mean, we have our machinery, we have our plans, we have our methods, we have our pastors, we have our choirs, we have our Bible fellowships, we have our buildings, we have this: we have that. And so we come to church and think, "Well, we'll do it: we know how to do it". And you know what the devil does? The devil stands in the corner and smirks. And he says, "You can have your buildings, you can have your choirs, you can have your fellowships, you can have your preacher, you can have all, everything you want, you can even have your Bible studies, as long as you leave out the power of God that comes with fervent prayer that will not take no for an answer". The devil mocks at our schemes, laughs at our organizations, ridicules our talents, but he fears our prayers.
Now, these people are gonna pray. Peter's in prison. They're going to pray. Huh, ha, they don't have any, what, they, they can't get a petition and bring it to the government. They don't have money to bribe Herod to get him out of prison. Uh,they don't have political influence, but they're gong to pray. And the world may laugh, but friend, the devil didn't laugh. Someone has wisely said, "The devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees". There is the focus of the prayer. The prayer is unto God. And God is God, and God controls the universe. We need to learn that. That when we're speaking, when we're praying, we are praying to God. And so there's the faith of the prayer. And then there's the focus of the prayer.
Look in verse five again. The Bible says, "Therefore prayer," uh, "Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God," now watch this, "For him". They were praying for Peter. It was a prayer, not only with intensity, but with specificity. What did you pray for this morning? Do you know so many of our prayers are so vague, if God were to answer them we wouldn't know it and if God didn't answer them we wouldn't have to admit it? "Lord, save the lost this morning". Well, if somebody gets saved, you can say, "Well, I prayed for somebody to be saved, and a lost person got saved".
How do you know that was your prayer? How do you know that wasn't my prayer? Somebody else's prayer? You know, we have these vague, general prayers. At least when they're praying for Peter and the answer came, they knew it was an answer to prayer, isn't that right? It was made for him. What are you praying for? What are you asking God for? Uh, when you say,"Lord, I want you to do this or do that"? If God were to answer your prayer, would you even know it? You see, there's the focus of the prayer. It was for Peter, and God answered. Now, when you're in a crisis, respect the mystery of God's providence. Friend, request the ministry of God's people.
Here's the third thing. Uh, when you're in a crisis, number three, we should rest in the mastery of God's peace. Now there's the mystery of his providence, there's the ministry of his people, and there is the mastery of his peace in the midst of the storm. Look in verse six, "And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night," watch this, "Peter was sleeping"! Good night. Peter's, "Sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains". I don't know whether they were asleep, but here's old Peter asleep, "And the keepers before the door kept the prison".
There he is, the next morning he's to be executed, and there he is, asleep. And you know he's sleeping so sound that the angel has to punch him in the ribs to wake him up. Uh, look, look if you will,in verse seven, "And behold, the angel of the Lord came in upon, came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up". Can you imagine, "Hey, Pete, wake up, wake up"! "Huh"! Here's Peter, sound asleep the night before his scheduled execution. This is peace. This is peace in the midst of the storm. I thought about this as I read this, and I said, "Why, how could Peter sleep in such a crisis"?
Well, number one, he's no longer afraid of death. He's seen the risen Christ. I've told you before, a man is not ready to live until he's no longer afraid to die. He, Peter has seen the risen Christ. And for this man, death holds no real terrors for him. Number two, he knows that God's people are praying for him. What strength there is: what joy: what victory. I have, I have a sense so many times when I'm doing what I'm doing, there is like, there's, there's this, this peace, this, this buoyancy, and you know that it's because God's people are praying. Peter knew those folks were bombarding heaven for him, and that's the reason he was asleep. And also, he is aware of God's presence because he knew that the Bible says, "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep".
I heard about a man who was in a crisis and he couldn't sleep and he thought about this verse of scripture, "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep". He said, "Well, Lord, there's no need for both of us to stay up all night. Good night, I'm going to sleep while you stay awake". The Bible says, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee". All right, respect the mystery of God's providence: request the ministry of God's people. Prayer: rest in the mastery of God's peace in the midst of your storm. I don't care what it is, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee". Take your eyes on, off the storm and put them on the Lord Jesus Christ. Now last of all, rejoice, rejoice in the majesty of God's power.
Now, do you think that God was out of control when, James was killed? Do you think that God was out of control, ah, when Peter was put in prison? No, no. God is on his throne. Let's begin in verse seven now, "And behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him," that is, upon Peter, "And a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, 'arise up quickly'. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, 'gird thyself and bind on thy sandals'. And so he did. And he saith unto him, 'cast thy garment about thee, and follow me'. And he went out, and followed him: and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel: but thought he saw a vision. And when they were passed the first and the second ward," they keep on walking right on past these guards, "They came to the iron gate which leadeth unto the city: which opened to them of its own accord".
But now I want you to notice this, "They went out and passed on through one street and forthwith," I'm in verse 10, "The angel departed from him". The angel took him only so far and then said, "All right, Pete, so long". Uh, now, I want you to see how God's, power is working here. Uh, some people might have thought that God was weak and couldn't do anything or that God was unconcerned and did not care, and you may feel that in your problem, you may say, "Where is God, where is God? Is God able? Or doesn't God care"? And, and it's a very interesting thing, that, that Peter's deliverance came at the last moment. I mean, God is very leisurely in this thing.
As a matter of fact, all of this story is marked by leisure. Ah, huh, huh, huh, when angel comes in, "Hey Pete, wake up! Tsk, tsk, get up". Hits him in the rib. "Come on, son, get up". "What time is it"? "Never mind what time it is,we're gonna make a jailbreak". Ha, ha, ha. "Now Pete, put on your clothes. Pete, put on your shan, your sandals. Now Pete, put on your coat". I mean, if you're making a jailbreak, do you, do, do you get dressed up as you're going out? I mean, putting on your shoes and everything? What he's saying, "Hey, Pete, we're going out in class, we're not sneaking out of this place, we're going out,huh, huh, in real class".
There's such leisure about the whole thing. God moves in mig, majesty and leisure and they walk out and,through the first gate, the second gate, here's the iron gate just,first ward, second ward, here's the iron gate, just swings open. And then the angel leaves him. Now there is something very interesting. After that iron gate opens, Peter is going to go where the prayer meeting is. And the people are there at a house, the door is shut, the front gate is locked and,they're having a prayer meeting there. Well Peter now has made this prison break and he realizes it's not a vision: it's in real, it's for real. So he goes there to where they're having the prayer meeting: knocks on the door. Little maid comes and she looks through the peephole. Whew! It's Peter. She doesn't even say, "Peter, come in". So she goes back and says, "Hey folks! God has heard our prayer, Peter's at the door". They say, "Rhoda, huh, you must be having a, a vision. Uh, would you go leave us alone? We're praying for Peter to get out of prison". Here's Peter over here, "Let me in".
Did you know, it was easier for him to get out of prison than it was to get in that prayer meeting, ha, ha? That's an amazing thing! Uh, if, if, if, if the, if the Lord could open a prison gates, don't you think he could cause that garden gate to open, or whatever it was? I want you to learn a lesson. Prayer is never an excuse for laziness. Now there was no way that Peter could open that prison gate, but there was a way that other gate could've been opened. Now we can't churn, we can't change water into wine, but we can fill earthen pots, can't we? We can't raise Lazarus from the dead, but we can take the grave clothes off, can't we?
You see, there's certain things that we can do and prayer is never an excuse for laziness and, we need to understand that, eh, ah, we're to pray to God for daily bread, but the Bible also says, "If a man won't work, neither should he eat". Don't you love the balance of the Word of God? But here is God moving in majestic power. God is still on his throne. And, listen to me, if you're in a situation and God doesn't deliver you, remember he didn't deliver James. It's not because he can't. And if God is not working according to what you can see, it doesn't mean that God is not working. And if evil seems to succeed, just remember that the success of evil is only temporary.
Woodrow Wilson once said, "I had rather temporarily ff, fail with a cause that must ultimately succeed than to temporarily succeed with a cause that which, which must ultimately fail". Now if you're in a crisis, and some of you are in a real crisis, let me give you four things to remember. Number one: don't demand to understand, you'll never figure it out. Number two: remember the resource of prayer. Number three: put your eyes upon God and rest in his love. And number four: expect God's power to move in his own time and in his own way. And friend, he will do it. He's the Christ of every crisis. Would you bow your heads in prayer?