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 struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrist. 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, followed 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 post and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this open for them all by itself. So they passed though and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.Acts 12: 6-11
Everyday I run into and have conversations with people that have different stories and varying circumstances. Although some of the variables within these stories change with each encounter, the need and the answer remain the same. All of us either are now, were then, or in a future season of our lives will be in need of a breakthrough. When we are aware of this need, our response is to seek the answer. As a pastor, the ‘church answer’ is always “Jesus!” It has been and will continue to be that name. Hallelujah! The problem ensues in the “how” and “when.” As believers we are never really privileged to know the “when” of our breakthrough. Whenever the “when” is, it seems to always come later than desired, and in an unexpected form.
This passage in Acts 12 is no different. Peter finds himself in a tight situation yet again, and in need of a little divine intervention. We can learn a lot from Peter in this text, but also about God and how He initiates the breakthrough for each and everyone of us.
First, I want to establish that this passage is less about angels, chains, and open doors than it is about one word…faith. Faith has been and will always be the activating agent in any move of God. Throughout the Bible we witness miracles, healings, and access to the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven given to normal, everyday people who carried one common thread…faith. In Hebrews we bear witness to God’s story of faithfulness to generations who were willing to trust Him in faith.
My heart for this chapter and generation of the church is that we would re-engage our faith in the author and perfecter of this very term. Churches are drowning in hopelessness, brokenness, fear, etc, and the only way through is not to erect a new program or mission statement…the only way over the mountain in front of us is to get under it in faith.
Lets look at the text and see what we can pull out…
1. Breakthrough is instituted in a posture of rest.
Scripture tells us that it’s all about to come down on Peter the next day… and what is he doing? Taking a nap. That’s right. Chained to two soldiers and surrounded by prison guards, Peter decides to take a little siesta. Jesus tells us, and told Peter, “Hey, My yoke is easy and burden is light.” To be yoked together is to be in covenant with the other half of the relationship. Here is the thing about being yoked to Jesus: He does all the heavy lifting. This doesn’t mean we just chill and slumber, letting JC simply do the work while we reap the harvest. We take part in all of it: the work, the rest, and the sufferings. Rest leads to peace. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. If you’re not experiencing peace…then you may need to inventory the rest of the fruit you are producing.
2. “Suddenly’s” still happen.
When you’re at the end of yourself, prepare your heart for God to pull a “suddenly” out of His plan for your circumstance. In this passage we see that there are two suddenly’s in this dramatic narrative of Peter’s rescue. The first in the form of an angel that seems to take care of 90% of the issues facing Peter and his breakthrough. I mean wow… talk about letting the Lord fight for you! Chains fall off and soldiers fall out in the name of Peter’s freedom. “Suddenly’s” are a byproduct of faith in the heart of a believer who continues to believe that “suddenly’s” still happen. Sorry, but I rarely see miracles in circumstances for those who either (1) are not seeking one, or (2) do not believe in them. Jesus could perform no “suddenly’s” in his hometown. Why? No faith. The second “suddenly” we witness in Peter’s breakthrough is seen in the exit strategy of the angel as Peter is escorted out of prison. Some seasons appear that they can last forever, but in fact they may end suddenly. Both good and bad seasons are tools in the shaping of who God desires us to be. I’m sure Peter felt pretty confident walking out of jail with an angel by his side. I wonder how he felt when it was over? The purpose of a divine “suddenly” is to accelerate you to the next checkpoint of your development in faith. They come in fast and leave faster. If we live for the next “suddenly” move of God we will miss the benefit of trusting that God is indeed with us even when it’s not visible.
3. You will be called to do what you can do, so He can do what only He can do.
It’s crazy how God works. He suddenly sends an angel into Peter’s dilemma. He takes out guards, opens gates, and eliminates every obstacle just so the angel of the Lord can instruct Peter to “get up and get your clothes on… oh, and don’t forget your shoes.” I’ve learned that nothing in the Bible is in there by mistake. Why would Luke, the writer of Acts, need to mention Peter’s attire in the midst of such a miraculous breakthrough? I believe this tells us that although God desires to do the miraculous, He expects us to do the mundane. If I will do what I can do, God promises to do what only He can do. I would have expected those shoes to jump on Peter’s feet themselves, and even tie themselves in a double knot! But God is telling Peter to do what seems little in the big moments and he will experience the glory of both.
Here’s the application: What would your life, circumstance, and destiny look like if you activated your faith to the point where even Jesus would be moved by it?
It may be your marriage, the mortgage, a lost child, or even a diagnosis. Maybe you’ve lost your confidence. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the “confidence of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.” Confidence is an ingredient to a freeing faith. Again, faith changes everything. It is always identifiable in those who carry its mantle, and even noticeable in those who are lacking its strength.
My prayer is that we would be a church and generation that is witnessed and known for our freeing faith. There is no program or strategy in this world to grow our own or another’s faith in a jar. It is sown and watered in good soil, with intentional weeding, and in the light of great expectation.
If you are feeling chained up today, or bound in an unrelenting season…believe for your “suddenly” to enter the narrative and initiate it by your faith in the One who can open and shut any door. ♦