When I think about all the trials and tribulations that the early Christians faced, I am in awe. How did they go on? What gave them the strength to never give up? Very early in our story, even in Acts, we discover there is a dark side to following Christ: sometimes being hunted down or risking one’s own life. In today’s Acts story: James is killed; Peter is imprisoned; Herod, the Christians’ powerful enemy, seems to have the upper hand.
Guess what comes to their rescue? An angel! “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. In the midst of this story we realize that God will not leave us.
The angel is a symbol of God’s presence. This is a theme we see not just in Acts, but a common theme throughout the New Testament. While persecutions and oppression may come, time after time we get reminders of God’s perpetual presence and faithfulness.
We also must stand firm against the powers and principalities, for God’s reign is coming.
There is also an element of delayed realization for Peter. It took a while for things to sink in. “Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’”
This is the true deliverance. It is not from the hands of Herod, but from himself. God saves Peter from Peter. And isn’t that often the case for us as well? Sometimes it is easy for us to become our own enemies. We set our minds up for it, deciding that transformation isn’t possible, that situations are hopeless, only to find later that God had not given up on us.
This is reassuring, knowing that God’s faithfulness is not reliant on mine. God not only goes before me, but does not give up as easily. Have you experienced this?
Where have you felt God’s reassurance and comfort in the midst of doubt? How has God delivered you? Maybe from an addiction? Struggles with your children? Your own mental state? As you look back on your life, how far have you come? What is left, unrealized? Where do you see God at work in your current predicament?