God's Grace in Prayer

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God's Grace in Prayer

Acts 12:1-24                  September 10, 2000


Scripture: Philippians 1:3-12


          Have you ever felt powerless?

          I know you have because I have.

          I know you have because I have talked with many of you at one time or another and have heard your doubts and concerns.

          All of us reach that point when our faith runs thin and we think we have finally run out of options – or patience.

          Many of us have family situations and personal concerns that have carried on for years.

          We can reach the place of unbelief even if we say we still believe.

          Or we can reach the place of re-education regarding the Person of God.

          It doesn't have to be some tragedy that makes us feel powerless.

          It can also be just a creeping sense of being left behind.

          Carl Boender, the Director for CBMC in the Chicago area recently wrote of his frustration at his particular place in time in ministry.

          The chaos of fast changing, high technology in the business and private sector also has its effects on non-profit and religious organizations as well.

When there is very little we are doing today that we did five or six years ago, it fosters an attitude of uncertainty and confusion. Old standards and methods no longer are being used and are being replaced with methods and systems a lot of us "old guys" don't understand.

          Consolidation of companies, world markets, global products, wireless everything, leaves me with a sense of being left in the dust of the world around me. I don't fit like I used to.

          I remember when the fax machine was a marvel. I also recall I was one of the first to incorporate it into our everyday method of doing business and forced our suppliers to make changes to keep up with us. Today, we're out of business. Web pages have taken over, just in time deliveries have eliminated large inventories, and there is more efficient manufacturing. Things are just different.

          Yesterday I watched a machine that could run for four hours, change its own tooling twelve times, never have a human hand touch it, and turn out a perfect product each time. Awesome! (This reminds me of the article I read the other day that said we now have robots that can make other robots.)

          God must have understood this phenomenon from the beginning. He understood the world was going to change constantly, but that we, his created beings, needed something constant to hold on to.

          A hundred years ago when little had changed in farming and manufacturing for centuries, and our forefathers read in Heb. 13:8-9 where it says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching ---," It probably didn't present any real challenges to believe that.

          Today or yesterday there seems to be nothing the same except people are people, and people have a natural disposition to disobey God and get into all kinds of trouble. That has not changed. People still need to be reconciled to God. Broken lives still need healing. Broken relationships still need repair. Forgiveness still needs to be given and received, and the method of being made right with God has NOT CHANGED since God started the plan.

          If there was ever a time in history that needed a message of stability, it is now. I don't have to worry if the rules have changed, or the result has been altered. There's one thing I know and that's "once I was blind and now I see, once I was lost and now am found." My story and your story doesn't change. The purpose of CBMC is still the same – to present Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord to business and professional men--- When was the last time you presented your story?

          I believe that Carl wrote this because he was feeling left behind.

          But he has shared with us the way he has worked through the issue.

          He has concluded the truth of Scripture - that Jesus Christ has not changed, and that is enough.

          He has allowed God to re-educate him to the fact that he is not powerless because he has a story to tell of Christ's power in his life – and he is in charge of a ministry that encourages others to do the same.

          In this morning's passage in Acts 12, Luke shares with us a story that Peter would gladly tell us.

          Not only Peter, but a story that the early church would press upon us as well.

          It is a story about God's grace through the power of prayer.

          It is a story that never changes, no matter what generation you are in.

          And once again we shall find a major thrust in the growth of the early church.

          And if God doesn't change, these same truths are just as effective today.

          Last week we saw some of the signs of a vibrant and effective community spirit in the life of the church.

          Those signs were grass roots involvement, positive leadership, and faith in the revealed word of God.

          We learned what being a "Christ person" meant, both at the church in Antioch and for us today.

          We saw the phenomenal effect of working together.

          Today, we will learn about the most phenomenal aspect of what can happen when the church works together.

          It is called prayer.

          It is the community of faith in action.

Big Question:

          How does prayer effect the growth of the church?

I.       Cycle One – Release from Bondage

          A.      Narrative (vv. 1-11)

          B.      Implication

          Prayer effects the growth of the church by setting leaders free to tell the message.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

          Picture the security Herod has put in place here.

          Notice the late hour of deliverance.

          Imagine Peter's thoughts, "I'm going down like James."

          Peter thought he was in a dream world.

          Herod: "I've got to kill somebody," speaking of the guards.

          Those who lead us are completely at our mercy.

          If you ever wanted to be in power and control in the church, this is it – through the power of prayer.

II.      Cycle Two – Release from Doubt

          A.      Narrative (vv. 12-19a)

          B.      Implication

          Prayer effects the growth of the church by affirming whatever faith the people may have.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

          I'm sure the people were disheartened because they were probably praying for James too and he was executed.

          We should pray even when we doubt because when God gives the answer, our faith will be empowered even more.

          "Lord, help my unbelief!"

          We may lose some, like James was lost, but we will also save some, like Peter who was released because of the people praying.

III.    Cycle Three – Release from Oppression

          A.      Narrative (vv. 19b-24)

          B.      Implication

          Prayer effects the growth of the church by calling the enemies of God to account.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application


Big Answer:


How does prayer effect the growth of the church?

          Prayer effects the growth of the church by setting leaders free to tell the message.

          Prayer effects the growth of the church by affirming whatever faith the people may have.

          Prayer effects the growth of the church by calling the enemies of God to account.

Timeless Truth:

          Prayer applies the grace of God to our leaders, through our people, and against our enemies. In the work of the church, the most valuable player is the pray-er.

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