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When God Sends His Angels

Notes & Transcripts

When God Sends His Angels

Acts 12:1-11

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - July 21, 2013

*Some day you are going to see an angel. It's not a matter of "if" but "when." God's mighty angels are as real as we are today. And in this wonderful story from the early church, we can see some of the times when God sends His angels.

1. First: God sends His angels when His people face big problems.

*We see this truth in vs. 1-4, where the Bible says:

1. Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church.

2. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

3. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

4. So when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.

*This was a terrible crisis for the church. It was not the first persecution, but a fresh wave of persecution against the church leaders in Jerusalem. King Herod stretched out his hand to "harass" or "vex" them. He wanted to hurt, oppress, and crush them. They were probably scourged and put into prison. Herod even killed the Apostle James, and was just waiting for the right time to kill Peter. It was a time of terrible trouble.

*Many Christians around the world are going through the same kind of trouble today. And we may not be going through that kind of trouble. But all of God's people will face great problems. And in those situations we sometimes see God's angels at work.

*In 1993, "Time Magazine" had a story about Melissa Deal Forth. She was a 40-year-old film maker from Atlanta. The story was about the death of Melissa's husband Chris, exactly one year after he had been diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.

*The last months had been gruesome, with many nights when Melissa could not sleep. But Melissa was sleeping by Chris' hospital bed on January 4th, when he somehow managed to get himself and his IV pole out of the room without being seen or heard. Melissa remembers being shaken awake at 3:00 a.m. by a frantic nurse who told her she couldn't find Chris.

*Melissa did find him in the chapel sitting with a man she had never seen before. She burst through the door, firing off questions, "Where have you been? Are you okay?" Chris just smiled. "It's fine," he told her, "I'm all right."

*The other man remained quiet, as if he didn't want to be noticed. He was tall and dressed like Chris usually did in a flannel shirt and Levis. Melissa later reported, "There was no real age to him, no wrinkles, just this perfectly smooth and pale, white skin and ice blue eyes. I mean I've never seen that color blue on any human before. They were more the blue like some of those Husky dogs have. I'll never forget the eyes."

*Chris seemed to want to be left alone, and so she reluctantly agreed to leave. When he came back to his room, she says, "He was lit up, just vibrant, smiling. I could see his big dimples. I hadn't seen them in so long. He didn't have the air of a terminally ill and very weak man anymore."

*"Who was that guy?" she asked Chris. "You're not going to believe me," her husband replied. "Yes, I will," she answered. "He was an angel," Chris said. "My guardian angel." Melissa did believe him. "All I had to do was to look at him," she says now, "to know something extraordinary, something supernatural had happened."

*She searched the hospital, but couldn't find the man. And Melissa said: "After the visit, Chris told me his prayers had been answered. I worried for a while that he thought the angel had cured his cancer. I realize now it wasn't the cure, -- it was the blessing he brought with him. It was the peace of mind."

*Chris died two days later. Melissa says that not a day has gone by when she has not thought about the angel and what he did for her husband. She said: "Chris' life could not be saved, but the fear and pain were taken from him. Never, never, never will anyone be able to convince me that angels don't exist." (1)

*God sends angels when His people face big problems.

2. He also sends His angels when His people are in prayer.

*Verse 5 reminds us of this truth, when it says: "Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church."

*This was a giant crisis for the church. But we see them doing exactly the right thing. They started praying for Peter. And they kept on praying. They prayed without ceasing. And that's exactly what we should be doing. Passionate prayer always makes a difference.

*W.A. Criswell tells us that prayer is the real battlefield of the world. He said all the host of heaven and God Himself looked down on that little group interceding for Peter's life. "When trouble and sorrow came, the people fell on their knees in real, agonizing prayer."

*And Dr. Criswell explained: "I can see that in the lives of God's people. So often our prayers are peripheral. They are lifeless. They are cold. They are indifferent. They are repetitive. They have no blood in them, no tears in them, no agony in them. But when trouble comes and sorrow threatens, our prayers are no longer just syllables, sentences, and words. They are heartbeats. They are blood drops. They are agonies. So it is in this text. Bowed to their knees by an awesomeness of the slaughter of the infant church, the church goes to God in agonizing prayer." (2)

*And in vs. 6&7, we see God coming to the rescue at just the right time:

6. And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.

7. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!'' And his chains fell off his hands.

*God's people prayed, and He chose to send an angel to the rescue. A blind lady named, Sandy Seltzer, reported a similar answer to prayer. It happened when Sandy got a new guide dog named Dustin. Dustin was born and trained in California, but Sandy lived in New York. And when she got Dustin, the dog had never been in a snow storm before.

*Those guide dogs have to be walked regularly, and their first trip out was really frightening. Dustin was confused by the snow. No one else was out, so there were no sounds to steer Sandy and her dog. It took them 45 minutes to take just a short walk.

*When Sandy told a friend, she suggested: "Why don't you ask God to go with you?" So Sandy began to pray: "Lord, go with Dustin and me. The wind is so fierce and it's hard to focus on our direction. Please lead us."

*The next time they went out, the snow stung their faces, and it was difficult to make a path. Dustin whined a little, and Sandy said, "Ok, baby. The Lord is with us." Then she gave her guide dog a command that a blind person only uses when someone else is leading the way: "Dustin -- follow!"

*To Sandy's astonishment, her dog perked up and took off as if he knew exactly where to go. They made it to the street; then headed back to the apartment building with no problem. Just then, a young woman trudged up and offered to walk them back to Sandy's apartment door.

*"I'll just follow your footprints," she said. "Yours, the dog's, and that other person's." "What other person?" Sandy asked. "Well, there are dog prints, your prints and a larger person's prints. Wasn't somebody with you?" Sandy paused for a moment and then replied, "Oh yes, there was someone with us." (3)

*Now it could have been the Lord. But it's much more likely that He sent one of His angels to guide Sandy that day, and to remind her that God answers prayer.

-God sends His angels when His people are in prayer.

3. And when He wants to show His power.

*We see a good example in vs. 7-11:

7. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!'' And his chains fell off his hands.

8. Then the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and tie on your sandals''; and so he did. And he said to him, "Put on your garment and follow me.''

9. So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.

10. When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord (I like that part.); and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

11. And when Peter had come to himself, he said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.''

*Our God has all power! There is nothing good that He can't do. And sometimes He uses angels to demonstrate His power.

*In this story, King Herod did everything he could to keep Peter locked up. Peter was behind three gates and bound by two chains. He was also guarded by four teams of four soldiers. Each team of soldiers took turns serving six-hour shifts. Altogether, then, 16 soldiers guarded the door. But what are 3 doors, 2 chains and 16 soldiers up against our God? Nothing can stand in His way!

*So we see God send one of His angels. Listen to it again in vs. 7&8:

7. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!'' And his chains fell off his hands.

8. Then the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and tie on your sandals''; and so he did. And he said to him, "Put on your garment and follow me.''

*It's like that angel said, "Put your clothes on Peter! -- We're getting out of here!"

*Then, the New Living Translation says this in vs. 9-11:

9. . . Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn't realize it was really happening.

10. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate to the street, and this opened to them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.

11. Peter finally realized what had happened. "It's really true!" he said to himself. "The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jews were hoping to do to me!

*By the way, one angel was much more than enough. When Hezekiah was King of Judah the King of Assyria attacked Jerusalem. Hezekiah prayed and God's Word says:

33. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: 'He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor build a siege mound against it.

34. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return; and he shall not come into this city,' says the Lord.

35. 'For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David's sake.'''

36. Then the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses all dead. (Isaiah 37:33-36)

*One angel was more than enough to help Hezekiah! And one angel was more than enough to help Peter! But let's never forget: It's not really the angels' power. It's God's power!

*Peter went first to Mary and Mark's house. And for a while he had to stand there knocking, because they just couldn't believe that the Lord had freed him. It seemed too good to be true. But it was true! And we often underestimate God's power, too. (Has anybody ever over-estimated the power of God?)

*Finally they let Peter in. And in vs. 17, he told them "how the Lord had brought him out of the prison." It was the Lord's power.

*God sends His angels when He wants to show His power.

4. And when He wants to carry out His plan.

*To see this important truth listen again to vs. 1-2:

1. Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church.

2. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

*Now in vs. 11: And when Peter had come to himself, he said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.''

*What a difference in the way it turned out for James and Peter? -- Or was it really? The question comes up: Why did the Lord rescue Peter and not James?

*Did God love Peter more than James? -- Of course not! God loves us all! And we know this chiefly because of the cross of Jesus Christ! Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to take all of our shame and punishment on the cross. Of course God loved James as much as He loved Peter.

*Well, was Peter more important than James? (No) Was Peter a better person than James? (Again: No) We don't know why the Lord rescued Peter and not James. But we do know that God has a plan and purpose for each one of us. We do know that God's plan is perfect. And we know that God uses angels to help carry out His plan.

*James didn't get left out here. I think we can make the case that God sent His angels to help both men. God sent an angel to take Peter to freedom in Jerusalem. But God took James to freedom in Heaven. And He could have sent an angel to take James home. Angels frequently show up when people are near death.

*When Mary and I were at Emmanuel Baptist in West Monroe, we met a man named Milford Humphreys. Milford was retired from the Post Office, and he passed away in the mid 1990's, after a long illness.

*The last time he got sick, Mr. Humphreys was in Glenwood Hospital, and several days before he died, he saw an angel in his room. Milford's nurse came in later to adjust his IV, and he told her that he had seen an angel. She must have been skeptical about it, because she replied, "I'm your angel."

*Well, Milford was a little gruff, and he firmly said: "No. This was a bona fide angel. Guess I'm getting ready to kick the bucket."

*But Milford wasn't afraid, because he belonged to the Lord. He had hope. And the angel reminded him that God had not forgotten him. God was watching over Him. And God had a plan for his life.

*It was the Lord's plan to take Milford home to Heaven. And we see the Lord's plan here in the Word of God: "Peter, I've got something for you to do down there. But James, you come on home. I've got something for you to do up here."

*God has a perfect plan for our lives. We need to remember that, because there is so much in life that we don't understand.

Conclusion:

*Christians: God has a perfect plan for our lives, and angels are a part of it. Sooner or later, you will see angels.

-It may be when you face a great problem.

-It may be when His people are in prayer for you.

-It may be to help you see His power.

-And it will be to carry out His plan for your life.

*But remember that the most important part of God's plan for your life is to turn away from sin and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus loves you. He died on the cross for you. He rose again from the dead. And He wants to save your soul. Open your heart to receive Jesus, as we go to God in prayer.

(1) Source: "Angels Among Us" by Nancy Gibbs - Monday, Dec. 27, 1993 - Reported by Sam AllisBoston, Nancy HarbertAngel Fire and Lisa H. Towle/Raleigh, with other bureaus - Adapted from sermon by King Duncan: "Entertaining Angels" - Hebrews 13 1-25 - Dynamic Preaching JAS 2001

(2) "Acts, an Exposition, Volume II" by W.A. Criswell, Zondervan Corp., Grand Rapids, 1979 - pp. 111-112

(3) "Footprints in the Snow" - Copyright 1991, Guideposts Associates, Inc. - Carmel, NY - p. 115 - (2013 Source: www.guideposts.org/video/mysterious-ways/mysterious-ways-leading-the-way-0)

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