Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Now, let's see you get out of this one . . .

As we continue our trek through the Bible, as always, the daily lectionary passage can be found here: http://gamc.pcusa.org/devotion/daily/2010/8/31/
A lot of interesting stuff in today's readings.  I don't know if you caught it but in the Psalms there were a lot of references to pits and to lions, essentially to being trapped in pretty tough or precarious positions.  
All of which, I think, nicely leads us to the passage from Acts 12.  
As we pick up the story King Herod - who clearly just isn't a good guy - has already killed James, the brother of John, just for being a Christian.  And once he realizes that  the blood on his hands ingratiates the Jewish leaders towards him (they didn't not like him generally, and tended to cause trouble for him because he didn't observe Jewish religious custom or law . . . among other things killing his brother so he could marry his wife . . . remember??)  Anyway, he decides to arrest Peter next.  
Peter is, apparently, a pretty big security threat as he is locked away in a cell with guards on either side of him, guards outside the cell and guards stationed outside the prison as well.  So, Peter and the other Christians do what they have been told to do, the respond how they have been taught to respond.  They pray.  
And, if you have read the whole passage you know that their prayers are heard and answered.  An angel of God comes to Peter and in a way that can only be described as supernatural, guides him to freedom.  Wow.  Pretty neat trick, God.  
So, this story could be and is a great example of 'the power of prayer' and proof that 'prayer works'.  Definitely true, but that is not the focus I want us to have for this passage today.  
What I want us to remember is the other things that this story 'proves'.  
First, it proves - or at the very least illustrates - that there is nowhere we can go, no situation that we find ourselves in (whether there because of our own actions or because of things outside of our control) that God can not reach us.  There is no pit too deep for God to reach into.  There is no situation - even if it involves hungry lions (hey, remember Daniel?) that God can not come into the middle of.  God and God's love, grace, providence and protection can reach us anywhere we are, even in the most desperate times and situations.  Its a fact.  Mark it down and count on it.
And that leads me to my second point.   I once heard it said (I think by Mark Batterson - who interestingly enough wrote a book called 'In a pit with a lion on a snowy day') that worry is disobedience to God and a lack of faith and trust.  And I think he couldn't be more right.  I also think this is one of the most fundamental forms of disobedience we fall into.  When we worry - about anything - we are essentially saying to God that we don't trust him.  
This doesn't mean that we are supposed to go through life without thinking or planning and without being prudent - Peter didn't stick around to find out what Herod and the Jewish leaders were going to do when they found out he had escaped.  
But it does mean that, in light of the fact that God can reach us in any and all situations, circumstances and times that we should be working to respond to God by trusting and relying on him.  
Peter, in the midst of his desperate situation did not waste one minute worrying about what was going to happen, but instead demonstrated his trust in God by praying and then going to sleep (which I think is the surest sign that he truly wasn't worried, I mean seriously could you have slept in that situation?  with a soldier on either side?  knowing what was to come the next morning?)  
When we worry we take things out of God's hands and try to make do with our own.  What a critical mistake that is.  Sometimes it takes a situation truly and clearly beyond our control to make us realize that we can't handle things on our own and that God really can.  Many of us have had those experiences.  
I believe it is critical for us to begin living all of our lives - not just the big moments when we 'have' to depend on God - in a way that demonstrates our belief that God can reach us in any situation and our faith and trust that in all places and times God is with us.  
What would the church of Jesus Christ be able to accomplish in His name if we didn't spend a minute worrying?  
Why don't we find out?

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