Two Steps Back, Many Steps Forward
But the word of God grew and multiplied. ~Acts 12:24
We describe the challenges of life as being “one step forward, two steps back.” This means that even though we appear to be going forward, there are difficulties we face that make going forward more challenging. However, in Acts 12, we see a scenario where God’s program advances in spite of setbacks. This morning, let us see “two steps back, many steps forward.”
We see the arrest of Peter.
King Herod killed James, the brother of John, by the sword. After this, he arrested Peter and had him imprisoned. The imprisonment of Peter was meant to dampen the morale of the church and hinder the gospel from being preached. Believers may have tried to lay low and stay under the radar screen when this happened. If Herod killed Peter as well, what would this do to the advancement of the gospel? Then, Barnabas and Paul had come to Jerusalem to deliver a love gift to the church. Immediately following Peter’s arrest, there was likely widespread fear and anxiety. The death of James, the imprisonment of Peter, and the uncertainty for the churches were two steps back.
We see the answered prayer.
“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” This is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible describing the power of a praying church. This prayer meeting of the church was corporate, concentrated, continuous, compensated, and out of concern. God answered their prayer that same night. “But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.” Peter testified of and gave God the glory for his release from prison. We never move forward for God apart from prayer. The secret to God’s blessing individually and corporately is always prayer.
We see the arrogant potentate.
Herod was a very controlling, demanding, cruel, selfish, and pompous ruler. He only cared about what served his interests. He used other people for his advancement. If you failed him, you could be certain to be killed or censured. One day, after giving a speech, the people cried out, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.” God had enough of Herod’s antics. God immediately smote Herod and his body was eaten of worms. Then, we are told that this happened “because he gave not God the glory.” He wanted to be worshipped by people. He was a man that was vile, vicious, and vain. His kingdom stopped at that moment. Whatever he thought he was advancing came to a crashing halt. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
We see an abounding program.