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Is God still good when things go bad?

April 23, 2023 Speaker: Gibson Largent Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 12:1–25

Acts 12

James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

[1] About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. [2] He killed James the brother of John with the sword, [3] and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. [4] And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. [5] So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Peter Is Rescued

[6] Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. [7] And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. [8] And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” [9] And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. [10] When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. [11] When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

[12] When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. [13] And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. [14] Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. [15] They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” [16] But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. [17] But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.

[18] Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. [19] And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.

The Death of Herod

[20] Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. [21] On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. [22] And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” [23] Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

[24] But the word of God increased and multiplied.

[25] And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark. (ESV)



1. Find peace in Jesus Christ

  • Peter is sleeping between two soldiers!
  • Your peace does not depend on your environment or your circumstances
  • Your peace depends on a person and your relationship with him!
  • Philippians 4:6-7 - “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

2. Make peace with God’s sovereign specific will for your life

  • 2 people 2 different conclusions. Peter and James. James is violently killed. Peter is miraculously delivered. We often struggle with the specific will of God for our lives when we compare it to others.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy.
  • Tom Schreiner: the inscrutable sovereignty of God
    • "Sometimes those who would be great parents can't have biological children. Sometimes those who are terrible parents keep having babies. Sometimes God answers prayer for healing, and sometimes he doesn't, sometimes the wicked prosper, while the righteous suffer."
  • Proverbs 16:9 - “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
  • Proverbs 19:21 - “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”
  • You might perceive from the outside that someone’s life is better than yours or that God is unfair by not giving you what he gives others, but you have no idea the burdens that others carry and the experiences that have shaped each person.
  • It might be easy to look at these two apostles and think that James got a raw deal while Peter got an amazing deliverance.

3. Reinforce your confidence that God can do anything he desires

  • Peter’s escape is undeniably miraculous. There is nothing too difficult for God.
  • This is both good and bad news.
    • It’s good news when God operates in a way where you benefit.
    • It’s difficult news when you realize that God is capable of delivering from any and every circumstance… and then he doesn’t.
    • Good news for Peter - difficult news for James and his family
  • Our greatest hope is the resurrection from the dead.
    • No matter what happens to us in this life no matter how many trials we go through or difficulties we can rest, and the fact that God is able to deliver us from any and all circumstances.
    • But, even if he doesn't, we have absolute confidence that he will deliver us from the ultimate enemy, which is death. Because he conquered the grave, we have hope!

More in Acts

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Defending Salvation by Grace through Faith

May 21, 2023

The Story of Suffering

May 14, 2023

The Gospel Wedge