1. Has there been a time when you felt persecuted or marginalized for your faith?
2. How did you respond?
3. What did you learn about yourself and about God?
4. Have you ever been down to your last hope?
5. How would you describe your feelings at that time? (Sometimes we come to a point where we realize we’re powerless to change a situation. God’s demonstration of His extraordinary power is most apparent when we reach the end of our own ability.)
Today we will study about a situation that the Apostle Peter experienced to which I do not believe any of us can fully relate. Peter, the one who answered Jesus’ question when asked “Who do you say that I am?” answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” This same Apostle denied His Lord three times when the test at Jesus’ trial came to him. But now he is the leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem and standing for Christ in the face of death! Peter had come a long way in the past few years.
To set the context of our focal passage read Acts 12:1-6.
1. What do you suppose was the focus of the prayers the church was offering up on Peter’s behalf?
2. What was Peter doing? How could this be?
3. What does it say to you about Peter’s faith that he slept so soundly on the night before his scheduled execution?
(Describe the guard situation to keep Peter in prison.)
4. In what ways did Peter’s situation seem hopeless from a human standpoint?
Deliverance! Read Acts 12:7-10
1. How did Peter respond to the angel’s prodding and command to get up?
2. What did Peter think was happening?
3. The chains literally fell off of Peter’s wrists, they walked past two guard posts, and the outer gate opened by itself. How does this encourage you that God can deliver you from whatever binds you?
4. Why was James “killed by the sword” and Peter delivered from the very jaws of death?
There are Christians around the world today who are being persecuted for their faith. There is a man that we call Tang who is from India. One of our scholarship funds helped him to attend and complete his Seminary degree at Southwestern in Fort Worth. After completing his degree he and his family returned to India and began to pastor a church. A few months ago he went to another state in India to share the gospel. The officials there are very hostile to the gospel and as a result he was arrested when he refused to deny that he was a Christian and beaten for approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. He was finally rescued and allowed to go back home after some time in prison. His life was spared this time but he is determined to share the gospel with these people as God gives opportunity.
There are some people who would have you believe that if your faith is strong enough God will always deliver you. That simply is not true! There are scores of examples in Scripture. All we have to do is read Hebrews 11. God in His sovereignty decides whether to extend a person’s physical life through divine intervention or whether to bring that believer home with the affirmation, “Well done.” The point is that God has different plans for different lives. The death of James and the deliverance of Peter both accomplished God’s purpose for their lives. (Ps 23)
5. How does Peter’s release demonstrate the care God has for us, even in suffering? (God is aware of our situations and will provide all that is necessary to accomplish His will for our lives at the time it is needed.)
Delight! Read Acts 12:11-12
1. How did Peter respond when he realized God had rescued him? (He acknowledged God’s work in his life and expressed praise. He made his way to a house occupied by believers who were praying.)
2. What does it say about the character of the church that Peter knew exactly where to find them once he was released?
3. When we pause and look back on our lives, there can be times when we see God’s movement at strategic moments to accomplish His purposes. When you reflect on your life, when have you seen God move in such a way?
4. How does our church practice fervent prayer? (There are several of our Sunday School Departmentsand individual classes that have a special time of prayer on a monthly or weekly basis. We have a monthly Deacon’s prayer meeting. We have the prayer room. There are also special called times of prayer when specific needs arise. We have seen God do miraculous things!)
5. When have you been blessed by God’s extraordinary work in your life and how did you express your thankfulness to God?
There are times when miracles happen and we attribute it to something else. Look for miracles every day.
Read Acts 12:13-15.
We don’t know the specifics about their prayers for Peter, but if they were praying for his release they refused to believe it when it happened. But they were most likely praying for Peter to be strong in the face of this certain death sentence.
Determined! Read Acts 12:16-17
1. Has there been a time in your life when you were persistent in asking God for something, and when He answered the prayer, you were skeptical of the response? (Many times when we pray fervently about something, we have preconceived ideas about how God is going to answer our prayer and when it doesn’t happen the way we thought it would we think it was a coincidence and not God at all.)
2. What makes us skeptical of God working in an unexpected way?
3. How does seeing the outcome of a miracle move us away from our skepticism?
Some may ask why Peter went somewhere else instead of stayingand continuing his ministry there. Peter was still in imminent danger. We must rely upon the Holy Spirit to give us guidance and direction, then be willing to follow just as Peter did.
Disturbance! Read Acts 12:18-19
1. How would you characterize the response to Peter’s escape?
2. How did the king respond?
3. How does Peter’s miraculous deliverance illustrate the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility? (We must follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit and leave the rest up to God.)
God’s work was going to be accomplished. By God’s plan, Peter was critical in the gospel’s expansion.
Summarize and Challenge!
1. What can we learn from Peter’s experience of being jailed for sharing the gospel message and being delivered by God?
· God’s work is beyond our comprehension and ability to explain.
· God is faithful to those who serve Him, even when they experience difficulty for His sake.
· God honors the prayers of the faithful.
2. Think of some recent times when you have prayed for others. How would you rate the strength of your faith in the Lord to do marvelous, even miraculous, things in response to your prayers?
3. How can we show trust in the Lord’s grace even when His answers aren’t what we hoped for or expected?
What happened to Herod in the next few verses?
Close with payer praising God for all He does for us and through us!