Monday, August 23, 2010

the reason persecution fails

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Acts 12:5

In the story of Peter's capture by Herod and eventual miraculous release by the hand of God we see how God is sovereign even over the attempts of those who hate the gospel to silence it. Peter was still God's chosen instrument. God was not done with him. God would use even his capture, persecution, and eventual release as a means to grow the church (the result of this episode in Acts 12:24).

But if we back up and take a look at the response of the church to these events, we see the reason that persecution never succeeds in stamping out the church. While Herod exerted every bit of political and governmental power at his disposal to stop Peter, the church just carefully and with fervor prayed. The text says this was earnest prayer. In fact, the very night of his release, when Peter makes his way back to the house church headquarters in Jerusalem, there is a prayer meeting going on interceding for him! We laugh at the way in which Peter interrupts it, and how those assembled there struggled to accept that it was Peter at the door, but nonetheless, Christ honored the fervent prayers of his sincere, but still faith-challenged, followers.

So a strong church ought to be defined by its fervent commitment to prayer in the midst of challenges. They may still need commendation to faith. But no church that is a truly praying church is a failing church! That much can be known from the pattern in Acts. Every challenge brought them to prayer, and God moved to answer their prayers. This earnest prayer of the early church is the reason persecution could not stand against the advance of the gospel.

Herod's rage at Peter's escape is understandable. He cannot seem to get his hands on the apex of the Christian movement in order to stop it. He orders the prison guards executed and moves to his Caesarean retreat to sulk. There, in the midst of political duties his pride becomes his eventual undoing. The chapter ends with his prideful end and miserable death. God strikes him down with a painful death and the gospel advances despite the cruelest efforts of tyrants to oppress the truth and dictate what people will believe.

To get updated on the state of the persecuted Christian church worldwide and how you can pray and work to end it, visit: and support the ministry of Voice of the Martyrs.

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