Acts 12:1-10
1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Have you ever woken up in the morning and felt like turning over and going right back to sleep? Not because you are tired but you just don’t want to face your day and all its challenges. Sleeping through your sorrows appeals so much more than attempting to take on your day.
That must have been how Peter felt while in prison. Some people have said that he must have been at real peace for him to be able to sleep in such uncomfortable situations. I guess it depends on what angle you are looking from. For the purpose of my story, he could have decided to sleep his problems away. What else could he do? He was shacked at his wrists. He could not move. He was completely surrounded. Herod had made sure of that.
So, there he was, fast asleep, when suddenly an angel was slapping him up. ‘Quick, get up’. What was his first reaction? He must have covered his eyes to deal with the brightness emanating from the angel. Then the shackles fell off his wrists. He was apparently not dressed, because the angel asked him to put on his clothes. Then the angel asked Peter to follow him. He felt he was dreaming.
They passed all the guards and came to the Iron Gate. That was the deciding point. It was the one thing that stood between him and freedom. He must have gotten a moment of panic. But guess what, the gate opened by itself. There was no need to speak to it, touch it or do anything to it. It simply opened as they approached.
A short while ago, I felt like Peter, shackled in by the enemy, tied up hands and feet, and hemmed in on all sides. I was working on a project that just seemed to be going nowhere. I had sent proposals to every organization I knew and I was getting very discouraging responses. I had one more meeting and was just not in the mood for it. Like Peter, I just wanted to sleep.
I woke up that morning and in my usual manner picked up my Bible to read. I was reading the book of Acts and this story was before me. I read through it and put it aside, and went on to attend to my kids to get them ready for school. After the morning hurricane of getting my kids through getting dressed, eating breakfast and going to school, I was all alone. It was quiet, and I reluctantly dressed up for my meeting. I was all dressed and looking at myself in the mirror and began to pray.
Suddenly I remembered the story I read that morning and saw myself in the story. Like Peter, I wanted to sleep. I told the Lord, ‘The only reason I am awake is because I have to go for the meeting’. I saw that as the angel that woke me up. I told the Lord how I was feeling all shackled and hemmed in. But I recognized something. The fact that I was going for the meeting at all, meant God was already at work.I remembered the events that made the meeting possible. That is another story. I saw it as the shackles falling off my hands and getting past the guards.
Then I said to the Lord, ‘You have got me past the guards, but I need you to open the Iron Gate for me. Let my proposal fly with this organization’. I was tearful, because there were other things I was thanking the Lord for, things He had done for that He alone could have done. I was so grateful, that as I asked yet again I began to cry.
I left the house very composed and full of confidence in God’s presence with me. One would expect that everything would go well after that Godly encounter, but I had to surmount a few more guards that morning. In fact we got there late. Finally we were at reception, and the person who invited us had totally forgotten she gave us an appointment. More guards.
But from that point, everything changed. She loved the project we were proposing and even though she was not in a position to use it herself, she was quick to introduce it to her colleagues who would benefit more from it. I felt like Peter, when the Iron Gate opened, like I was in a dream. I felt encouraged. I felt like a King’s daughter. I felt loved. I felt protected. It just felt good.
Why am I sharing this with you? Like me, you may feel like life is throwing too many blows at you. You may feel shackled and hemmed in on every side. Like you are being watched closely and every attempt to raise your head is being frustrated. All you want to do is crawl up somewhere and sleep.
Take comfort and courage in Peter’s story, in my story. God is faithful and He is totally on your side. Just wait and see as the miracle will unfold, as He gets you past the guards and through the Iron Gate. I want to imagine how intimidating the old Iron Gate must have looked. But as insurmountable as it looked, it opened as they approached. Don’t give in to sleep. Get up and go again. the shackles will fall off your hands and feet. You will get past the guards, all of them. You will even get past the Iron Gate effortlessly, all in good time. Take courage and believe. He will never fail us.
I am still basking in the warmth of that experience. There is something about God showing up for you. It makes you walk on air. I am enjoying the feeling. You will too. In just a matter of time. He is faithful.