How to increase faith. Are you anchored or just drifting?
Acts 12 & John 10:6–10
Have you ever been really looking forward to something, maybe it is your birthday, maybe a place you wanted to go, maybe a concert or performance, maybe even a sporting event? You have been building up for it for a while, maybe even a long while, and when it finally happens it is such a disappointment such a letdown, or simply so ‘average’ that you are disappointed simply because you expected so much.
Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t a little how some Christians feel, and if I’m honest, sometimes how I feel when I read the verse in today’s reading.
If you have ever been into memorising scripture then this is a verse normally right near the top of the list.
Memorising scripture is essential by the way, something that we should all be doing no matter how young or how old you are. When was the last time you memorised a passage of Scripture? A verse or two from the Bible. If it has been a while, can I suggest you make it a habit.
Why is it necessary to memorise scripture? Because it is like having a weapon ready for when you come under attack in a battle. When the devil attacks with a negative thought we immediately pull out our weapon God’s Word (which is stronger by the way) and fight back.
The verse says this:
Jesus said, ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10)
It is a great verse to remember because it reminds us of the truth that the devil will offer many things to us but all of them are with the intent of bringing harm and death. Everything absolutely everything that Jesus offers leads to a full and abundant life.
You can see how this is a great weapon to have. The Devil says, ‘join the popular crowd that do the wrong thing.’ Sounds like fun, right? But will lead to death and destruction. Jesus says, “Don’t stop going to church, keep meeting with your Christian family.”
Sometimes we might say, but Sunday morning is a nice time to go to a café, or to sleep in. But then we wonder why our life isn’t full and joyful like Jesus promised us, and we feel like we are drifting away from God, and when things go wrong, or life gets hard, we have no foundation to stand on, and no Christian family to support us.
So Jesus gives up guidelines and promises in His Word for us to follow, and we need to be doing that, reading the Bible, memorising special passages as weapons to defend and attack against the enemy, and growing in relationship with Jesus and then we will have a full and abundant life.
But I think, if we are honest, sometimes Christians feel a little disappointed a bit like we are not too sure we have got what we were promised.
Well the truth is we are promised an abundant life and Jesus is certainly true to His word and while the full and abundant life He has for us will go on for eternity we should be experiencing it right now we should be experiencing it today but we need the right attitude, action and expectation for that to be a reality for us.
So to give you an example of a ‘day in the life of a full and abundant life’ I’m going to share with you a real life example from the life of Peter as he went about living his life in service of His King, and friend Jesus.
The Christians in Jerusalem were suffering persecution, some even being killed for their faith. But they continued to meet together to pray and to worship, and they were full of joy, experiencing what they would declare to be a full and abundant life as they shared the Good News of Eternal life in Jesus with anyone that would listen to them, and even many that didn’t want to.
King Herod arrested Peter and had him put in prison. He was going to have him put on trial following the festival of Passover, and to make sure Peter was unable to escape they chained him between two guards with extra guards on the entrance at all times. He had 16 soldiers guarding him, they worked shifts of four at a time. Clearly Herod wanted to make sure that his prisoner couldn’t escape.
But when we are serving Jesus, like Peter is when we have surrendered our life to Him and following His plan for our life when He is first in our life then well … there is no other way to say it … “Absolutely anything is possible!” And for Peter, it wouldn’t have mattered if there were a whole battalion of soldiers guarding Him it would never be enough.
Jesus was about to set him free and have some great fun while he did it. And that fun is included in the Bible so we can laugh with Jesus but also be inspired by this story, to be living a story of our own where exciting and unexpected things happen with Jesus’ power.
But here is the key element. The church was praying! I don’t know what they were expecting would happen as a result of their prayer, it is clear from the story that they underestimated what God was about to do. But at least they were praying.
As the church, we need to gather to pray also. Our prayer times as a church are a really important part of the life of the church, and we need to gather together to pray.
If you can’t make it along on Monday night, think about getting a few people together at a time that suits you, pray over the phone until we can meet together again but if we want the fulness of life Jesus promises we need to be praying.
While the church was praying God was putting His plan into action it was a pretty simple plan really overwhelming force! As Peter was sleeping chained up between two guards, suddenly an Angel a Messenger from God appeared in the cell and a bright light shone. The Angel struck Peter on the side and spoke to him. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and immediately the chains that bound Peter between the two guards simply fell off him and he was free.
‘Put on your clothes and sandals,’ said God’s ministering servant. ‘And Peter did what he was told though he was in a daze. ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,’ said the angel as he headed out of the cell.
Peter followed behind the Angel, but as they went, Peter didn’t think it was really happening, he just thought that he was having a vision.
They passed the first set of guards, and then the second set of guards, walking straight past them as if they were invisible.
They came to an iron gate that lead out of the prison and into the city, and as they approached the gate it unlocked and opened all by itself. They continued on down the dark street of the city and as soon as they reached the end of the street, all of a sudden the Angel disappeared he had done his job well and completed the task that God had sent him to do.
Finally Peter realised what had happened. He said to himself, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his Angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.’
You see Peter’s enemies those who were opposing God, were out to get him but God was looking out for him. I think that is something that we need to keep in mind especially in times when it seems that there are people in power who are opposing God and His people. Let’s pray and see God’s hand at work.
Back with Peter, and he thinks, ‘what should he do now?’ I guess my friends will be worried about me, I should go and let them know what happened. So he went to the house where they had been praying for him. Their prayer meeting was still going on when Peter knocked on the door.
A servant named Rhoda came and answered the door. Being careful because it was late at night she must have asked, ‘who is it?’ When Peter responded and she recognized his voice, she did something really funny. She left him there. Rather than let him in and bring him into the prayer meeting, she left Peter outside while she hurried to tell everyone the good news that God had answered their prayers and that Peter was out of prison.
The Bible doesn’t say this but I like to imagine what is happening in heaven right at this point. I imagine that Jesus is sitting on the throne, and he is laughing and laughing at the scene going on and the bewildered look on Peter’s face as he is stuck outside the door.
Maybe Peter even looks up to heaven with his hands out saying ‘so Lord, you’d open the locked gate of the prison for me, but the door to the house is too much for you?’
Meanwhile, Rhoda has interrupted the prayer meeting and here it gets even funnier. She tells them that Peter is at the door. And they say to her, ‘you are out of your mind.’ But Rhoda knew that it was Peter and kept insisting. ‘Don’t be silly,’ they replied to her. ‘It must be his angel.’ It is almost like they were saying to her, stop bothering us can’t you see that we are praying that God will protect Peter and he won’t be killed like some of the other Apostles.
Now I can imagine Jesus laughing even more, as the Angel who released Peter just rolled his eyes.
Finally, Rhoda got them to at least check the door, and when they opened it there was no Angel it was Peter in the flesh. Imagine the excitement and maybe the foolish feeling for those who had doubted Rhoda, and also doubted what God was going to do, and what He could do when we pray.
Peter calmed them down and told them the story of what had happened, and then asked them to pass on the word to the others who may be worried about him so that they could be encouraged by the power of God and what He is able to do for us.
Does that sound like ‘life in all its fullness to you?’ Does that sound like fun and adventure with God as we serve Him and put Him first? It sure does to me.
Last week, in the sermon on Sunday I talked about Angels. Hebrews chapter 1 makes it clear that Jesus is more powerful than all the angels because He is their God and their creator too and that’s very important to remember because Satan is a fallen angel, he used to be an angel named Lucifer until he wanted to be equal with God. We need to remember that, because there is never any doubt who wins between Jesus and Satan Jesus is more powerful by far.
But Angels are powerful as we can see from this story. And God has His Angels at work all around us. In the story of Peter, it mentions that Peter had a ‘personal Angel’, and it probably stands to reason that we all do as well.
Last week I put some stories on our website real testimonies of how Angels have intervened to help God’s people and fulfil God’s plan. I even shared a story of how Angels kept our family from a horrible road accident where someone would have been killed and we could have been seriously injured if not killed as well.
I would like to add other people’s stories testimonies of God at work in their lives because I want to encourage all of us to experience the great adventure that Jesus offers to us. Jesus promises us ‘life in all its fullness and abundance.’ We can experience that we should be experiencing that, but it will only happen as we pray, and as we commit ourselves to live a life of obedience and surrender to Jesus. It doesn’t mean we will be perfect but we need to put Jesus first put His plans first, and then we are sure to experience a life of adventure, an adventure that I’m convinced will get better and better for all eternity.
In our world in our country in our state & in our community, opposition to God’s people and God’s plans is growing. I am convinced we are approaching a time of great trouble for this world. It might be really soon, we might have a little longer to go but the church those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus for Salvation will be removed before it gets really bad.
But for a while we will face opposition and persecution that will probably keep getting worse just like it did for Peter and the early Christians. But do you know the best bit? The God of Peter is our God the God of 2000 years ago is the God of today! And I believe in fact I know that stories like Peter’s are happening today as God’s people pray. They are happening to demonstrate that God is real and He is God so that those who will believe will be saved.
These are great times great days of hope days when God’s people must be praying and must be sharing a message of love and hope to those who are really fearful and anxious today. Will you do that? Will you join us and pray and act to share the Good News of Jesus?
And if you don’t know Jesus as your saviour I want to encourage you to put your faith in Him today. If you need to know more jump on our website and visit our next steps page particularly the ‘believe’ page and you will find a couple of short video’s to help you. But don’t wait.
Get on your knees call out to God tell Him that you love Him, ask Him to forgive your sin the wrong things you have done, and that you believe Jesus is your Saviour and Lord.
When you do you will be born again you will receive eternal life it is a gift from God. We will celebrate with you, the Angels will celebrate in Heaven, as God welcomes you into His family.
Rev. Brad Rumble
Senior Pastor – Oakleigh Baptist Community