When I go to church -- admittedly, not often -- I know that though the entire sermon may not resonate with me at that time, there will always be pieces of it that do.
This past Sunday was no different. The pastor is working his way through Acts, and Sunday's part was about Peter's imprisonment.
Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison (Acts 12: 1-18, NIV)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.
11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “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.”
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
In fleshing out his point, the pastor emphasized Peter's sleeping while shackled to two guards (with more standing guard), in prison, with numbered days. Can you imagine what you would be doing if you were in that situation? Probably not sleeping! He went on to tie in a verse from James Ch. 1(NIV): 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.
Now can you imagine doing that?! Trials are joyous experiences? I looked it up and figured out why: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (I can't say that I want to be mature and complete if it means my faith has to be tested by trials; I guess I'll have to take it on faith that maturity and completion are desirable goals!)
Certainly we have trials here. (That we're discussing hospitalization again should tell you how severe they are.) I have been trying since I heard the sermon to figure out how to be joyous in these trials. The only thing I can come up with is prayer. It seems a bit off to be asking to feel happy about the crisis about which I'm currently praying for help, but I'll give it a try.