Unhindered By Setbacks Part 2

Learning To Have The Boldness And Courage To Share The Gospel

Ross Sawyers
Oct 30, 2022    54m
The things God does for us are not intended to stop with us, the are to be passed on. This message teaches us to have the boldness and courage to share the Gospel even when we encounter obstacles. Not everybody's going to believe what God's does, but God will work through the setbacks to advance the good news of Jesus. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Ross Sawyers: [00:00:02] Sometimes I think it's good for us to pause on a song and to think about what's being said in the song. So that last piece there, when we come to the End, to the throne of grace. What's being talked about in that song? The way we understand from Scripture is that we're on a linear path, the way God has designed things. And for those who know Christ and are followers of Jesus, there will be a different outcome in the end than for those who don't know Jesus. And when we talk about the throne of grace, we just talk about when we leave this life, we'll be present before God on his throne. And it is a throne of grace on those who know Jesus. And grace means that we've been given a break.

Ross Sawyers: [00:01:01] And I, for years, wrestled and wondered, well, what would that be like on that day for me personally? What would I say to God? And the most freeing thing happened a few years ago when I realized I'll have nothing to say, and the only thing I'll have is his grace on me and knowing that he gave me a break. Because other than that, I have nothing to offer. I didn't say enough good things, I can't do enough good things. I know what my thinking is, and I know what my actions are, but they don't always line up real well. So when we talk about grace, that's what Grace is, that we just stand before him, lavished with his grace and his goodness. And almost, I can't believe that you would even allow me to be here, in his goodness. So when we sing, it's good to pause. It's not just a song, there are phrases and thoughts in every phrase, and there's a depth to that and a substance. So I hope that today, that we can live in that grace.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:25] I was reading a book the other day, and just grabbed a chapter out of because it caught me, and he said, "You know, we've lost our wonder. We don't just wonder at the grace of God. We don't just pause and are blown away by the little animal doing whatever it's doing, or by the spray of the sun in a sunset. Just a wonder, and then I'll wonder at the grace of God, I can't even believe it that he would rescue me."

Ross Sawyers: [00:03:06] We've been the last few weeks talking about different high school students. And I wanted to, just for this fall, highlight what God's doing on different campuses in our schools. And today I highlight Northwest High School for those who are Nebraska fans, some saw this this morning and thought this was a really great day that I was supporting Nebraska. So whatever this shirt needs to be for you today, that's absolutely fine. My intention is Northwest High School and what God is doing on that campus. Cason Foster is one of our students, his family's been a part of 121 almost from the very beginning, and they just love the Lord and it's cool to watch how their kids are doing the same. And Cason is one of those that is just really pumped about any kind of biblical conversation with people. He loves having conversations about the scriptures with his girlfriend, with his girlfriend's parents, and with his friends, which, by the way, if you're a Christian, could you just not think of anything better than your daughter is dating a guy who's going to be willing to sit there and talk about the scripture with you?

Ross Sawyers: [00:04:15] And they are a part of, Cason is, and some others, a Monday night Bible study that's actually led by a coach. Here's a picture of that group of guys, and Cason invites a lot of his football friends to it, and I love that his football coach is leading that. And I don't know about you, whatever you did in school as far as coaches or teachers, but my coaches were really influential in my life, and I just love it that we have so many coaches and teachers at 121 that in different ways you're influencing students, not just in the thing you're in, football, or in math, or whatever it is that you're doing, but in their life and in what it is to be a follower of Jesus. So we just want you to know, we're cheering you on and praying for you as you lead strong, because our kids desperately need as many people as possible leading the charge in following Jesus, and I love that Cason is in a spot like that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:05:11] He also has cards that he keeps in his truck, they have the names of lost friends. The Scripture says if you don't know Jesus, then you're lost. And so he has cards in his truck, so when he gets in his truck, he prays very specifically for these friends that don't know Jesus yet. He's intense in his workouts and in his football playing, and over the summers in the workouts, he hasn't missed a workout. And the coaches give a consistency award, he's won that each summer, but this summer he was shooting for that, plus a higher award to receive. And he had to wrestle with it, though, because he wanted to go on a mission trip to Honduras that our church does. And so he prayed, and he just believed God wanted him to do that trip, and God did cool things on it. So he missed that week, and then how awesome that he still received those awards that he was motivated to get, that God still honored him with that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:06:16] I asked our 8 a.m. service this morning, I won't do this here, but it's a smaller group. And I said, what about these stories about our high school students, what has struck you about these? I mean, I've shared stories every week since mid-August, except for the first two in October with our break in there. And I love what was said because the first thing that popped out was, how many students we have that are so courageous in their faith on their high school campuses. And then I love what another lady said, she said, you know, when I was in church growing up, we weren't talked to about how to share our faith, she said, I'm amazed that so many of our students are actively sharing their faith on their high school campuses and that we're a part of a church that's equipping them to do so. And I hope you've just been cheered on in your own faith listening to what God is doing through our teenagers, it's mind-blowing what he's doing. It is a hard environment, it's hard for almost anybody's environment these days, but it is hard on a high school campus to live out your faith. And we just heard week after week of so many of our students doing so.

Ross Sawyers: [00:07:31] Part of why I wanted to do this is to parallel what we're looking at in the Book of Acts. Because it's also a story in Acts of people that are incredibly bold in their faith, and we're seeing pictures of it live through our students while we're anchoring ourselves into Acts. Today, we're in chapter 12 verses 6 through 25. If you have a Bible, if you'd open it, I'd love for you to join me there. If you have an app, use the app. If you don't have any of those, we'll have the verses on the screen, and you can track them that way. I want to be careful that we're anchored tightly to what God is saying in his word, so that we know what He wants us to do with it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:08:11] I started last week in chapter 12, and so this is really a two-part kind of hit, thinking about being unhindered by setbacks. All of us face setbacks and we're looking at chapter 12, at the kind of setbacks that look like they hinder the spread of the Gospel, the spread of the good news of Jesus, and so I want us to just think about that in a second part.

Ross Sawyers: [00:08:34] We were introduced last week to Herod, he's the king that's over Jerusalem and some surrounding areas. He's not averse to killing people, people pleasing, or trying to get groups of people on his side by doing things that he thinks they'll like. So James, the brother of John, these two are disciples of Jesus, some of the first 12, and James is killed by the sword by Herod. So we find that in verse 2, and then the crowd really likes that, it inspires Herod, so now he has Peter arrested and Peter has been faithfully sharing the Gospel. So we talked about last week, really hard persecution that happens when people follow Jesus. We saw the church's response in verse 5, and the church responded with fervent prayer. They prayed, they gathered together, and prayed for their friends that were being persecuted. And when we talk about that fervent prayer, we're talking about the kind of prayer that that's what we do, and then we ask God what we do in addition to that. Sometimes our mindset is, what am I going to do? And then we'll throw a prayer in with it. What the early church models for us, and what Jesus calls us into, is to first and fervently pray. And as we pray, then we hear from God what were to do. So we pray, and then we see is there anything else in addition to that, rather than I do all this, and in addition, I pray. So we're talking about hard persecution and fervent prayer within it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:10:14] So let's jump into the second piece of the story. This is a story, by the way, that will take us outside of our comfort zone. We've been talking all year about getting outside of our comfort zone. These kinds of stories take us to that spot because a number of us might look at the miraculous that happens and not really believe it. We hear it, we might buy it, we might not, but these stories can actually be kind of hard if you struggle with the supernatural and the miraculous aspect of who God is and what God does. So I understand that, so that's fair if that's a challenge. I just encourage you, as you think about it, though, that God is a supernatural God and He is the one that put all the natural laws in place, and he also is the one that supersedes those laws when he sees fit for his own glory.

Ross Sawyers: [00:11:09] So we will look at a miraculous rescue in verses 6 through 11. So when we talk about setbacks, Peter's been arrested, he's in prison, there's a setback, is this going to hinder the Gospel? Let's see. "On the very night (In verse 6) when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison." And when we saw him being arrested in verse 3 or verse 4, they had four soldiers around him. And so imagine Peter, he's in this little prison cell now, two soldiers are on either side of him as he lays down to go to bed, and then two soldiers are just outside the prison door, so he's got four that are surrounding him. I think it's interesting in verse 6, that Peter was sleeping between the two soldiers. Now I don't know about you, I'm a bad sleeper, I don't sleep well. I hear rumors that there are people that can actually lay their head down on the pillow and they're gone, and you sleep really deep all night long. And I just think that's amazing, and I cheer you on. And some of you are like me, you're wondering if you're ever going to put 2 hours in a row together, and as you age, you're really wondering if that's ever going to happen from frequent trips down the hallway. But here Peter is sleeping, and the next day he's facing execution. How do you go to sleep between two guards, when you know you're possibly going to be killed the next day?

Ross Sawyers: [00:12:55] I think Proverbs 3 verses 24 through 26, give us a hint as to how Peter did it, "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; 26For the LORD will be your confidence And will keep your foot from being caught." I think Peter was probably a natural sleeper, because on the night before Jesus was crucified, Jesus was asking him to pray, and he fell asleep. On the night before he's about to be killed, he goes to sleep. Now, I think the first time it's because he was a weak man in the flesh and couldn't be obedient to what Jesus was calling him into. This time, though, a lot has changed, and he has a confidence in the Lord. And when there's a confidence in the Lord, then you can lie down and rest.

Ross Sawyers: [00:14:19] I also wonder if he took his own advice. In First Peter, which he authored, chapter 5 verse 7 he said to cast all your cares on him, on God, because he cares for you. I wonder if on that night, that Peter just prayed to God and said I'm yours. Whatever you need to do with me, I'm good. My confidence is in you, I'm not afraid of any sudden onslaught of the wicked, and I'm going to sleep well tonight, and he did for a little bit because the miraculous kicks in. "And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands." Now an angel Lord suddenly appeared. In Acts chapter 4, Peter was arrested because he was talking about Jesus. In Acts chapter 5, Peter was arrested because he was talking about Jesus. In Acts chapter 5, an angel broke him out of jail. The third time in jail, maybe he went to sleep because he thought, maybe God will get another angel in here to get me out, I have no idea. But that's what happens, an angel of the Lord comes, appears, a light shines, and he strikes Peter's side. He had to wake him up, and he said, get up quickly, and the chains fell off his hands.

Ross Sawyers: [00:16:03] And in verse 8, "The angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” So the angel comes, he breaks the chains off of Peter, and now he says, get up and get dressed and quickly follow me. Now I have a research team that helps me each week in my preaching. If that's ever something that you have an interest in, you like to do research, it's a great way to use your gift things and you actually hear yourself when I'm preaching. And a lady this week that's on the team, she sent me this, she said, you know, it's really interesting when you look at what just happened there with Peter because it's similar to Exodus chapter 12 verse 11. And in Exodus, we find the time when God is taking the people of Israel out of slavery to the Egyptians, and he does it on a night that's called Passover. And he says to his people, “You’re to take an unblemished lamb, slaughter it, and then take the blood, place it on the door post. And on this given night, the death angel will pass over your house, and you'll not experience the death that others will. You'll be passed over and then you get up and go and you'll be free.” Exodus 12:11, it's the same kind of wording that's given to Peter, who also is about to be set free. Verse 11, "Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’S Passover." This is the same thing, you get dressed, get ready, and you're going to be taking off quickly, and that's exactly what's unfolding in this part of our passage.

Ross Sawyers: [00:17:55] Verse 9, "And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision." Now, we also know that Peter had seen a vision in chapter 10, so God had spoken to him in dreams and in visions. And so a lot going on with Peter, he'd experienced some of these things, but he couldn't figure out if was this real or not. Did the chains really come off? Am I just dreaming here? Or is this really happening?

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:21] "When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate..." In verse 10, "That leads into the city, which opened for them by itself." Now, here he is, the chains are off, he gets past the first two guards that were sleeping next to him, he comes out the door, they get by those guards, now there's an iron gate into the city and it opens by itself. Now we just came off a vacation and we stayed at someone's lake house in a gated community, and you know how the gated communities work, you might live in one or you might have been to one, but you have to have a code to get in. But to get out, you just simply drive up to as close as you need to go, and it opens by itself. That's what I envision right here happening, except the technology has not been developed yet. God's doing this, this is what God does, he does things that supersede what is the natural when he's rescuing in this particular way.

Ross Sawyers: [00:19:22] Verse 10 continues, "They went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.". Verse 11, "When Peter came to himself. Now, just think about that for a minute. Think about that experience, was I dreaming or not? Was this real or not? I was sound asleep between two guards, and now I'm outside the prison gates and through the iron gates of the city, that could be a little disorienting. Wouldn't you sometimes love to have just been, Peter? That guy had a wild ride. Jesus comes to him, he's fishing, fishing all night long, and he doesn't catch anything. Jesus says, go back out. No, there's nothing to catch. No, go do it. And then he just brings in more than he can handle. And then he says to Jesus, just get away from me, I'm a sinful man. He didn't even know what to do with him. Jesus said, follow me, and I'll make you fishers of men. So then he follows. He walks on water, until he doesn't. He's there when Jesus is transfigured before God in all the brilliance and glory. He says he's willing to die for Jesus, until he denies him three times on that same night. He just wasn't quite ready yet to die for him. He was game, just not yet.

Ross Sawyers: [00:21:07] He saw the tender eyes of Jesus restore him, and then he was there when the Spirit of God came in chapter 2, and he preaches the first sermon in all boldness. You see, it got unleashed now that he has the spirit of God in him. He doesn't care what the consequences are. He doesn't care if he's jailed. He doesn't care if he's killed. He doesn't care. Because he's all in on Jesus, and he's good. What a ride. He's been in prison and been broken out, and now, broken out again and, "He said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” They were expecting him to be killed the next day, but he knows that God has rescued him.

Ross Sawyers: [00:22:04] Now, there are all kinds of miraculous rescues in the scripture. When we go back into Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we see rescues happen. We see Joseph, that gets thrown into a pit by his brothers and then sold into slavery, and then he ends up in the second in command's home in Egypt. And then he gets seduced, and he flees like he should, instead, he gets accused of going after Potifer's wife, and he ends up in prison for the next several years. And then God uses him to interpret dreams and eventually he gets released from prison, for years he sat in that prison, and then God freed him, and he ends up being second in command in Egypt. God's favorite. It looked like a setback for Peter, and it looked like a setback for Joseph in Genesis, but God moves through those setbacks. That's how he advances what he's doing, it's through the setbacks, and he's unhindered by that. We think we're being hindered, unhindered in the setback.

Ross Sawyers: [00:23:10] And you think, well, I haven't experienced anything like that, this is a little bit beyond me. But what I would say today, we're talking about a miraculous rescue, that if God has reached down and communicated to you the message of what Jesus did, his perfect life, his crucifixion on the cross for our sins, our shame, our guilt, and God raised him from the dead. If that's a message that you've heard and you've believed it, repented, and said, no more of life like this, I'm going to be like Peter, I'm all in, I'm following Jesus. If you've believed that, and are following Jesus, only God can take a dead heart and make it beat again alive. Every person that knows Jesus has been involved in a miraculous rescue.

Ross Sawyers: [00:24:16] For Arnaldo and Marisol's son. Milan, it's a miraculous rescue when any child, their heart is changed, and they say yes to Jesus and start following Jesus early. For any teenager whose heart has been changed by Jesus, it is a miraculous rescue. For anybody in their twenties or thirties, that's young in their adult years, it's a miraculous rescue when someone comes to Jesus. In your forties or fifties, it's a miraculous rescue. In your sixties or seventies, eighties, or nineties, it doesn't matter when it is, if God reaches down and hearts are changed, it's a miraculous rescue. And that's how Paul writes it in Colossians 1:13-14, "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." There's a transfer that happens, we're either in the dark or we're in the light, and the only way to move from the dark to the light is through what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. And it's a miracle, any time we believe it, it's a supernatural happening when that happens. That's why we celebrate so hard when somebody comes to Jesus, it's a hard-fought battle that was won on the cross and now is believed in 2022, that's good news.

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:41] If you haven't had that miraculous rescue, that's our continual prayer that you'll experience. And I think this is a good picture of that salvation, think about Peter was chained, and the chains came off. Our sin has us chained up, what Jesus did on the cross breaks the chains. What did he do once the chains were broken? He followed. The chains are broken, we follow. But sometimes we wonder, just like Peter, is this real or not? Am I crazy for believing this, or not? And sometimes we wonder, and a few months later, after we received Jesus, or a year or two later, we think, oh, wow. I'm thinking differently now. Or we're thinking, wow, I didn't enjoy being with people from the church before I trusted Jesus, now, I actually like the Christians. Or man, I had such an addiction, it was destroying my marriage, it was destroying our family, and now God's broken that chain. Wow, all of a sudden, our family got freed up. It's real, what Jesus does is real, and that's a little bit about what it looks like. It's a miraculous rescue, it looked like a setback, but it's not a setback.

Ross Sawyers: [00:27:35] What do we do, though, when we experience God doing something, in verses 12 to 17, I would say we call it pass it on reporting. And I use this term a lot for us, I want our church just to grab hold of this phrase of passing it on. Whatever it is that God does for us, we pass it on, it's not intended to stop with us. It's pass-it-on reporting, so that everything that God does, I'm passing it on to other people. Verse 12, "When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying." Now I started out by recapping and saying in verse 5, the church was fervently praying for Peter. Now, where is Peter going after he's released and rescued? To his people. And we would call this a life group, a small group of people doing life together. And I would say the most invigorating groups of people, and the most invigorating and vibrant life groups, are those that are doing this, they're sharing the hardships, the struggles, the setbacks, the hurts, the pains, and that as a group of people were praying together for each other, were praying for each other, were fervently praying. We're not quitting in that prayer, we keep praying until we see God's answer, whatever that answer might be. And we share victories and triumphs and things that are going well, and we celebrate, and we rejoice together. Sometimes we share our prayer requests, we dump them off on people, and ask them to pray, and we never go back and talk about how God answered it. That's some of the most fun parts, look, God actually did this. And so they're gathered together. And it's so crucial to be in that smaller group of community, it's awesome that we're here gathered like this, but the reality is all of us are shaped by the community we hang out with. Every one of us, whatever our community, whoever our people are, whatever our group is, that shapes us. We start talking the same, thinking the same, and looking the same as the people that we hang around with. And Peter and his crew are a god-shaped community, and what they're looking like is people who have the character of Jesus, and people who fervently pray together. They might not have even known how to, but now they know because they're hanging out with people who do.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:16] Verse 13, "When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. It's a bit of a funny moment, here's Peter, he just gets rescued from prison. He's trying to go see his people, he knocks on the door, and she is so excited she doesn't let him in. Now, I don't know about you, I might be a little concerned, but Peter probably wasn't. Here he is in the street, he knows the guards are going to be coming and looking for him, I'm sure he wants to be inside. But Rhoda, meanwhile, she's going in, and she's really excited to announce that Peter's here,

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:58] But he wasn't in there, so they didn't believe her. In verse 15, "They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.” You just kind of see that conversation going, right? It's her, and she's trying to say, he's out there, I promise, I just saw him. And they're saying, no, it's not, it's his angel. No, it's him, it's not his angel, and it just keeps going. And what's Peter doing in verse 16, "He continued knocking." He's hoping they'll come back and answer the door.

Ross Sawyers: [00:31:31] But I wonder if Peter had run into his mind, a moment where he thought some ladies were out of their minds? You see, Jesus told his disciples, again and again, they're going to put me to death, and God's going to raise me from the dead on the third day. But in Luke 24, we find these ladies going to the tomb on the third day, and they find that it's empty, just like Jesus said, and they came back to report. See, not everybody's going to believe it when we report what God's doing. In Luke 24:11, "And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them." They thought it was nonsense, just like right now. And I wonder if Peter's thinking, oh, that's what that felt like when I thought it was nonsense? Now he's standing out there and that's what they think, "But he continued knocking." And that's a good picture of what fervent prayer is, you just keep doing it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:33:02] In Matthew 7, Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Keep knocking, what does persistent prayer look like? I've been praying the same thing for some people for years; I don't vary it much. God, will you save them, will save this family member, we save this person that's a friend of mine, will you heal this person, will you do this? Persistence is that I keep doing it, I keep coming, and I'm going to keep coming until God tells me no. And that is an answer, it doesn't mean God didn't answer prayer when the answer's no. It's persistent prayer. "And when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. 17But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison." Remember that what we're talking about here is pass it on reporting, we're going to pass on what it is that God's doing. And he describes, and he gives the Lord the credit, God's the subject.

Ross Sawyers: [00:34:13] What we don't want to do is chicken out on Monday in the office and talk about something that happened, and not mention that God is the one that did it. If on Sunday we told our friends, this is how God's working, and this is what God did this weekend, this is what he did the other day. And on Monday I changed it and just said, hey, you won't believe what happened to me the other day, and then I start talking about how I did X, and somehow God's name got left out of the whole conversation. No, they described this is what God did, that's what Peter said, he's passing on, this is what God did. The Lord is the one that did it, that's how he describes it, "And he said, “Report these things to James and the brethren.” Then he left and went to another place."

Ross Sawyers: [00:35:00] So if we go back to the beginning of chapter 12, James was killed by a sword. And sometimes our biblical names can get confusing, that was James, the brother of John, James and John were two of Jesus's initial 12 disciples. This James is the half-brother of Jesus, he's emerging as the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and Peter says, make sure to let James know what God's doing here. See what's happening there on the pass-it-on? Peter's coming back, and he's reporting this is what God did, and then he's telling them now pass it on to James and some more of the brothers in Christ, keep passing it on.

Ross Sawyers: [00:35:47] In the life group I'm in, we're using the Discovery Bible study method, and that method has in it, built into the method, what does it say about God? What does it say about us? What are we to do with it? But the last question is, who could we pass it on to? And I think sometimes we need to be trained on how to pass on what God's doing. And it could have been one of you, I don't know who did it because I didn't have their name in my phone, but I received a text the other day, and they sent me a clip from an Oswald Chambers devotional. Oswald Chambers is a brilliant mind in our faith from years past, but I love that they sent it, this was a paraphrase of it. He said if we're going to abide in Christ, which means remain in Christ and stay tight to him, then we're going to have to be trained on how to do it. We have to train ourselves in how to do it. It sounds funny that I have to train myself how to hang out with somebody and then kind of pass on what they're saying. But isn't that like a child? You know with our children that we have to say it again and again, we're training them. And then all of a sudden you realize, oh it's been a few weeks, I haven't had to say that anymore, they're naturally doing it. So we train for a while, okay what are we going to pass on that we read in Scripture today? I'm going to, on purpose, think about who I share that with. And then for many of you, you don't really even have to think about that step, you're just going to do it anyway, it just flows through you. But there is a training time for all of us, of how to abide and Christ and remain in him so that we'll then just naturally be passing on what God's doing through us. So pass it on, we think on purpose, and then it'll start to flow naturally.

Ross Sawyers: [00:37:56] The last main piece of this section of Scripture is really about who gets the glory. And we can either be about our own glory, and we may not say it out loud, but in our own hearts, we want it; or we can be about God's glory. And setbacks sometimes come the hardest from people who are about their own glory and are not interested in God's glory. So I've thought about 12:18-23 as God-centered glory, and the example we see is someone not doing that. "Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. 19 When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution." So Herod gets wind of it, Peter's gone, the common way in Roman practice to take care of guards who had escaped prisoners is that that guard would receive the same sentence that the escapee was to receive. Because Peter was about to be executed, then these four guards would be executed because they would receive the penalty that Peter was to receive. Now, that's some good job incentive if you ask me, so Herod had no problem executing on that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:36] "Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there." Caesarea is a coastal town on the Mediterranean and he's taken a little bit of a break there. But "He was actually angry (in verse 20) with the people of Tyre and Sidon." That's two towns that are on the Mediterranean, "And with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king’s chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was fed by the king’s country." So what's he saying there? This is one of the things I love about the Bible, it's anchored historically. There are names, history, and the way the governments work, it's all sitting right there. Apparently, Herod had gotten upset with these people and he was the way they received their food supply. So he cut off their food supply, they're appealing to his personal assistant, and saying, hey, let's get this back right.

Ross Sawyers: [00:40:36] Now, it's hard for us to imagine today that any political leader would cut off the food supply of someone. But that's what happens when someone gets offended and angry. And so they're coming before him, hoping that they can get that re-established. "On an appointed day here to have him put on his royal parole, took his seat on the rostrum, on a throne, and began delivering an address to them." There's a theater there in Caesarea, and it appears that the people have gathered, Herod's there. Josephus, who is an early Jewish historian, writes about this event in his own history, and he says that Herod on this day, was wearing a robe that was woven with silver and when he would walk the sun would catch the robe, and the brilliance of that would blind the people. He was about himself and his own glory, and he received it in verse 22, "The people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” They were ascribing to him god status, that they were giving worship to him. Now, it's possible that they were doing it so they could get their food supply going again. People do crazy things when they're trying to get something done like that. So they might not have really believed he was a god, but they were giving him that kind of accolade and he was receiving it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:42:17] In Isaiah, the prophet says that God will not give his glory to another. There may be a season of time that God is robbed of His glory and people are getting away with things that are totally anti-God, but we know in all of Scripture there is a time when that day is up. I don't know when that day is for each person, but there is a day in God's mind when if this is where you're going to head, then I'll give you over to that and you'll face the consequences of God's judgment and wrath. It's not out of an out-of-control anger, it is settled and calm and there is plenty of time for repentance. But there's a point where God says no more. Herod believed he was hindering the advance of what God was doing.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:17] But it didn't hinder anything, and on this day, he'll meet God's wrath. And immediately, in verse 23, "An angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died." That same word struck is used in verse 7, the angel struck Peter to get him moving. Sometimes we just need to be struck to get moving and follow in the right direction. in verse 23, he was struck, and Josephus writes that he suffered from intense pain for five days and then died. It doesn't have to end that way. If we go back about 600 years from this moment, in Daniel Chapter 4, we find another king, the King of Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar is every bit as prideful as Herod. And one day he was out looking over his kingdom and he looked at it and he goes, Look at what all I've done. This would be like when we have a lot of successes in life and we just look at it and say, man, I did a good job. I might not say it that way, but inside I'm thinking, what a phenomenal job I did. So Nebuchadnezzar's saying it, and God said, you know what, I'm going to put you out to pasture a little bit, literally, to give you a chance to rethink this. And God removes him from his sovereignty over Babylon and puts him out. And the scripture says that "His hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws."

Ross Sawyers: [00:45:10] But something happens to him that's different than Herod, one day the scripture says, this is the way I pray for political leaders today. In verse 34 of Daniel 4, the Scripture says that he raised his eyes up to heaven and his reason returned to him. There's something that happens when we quit looking this way and looking down at our shoes, and instead, we look up at God himself, and when we see who God is, then we more understand who we are. And it's actually when we look up to God, that reason returns, and a reasonable person, a rational person will look up to God and end up declaring what Nebuchadnezzar did, that now his glory switched. It wasn't about himself, it was about God, and he said that God is the true God, he's the just God, and praise and honor and exaltation goes to God. It's God, the Most High, that I'm going to serve, and his pride was humbled. Wouldn't that be a beautiful thing if we just watched, starting with ourselves, a nation whose political leaders kept their eyes up on God, and reason would prevail? That God is honored, it's a God-centered glory. God will work through the setbacks, one way or the other, to advance what he's doing.

Ross Sawyers: [00:47:05] And in verses 24 and 25, it's an interesting little note as it transitions to Paul's journeys that'll take place, "But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied." Nothing was hindered, through all of that, God's word continued to grow and multiply. And then we know in verse 25 that Barnabas and Saul and John Mark will end up getting prepared to be sent out on mission, and God's Word will expand even more when we take this up in a few months. I love being a part of a church and being a part of what God's doing, where he's multiplying and growing his word. And people are coming to Jesus, and people are starting things, and there's worship happening where it hadn't happened before. People who are prideful, are being humbled, and they're coming to know Jesus. People who think it’s nonsense are no longer thinking it's nonsense, it's become real for them and their whole lives have changed, the whole trajectory of marriages and of families changed. That's good news.

Ross Sawyers: [00:48:10] I wanted to report to you from a couple of weeks ago when we think about just the good things God's doing and the way he's expanding and multiplying what he's doing. We had our serve day a couple of weeks ago, and I want to preface this, this way, I'm going to share just a real quick kind of run at things that we did. It'll be brief, but I have a friend that years ago he said this, and I thought that's interesting, that it can actually sound like we're bragging when we talk about what God did on this day. But really what we're doing is saying what God did, that's our intention. so we're not trying to say this is what we did, we're just trying to say this is what God did and report back on that. There were 1000 volunteers that went out serving on that Sunday a couple of weeks ago. 300 Spanish Bibles were handed out on Celebra in Grapevine. The leaders of our Spanish service were asked to lead that Hispanic celebration. It was Hispanic Heritage Month, mid-September to mid-October, and there's probably, this could be pastor speak, it looked like 600 or 700 people, to me, that were there, it was a phenomenal turnout in that way. And then the Carter Blood Care Unit that was here, there was enough blood donated to save 75 lives. The food drive did 500 boxes of food to serve those in need, 400 went to 6 Stones, so that will go towards Thanksgiving, help for people, and then 100 for our own neighborhood. Multiple letters were written, and hundreds of letters were written to different ministries. Embrace Grace, Lionheart, to just encourage people. Human Coalition, toddlers' clothes, diapers, baby wipes, and four Pack and Plays were donated to help moms who are choosing to have their babies. Journals were done, and decorated, for at-risk youth in Dallas. Elementary school, their gardens, and grounds, and different things we're taking care of. Hundreds of pounds of trash were picked up at Grapevine Parks in the area. One guy grilled out, or smoked, his unbelievable brisket for our first responders in the area, police, fire, and so forth. And I felt like it was good to share with them in that, the brisket was awesome, and the responders enjoyed that. Orphan Outreach, we had letters to them. We had 56 international students on two different college campuses serve. We stuffed 12,000 eggs with 600 lbs. of candy for our Easter egg hunt that's coming in a few months. Blue Haven Ranch, we took a playground apart. Men of Nehemiah, it's men who've battled addiction, many have been imprisoned. The common thing among these men is they know Jesus now, and we had guys go there and serve and speak and serve breakfast. And we learned that the men and Nehemiah have a choir that's pretty phenomenal, so maybe one day we'll be able to have those guys here to lead us. And then we had a health fair. A prayer team all day long. At Christ Haven, the Office interior was painted, and the pantry was organized. And then people helped prep a fundraiser for a golf tournament for one of the ministries here. That is a ton of work done in one day.

Ross Sawyers: [00:51:40] And yeah, it's awesome. And there's no telling how God will continue to do, and work through the feet and hands of his people. I found that when I talk to people about our church or about any church, a lot of times people are skeptical of the church. And they're usually blown away when they hear the kinds of ways that we serve both locally and globally. Because most people out there that aren't a part of the church think the only thing we're about is what we're against, that we're hypocritical, judgmental, and all those things. And when they start to hear, oh, wow. I think that softens people's hearts towards Jesus. We really are about loving you and loving our community and loving the world in the way that God does. I love that we're a part of what God's doing, thank you for going side by side.

Ross Sawyers: [00:52:37] Father, thank you for our time today, and we just appreciate your goodness towards us. And Lord, I pray that if there are any here that have never received Jesus and know that miraculous rescue, would you do that today, whether it's online or present? And, Father, I pray that those of us who do, that we would just be as bold as Peter and Rhoda and Mary and Paul and all the different ones we read about to describe what you're doing and to not shrink back from that. God, will you give us the boldness and courage to pass on all the good things you're doing?

Ross Sawyers: [00:53:13] And then, Father, I pray that we would be about your glory. We don't want to meet Herod's end, we want to be about you and completely centered on you. And will you cause what you're doing to multiply and grow so that more and more people know the freedom of the chains coming off, of what it is to follow you and be shaped by that community, and then, God, to just know the reality of that and to enjoy it. And I pray in Jesus' name.

Ross Sawyers: [00:53:42] Let's be quiet before the Lord for just a moment, and is God saying anything to you that you should pass on today very specifically? And let's just see what he does from here.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051