Acts 12:1-3a, 5-11 ‘About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also….So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church… on that very night…. Behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands… and he went out and followed him…. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
In a meeting with fellow OMF missionaries, our field leader, Ulrich Kohler, read Acts 12 with us. When asked about what stood out in the passage, most people mentioned about how God rescued Peter miraculously and saved him from Herod. However people often miss out the fact in verse 2, where Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword.
Why was Peter rescued but James killed? Was it because the other disciples did not pray hard enough for James? Was it because James’ faith was any lesser than Peter’s? Was James’ guardian angel sleeping?
When we read books in the Bible like Ecclesiastes and Job, we realize that there are many things in life that cannot be explained – the wicked get repaid for good, the good gets what the wicked deserve. Why is there suffering in this world? Why do bad things happen to good people?
In the Bible we see that believers are not promised a comfortable and good life here on earth. In fact, Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:12 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
Many times, God has a sanctifying purpose in pain. He has called us to be prepared to suffer in this life on earth.
And all hope is not lost. In fact, we can suffer with hope, because we know that our faith extends to a life with God that continues even after our earthly life. We can focus on joy and hope in the midst of suffering and pain.
Some people say that James got the better deal, since he could finally be with the Lord and leave the suffering of the world.
But whatever lot that God has prepared for us, are we willing to remain faithful, and cling on to His promises and look to the day when Christ returns and restores all things and makes all things new – new bodies, no more tears and pain and a complete and perfect relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!
May God have mercy on us and help us to endure, and be faithful in the midst of confusion and suffering!
Sister Cherlyn Oh