How open are you to God’s open-door? You may be surprised that I ask. Often in difficult situations, when the ‘door’ is shut, we pray most fervently. Then, when God opens the door, we wonder in disbelief.
As I think about the theme for this issue of the Polished Shaft – OPEN DOORS, I am led to a passage about the Apostle Peter’s encounter with an open door in Acts 12:1-16.
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.
Recounting the narrative about Peter’s arrest and his escape from prison, I am mindful that sometimes, we remain imprisoned by our own preconceived notions, seemingly impossible situations, difficult circumstances and unbelief.
When Peter was led out of the prison into the city street by an angel of the Lord, he thought it was a dream. He was still imprisoned in disbelief until the angel suddenly left him. Only then, did Peter snap into awareness and come to the realization of his freedom.
He went to the house of Mary where the church were gathered to pray. Rhonda, the servant girl who met Peter at the door, was overtaken by surprise when he appeared. The church, praying earnestly for Peter’s release, thought it was some kind of joke when they were told that Peter was at the front door of the house instead of behind prison doors. They could not believe what they had just been told.
God may have already opened the door as an answer to our prayers, but sometimes, we still remain behind the closed door of our own imprisonment. At other times, like the servant girl and the people who were gathered at Mary’s house, we are surprised by God’s open-door to our prayers.
From this narrative, what can we learn about the God of open doors?
NO POWER IS TOO GREAT THAT GOD CANNOT OVERTURN
King Herod’s campaign of persecution was meant to strike fear in the hearts of those within the church. It was Herod who had James, the brother of John, put to the sword. He was leveraging on the religious Jews’ uprising against the Christians to give himself a boost. As a result of Herod’s devastating campaign, his approval rating with the Jews were at an all-time high. He had never garnered so many ‘likes’ before. When Herod saw how it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also and had him thrown into prison the night before a public trial.
Herod may have made a populist move, but God will override it. Herod had meant evil, but God turned evil into good. Herod wanted to make a spectacle of Peter’s arrest and bring about another death, but God turned it into a miraculous example by Peter’s deliverance from the prison. No closed door is too big for God to open, no power too great for God to overthrow.
Herod’s show of power. After delivering his speech, the people exalted Herod as one who has “the voice of god and not of a man.” The angel of the Lord struck Herod down and he was eaten by worms and died. God always has the last say. He overrides and overthrows the power of darkness.
In the light of current world events – the social divide, moral relativism, economic manipulation and geopolitical ambitions, let us remember that no power of darkness can stand against God. He overturns events and He has the final say.
NO PRAYER IS TOO SMALL THAT GOD WILL NOT INTERVENE.
The church was in a tight spot. They were dumbfounded by King Herod’s campaign of destruction. They had lost James, the brother of John through Herod’s act of brutality. Now, Peter was arrested, incarcerated and awaiting the anticipated death sentence through public trial. The believers cowered in the house of Mary. There were no strings to pull, no avenues for appeal and absolutely no means to secure a release. There was nothing they could possibly do, except to pray.
The church gathered to pray in the house of Mary. When the church prayed, God rose to intervene. There were others in the prison with Peter, but through the collective prayers of the church, there was an angelic visitation in the prison. Prayer changed the atmosphere in the prison and God intervened. No prayer is too small nor too big for God to act upon.
As prayers were being released, God performed the first miracle in prison. Have you ever wondered how Peter was able to sleep so soundly in prison that the angel had to strike his side to wake him up? He slept so well despite his predicament and even while being chained to two guards on each side. God gave him the ability to sleep (Ps 127:2). Indeed, no prayer is too small for God to grant Peter that much needed rest.
When the church comes together to pray, God intervenes. I am so glad that the churches in Singapore have just completed forty days of prayer and fasting. If we persist in our collective prayers, it will change the spiritual atmosphere and the landscape of our nation.
NO PRISON IS TOO DEEP THAT GOD CANNOT UNLOCK.
After what had happened to James upon his arrest, Peter must have been physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and mentally resigned to the hope of never coming out of his predicament alive.
However, God was not through with Peter yet. There is nothing impossible that God cannot do for He performed the second miracle in the prison. The angel of the Lord appeared and struck Peter on his side to wake him up. Although Peter was chained to guards on both sides, no fetter of iron could tie him down. The noisy chains fell off Peter’s wrists, without waking up the guards he was bound to.
The third miracle happened when the half-asleep Peter trudged along the quiet corridor with the angel leading him. Even with the sound of his sandals flip-flopping on the floor from one end of the prison cell to the main street door, no one heard the sound of his footsteps for all were fast asleep. Peter even passed the first and second sentries standing guard along the way leading to the city street. No one seemed to see or hear him.
When God unlocks the prison doors, no chains or sentries can hold Peter back.
Likewise for us, it is God who unlocks our prison doors. When God sets us free, we are free indeed! Yet many, unknowingly, ignorantly or by choice, are still held captive, bound and imprisoned by fear and unbelief.
How open are you to God’s open-door? How open are you to His leading and direction? You may have been praying for open doors and the opportunity to serve Him. But when God opens the door, are you ready and willing to walk out to serve Him?
My prayer is that you will continue to experience God’s open door to fulfil your calling and destiny. And as you do so, may you go and set the captives free.
Mrs Ong Guek Ju
Principal, Tung Ling Bible School
Dean, School of Ministry