Acts 12:1-5 [NLT]
About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. 2 He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. 3 When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) 4 Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. 5 But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.
Dear God, this had to have been a terrifying time for the original 11 disciples who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. As far as I can tell, James was the first one of them to be martyred, and he was one of the “big three.” It’s sad that the new church had to experience so much fear, but I think you used that to refine them, make them stronger, and spread them out into the world.
My wife and I have had up and down years since 2010. Well, 2009 really. Okay, there were years of unemployment scattered in before that. Then there was the miscarriage in the 90s. Yes, we’ve had some hard times. But we were talking yesterday morning about how many positive things happened to us in 2018. I had some hard things to deal with at work, but in the end things worked out very well and we enter 2019 in a stronger position than we did in 2018. Things with our family are as good as they have been in almost 10 years. But even as we sat and talked together this morning, we were able to see some of the lessons we learned during some really hard years and even some things that happened to us this year.
I was at a family Christmas event last night with mostly people I don’t know or only tangentially know because they are very distant relatives. One of the families experienced a terrible tragedy this year with the loss of an adult son in his 20s (maybe 30s). I was talking with the wife and I had forgotten about their loss and we talked about how things were going with my wife and me. I was able to tell her that we have had a remarkably good year and she said, “I’m so glad this year could be good for someone. I’m just ready to get to 2019.” I immediately felt terrible for being so thoughtless and insensitive to what she has been through this year. I don’t know that there is any redemption in this process for her as she and her husband move forward into 2019, but I pray that you will use this tragedy and redeem it to make it something that counts.
Father, I don’t know what today holds, much less tomorrow. But I know that challenges will come. Please use each one to grow me and to bring you glory through me. Help me to not be distracted by my own “wisdom,” but to hear your still, small voice and follow your leading. Peter, John, and the rest of the apostles had some decisions to make after James’ death. They now knew that their earthly lives were not untouchable. Help me to face my path with the same faith that Peter, John, and the others had.
In Jesus’ name I pray,