Are you familiar with the deadly game of Russian roulette? It is the nastiest game of gambling ever devised because the loser loses their life on a game of chance.
It works like this. Assume a gun has a cylinder that spins and takes say six bullets. The cylinder is then emptied and loaded with one bullet. The cylinder is spun and when it stops the person holds the gun to their own head and if they have the nerve, they pull the trigger. If the bullet ended up in the firing position after spinning the cylinder, the gun goes off shooting through the head and killing the person.
They lose! And this all happens because they choose to take a chance and gamble with their life.
Well those who do not walk with The Lord are like the players in a game of Russian roulette and in this section of scripture we see what happens when you take a chance and gamble with your eternal life.
Peter Released From Prison
In my past few posts I discussed and described the events of the first sections of Acts 12 where Peter was rescued from prison by the angel and he returned to the church. He couldn’t believe it and they didn’t believe it, but it happened nonetheless.
After showing himself to the church and telling them how the angel of The Lord came and removed his chains and led him out from where he was sleeping in prison, chained between two soldiers guarding him, through the prison doors where two guards stood as sentries to prevent him escaping and past the remaining soldiers of the four squads Herod had appointed to watch him, Peter then went off to another place to hide from Herod and his soldiers.
So we see that because Peter stood with God and because the church had been praying fervently for him to God, Peter came away unscathed. But what about the soldiers and the guards?
A Game of Chance
Here is where we see the Russian roulette of this world played. Here is where we see that those who are not the children of God walk in slippery places and are set to stumble for they have no protection from God.
The scripture in these verses tells us this.
18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.
Herod called to the jail keeper and the soldiers to bring Peter up for trial, but of course Peter was nowhere to be found for the angel of The Lord had freed him during the night.
It is no surprise then that there was a great upheaval and disturbance among the guards when this important prisoner had just disappeared. Herod was livid! He was furious that this had happened, and as we see he examined the guards to try and find out what had happened. No doubt with all of the security measures put in place Herod must have been sure that Peter could not have escaped. This he must have presumed it was an inside job and that one or more of the guards had assisted Peter to escape.
But he could not find out which of the guards had betrayed Herod, so he ordered them all to be put to death.
Which of the guards was at fault? None of them. Did they deserve to die? No. What was the cause of their death? They just happened to be unlucky enough to draw the job of guarding Peter rather than any of the other soldiers at that time. If other soldiers had drawn the short straw then they would have died instead. These soldiers were no better or worse than any of the other soldiers, they just happened to be the ones that failed Herod and allowed Peter to escape, or so Herod thought.
For each of them it was essentially Russian roulette. A game of chance…and their luck ran out.
Beating The Odds
So how do you beat the odds so that in this world of chance you come out a winner and not a loser like these soldiers? Jesus gave us the answer in another similar set of circumstances. In simple terms the answer to beating the odds is: Repent or perish. Look at these scriptures where Jesus taught us this in Luke 13:1-5.
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Here we see Jesus talk about two sets of unbelievers and there are similarities between them and the soldiers charged with guarding Peter.
Pontius Pilate was accustomed to make various blood sacrifices to his pagan gods and evidently he killed and mixed the blood of some people from Galilee as part of the ceremonies. Likewise there must have been an event in the city around that time where a stone tower near the pool of Siloam fell and eighteen people were killed.
Many people when they see such tragic events often think that those who suffer must have been bad people or done something wrong deserving of such punishment. But that is not what Jesus said.
Jesus asks his disciples if they though those who suffered were any worse or unluckier than the rest of the population. Then he tells them in essence, no, they were no worse. These people just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And this was the same affliction the soldiers guarding Peter were faced with.
But the most important lesson that Jesus taught the disciples and us in these words is, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Repentance and coming to Jesus is the key to salvation, both to eternal life and for protection in this life. The message that underlies this teaching is that those who come to Jesus have a level of protection that the rest of the world does not have. Just as Peter had an angel take him out of the prison past the sentries and soldiers, so too the people of God have His protection in times of trouble and disaster so that only what The Lord allows to happen to them is what will happen.
Does this mean a child of God will never suffer or never have anything bad happen to them? No of course not. But what it does mean is that whatever happens to us, whatever path The Lord leads us down and whatever the future holds for a Christian it is in accord with the knowledge and the working of God.
Yes we will have trials and tribulations. Yes we will be tested on our faith. And yes we will suffer from time to time. But after all the trials and testing so have occurred The Lord will bring us through and out the other side. As the scripture tells us in James 1:12,
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
And also we are told in 1 Peter 5:8-10,
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Yes we Christians will still suffer from time to time, but we also have the promises of God on which to rely which the world does not have. We can confidently face the trials of this life knowing that God is standing beside us, keeping watch over us so that we will not fall headlong. And as the last scripture tells us, when we have suffered a while, Jesus Christ will provide what we need to be strengthened and restored.
And finally we have the promise of The Lord in 1 Corinthians 10:19 saying,
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
When we are tempted we can be confident that we have the strength and ability to stand against the temptation and know also that The Lord will provide the means of escape, not that we can get away from it, but that we have the strength to endure it. He will see us through to the end.
So the choice is quite simple. We can choose to repent and walk with God knowing that He will walk with us and carry us through, looking out for us when we need protection. Or we can go the way of the world and play Russian roulette with our life.
I don’t know about you, but my life is not something I am prepared to gamble with.
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(Image sourced from stock.xchng provided by Zvone Lavric)