God's Sovereignty and Human Strategy

A message from
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

Acts 12:1-24(NIV)


Acts 12:1-24(NIV)

Peter's Miraculous Escape From Prison

1 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. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.

18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

Herod's Death

Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply.

21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.

Worship Focus

Digging Deeper

THIS WEEK'S Bible study


Empowered: God's Sovereignty and Human Strategy

Key Bible Verses

  • Acts 12:1-24

Sermon Quotes

From Pastor Josh Laxton

“This is the Law of Gospel motion: For every gospel action there is an attempt by the evil one (through any means necessary) to have an equal and opposite reaction.”

“We have to change our perspective about Christian death. Death, for the believer, is the entrance of life eternal. Our days have been numbered by the Lord, not us. That’s why we should never take our death in our own hands. Yet, to die, as the Apostle Paul said, is gain and to live is Christ. Death is gain. Living is Christ. God was ready for James to come home. God still had work for Peter to do. In James’ death, God was glorified, and in Peter’s living God was glorified.”

“We should not be looking for a fight with the world. We should be looking for ways to win the world.”


In this passage in Acts, we see that even though Jesus is King, there is suffering and hardship in the world due to sin. James was beheaded, Peter was in prison and Herod was enjoying popularity for his role in persecuting believers.

The church powerfully prays for Peter when he is in jail. God comes to Peter’s aid in a miraculous way. An angel is sent to release Peter from prison while he is under Roman guard. Peter walks out of the jail under extraordinary circumstances and goes to the house where the believers are praying. Peter, after finally being let into the house, shares the miracle that just happened to him. Peter’s salvation from the clutches of Herod demonstrated the power of prayer and how important prayer is for believers to practice faithfully.

Every one of us gives our allegiance to something and/or someone. Herod accepted adoration that should have been God’s. He let his earthly power go to his head and rule his life. God took care of this prideful attitude and Herod was struck down by an angel — he was eaten by worms and died.  

We, too, are to take courage in the face of hardship and look to our almighty and powerful God who rules and reigns in all things, big and small. Pray continuously.  Look for a miracle and when it comes, have eyes that can see and recognize what God is doing. Know that God is in charge of all things. He will take care of the proud who, like King Herod, try to take the praise and adoration that are God’s alone.  

Rest in the Lord and know that even when the situation is bleak, God is our deliverer, provider, and rescuer. Even through adverse situations, as we are faithful to share God’s word with our neighbors and nations, God will have His word continue to spread and flourish. 


Main point: GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY doesn’t always line up with human strategy. We should seek to align our human strategy with God’s sovereignty. 

God’s sovereignty is God’s rule and reign over all creation as He works in, through, and over all creation to bring about His ultimate end — which is to be glorified in all the earth as He redeems a people from all peoples to reflect His glory in all spheres of life, thereby bringing heaven to earth. (Strategy = Why, Where, What, How. Strategy is the why behind our efforts, where we would go, what we would do, and how we would do it.)

1. God’s Sovereignty and the Non-Christian Strategy for Life.

(King Herod, unbelieving Jews, and soldiers)

God’s sovereignty invades the life of non-Christians.

• Non-Christians strategically will oppose God’s sovereignty enacted through His people (Law of Gospel Motion).

• Non-Christians might strategically win battles, but they will not win the war against God’s sovereignty.

2. God’s Sovereignty and the Christian Strategy for Life.

(James, Peter and the Church)

God’s sovereignty may involve different strategies for different Christians. We should not presume to know the mind of the Lord. We choose to trust His sovereign strategies even though we don’t understand them.

• God’s sovereignty should lead Christians to strategically sleep (like Peter did) and seek.

  • In the first case, Peter slept in the Garden of Gethsemane when he should have been awake and praying.
  • In Acts 12, Peter is sleeping between two soldiers, knowing the next day he is supposed to die. First, Peter patterns his life after Jesus when Jesus slept through the storm. Second, Peter rests in the promise of Jesus in John 21:18.

-While Peter is sleeping, the Church is seeking and the Bible says they were praying earnestly.

Thoughts about prayer and God’s sovereignty:

(1) Prayer is the means of communicating with the sovereign King about His sovereign will.

(2) Prayer continues even though the outcomes of God’s sovereignty may oppose our supplications.

(3) If we can keep the model of the Lord’s prayer before us in our prayer, it will never lead to the ceasing for prayer but the continuation of it.

(4) Prayer that works with God’s sovereignty to move mountains miraculously doesn’t require massive faith but mustard seed-like faith.

God’s sovereignty works in a supernaturally strategic way to accomplish His unbelievable plan in/for our life.

• God’s sovereignty will always lead Christians to strategically be part of His church.

If God in His sovereignty chooses to use the Church, then Christians, in their strategy for living, should choose to be part of His church.

• God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean Christians should be strategically stupid.

Jesus did not pick fights, but preached and performed the good news and signs of the Kingdom. That, in and of itself, in many cases and ways will elicit opposition. We don’t go looking for opposition to fight, but we look for opportunities to share the Gospel.

Life Application

This week, write down two or three situations that you are currently living through that are really difficult. These might be a family struggle, a work project that seems impossible, tests that are challenging, a medical issue, or friendships that are frayed — or maybe something else.  

Spend time in prayer, lifting these difficulties up to God. Ask God for his guidance, wisdom, and direction. Write down what the Holy Spirit impresses on you concerning each situation you have listed. Turn them over to God in prayer.

Remember how God heard the prayer of the believers for Peter in Acts 12:5, and how God provided a miracle in Acts 12: 8-11, and confirmed the believers’ prayer in Acts 12:12-17. However, in Acts 12:2, God in His sovereignty did not save James from death. No matter the outcome of the situations we pray for, we are called to pray through them and trust God for Him to work out His will in each situation. 

Bible Verses:

  • Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
  • Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
  • Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus
  • James 5:16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Look expectantly for God to be working in your difficult situations this week. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His leading in your life. Believe confidently that God will be with you to comfort you and provide answers to your prayers.  

Realize that God in His sovereignty sometimes answers our prayers in the way we have asked, and sometimes in His sovereignty, He answers them in His own way and time. 

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • What was something difficult in your life that you relied on God to take you through?
  • How should we respond, as Christians, when we go through difficult times and situations?
  • What does Acts 12 teach us about the power of prayer?
  • What was Herod’s downfall in this passage and how did God deal with him?
  • How does the flourishing of the church through difficulty in Acts 12 relate to the church today?

Daily Devotional Bible Passages

  • Monday- God's People Suffer-1 Peter 3:14; Philippians 3:10; Romans 8:18
  • Tuesday - God Hears Our Prayers-Luke 11:9-13; Romans 8:26-27; Philippians 4:6
  • Wednesday-God Rescues-Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 13:6; Psalm 71:2
  • Thursday -God Delivers-1 John 4:4; Psalm 34:17; 1 John 5:4-5
  • Friday - God's Word Spreads and Flourishes-Matthew 28:19; Isaiah 40:8; Romans 1:8


Lord, we ask you to help us be your people who are on mission for you. Let us boldly share the good news of the Gospel with others. We know that people all around us are living in darkness and we are called, as followers of King Jesus, to be light in our world. Let us not hide our faith, but let us realize that you want to use us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to reach others who so desperately need a Savior. Place people in our path this week who need to know your love and compassion. Give us the words to say so that lost people will commit their lives to Jesus as their Savior and King.  

Additional Resources

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About This Sermon Series


Upcoming Weekends

» May 20-21
EMPOWERED | Martyrdom, Escape, and Judgement |
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

» May 27-28
EMPOWERED | Sermon Title TBA|
Executive Pastor to the Senior Pastor Derwin Anderson

Upcoming Worship Services

» May 20-21
EMPOWERED | Martyrdom, Escape, and Judgement |
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

» May 27-28
EMPOWERED | Sermon Title TBA|
Executive Pastor to the Senior Pastor Derwin Anderson

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