Untitled Sermon (5)
When I was I kid, I always knew when momma was upset. You could always tells because she would get silent. That was not her normal state. She was usually a cheerful chatter box. But if she got quiet- brace yourself. You were in hot water. Anybody else had a mom or dad whose silence scared you. I mean she never like beat me or anything. That would be better. She just got quiet.
Scholars note that between the end of the Old Testament and the time of the New Testament, there was a period of 400 years of silence. For 400 years there was no prophecy. Think of that, our nation is only 241 years old.
During the 400 years of silence, the nation of Israel had struggled to obtain their independence.
They even had seasons of freedom and independence... but eventually fail to the Roman Empire.
By the birth of Christ, Rome had exerted such irresistible force that Israel was hopelessly subjected to them. When they would later rebel in AD 70, the temple would be destroyed and the land ransacked. All Jews would be forced to leave the land by command of the emperor. This would lead to two thousand years of Jewish exile from their homeland- a time in which they would be scattered to the ends of the earth with no motherland to call home.
They were fighting for a homeland they felt powerless to defend. They were controlled by a culture they could not influence. And they could not seem to hear God.
Anyone ever felt like that? Anyone ever been in a midnight hour season of life?
For Israel, Jesus was born at one of the darkest moments in their history.
Paul and Silas have just come out of a messy conflict. Paul and Barnabas argued about John Mark- Barnabas’ nephew who had deserted them on their first trip. Paul had no use for a quitter. Barnabas, on the other hand, was committed to his family member and believed Mark had potential.So the great apostolic missionary team was split. But it turned out to be ok. What looked like a tragedy born out of frustration actually resulted in a multiplication of ministry. Only God can turn frustration into multiplication.So Paul and Silas set out. But soon they are stopped by the Holy Spirit from speaking the word of God in Asia.Why? They are missionaries. Aren’t they supposed to preach the Gospel?Perhaps God is protecting them. Perhaps He has someone else to minister in that region. Perhaps He is rushing them to an urgent assignment. Perhaps Paul would have been killed and half the New Testament would not have been written. We cannot say for sure. And sometimes, that is how God’s will is. We cannot fully understand it. But we must be people of the Spirit, lead by God. We must be prepared to obey God even when we do not fully understand what He is saying.God Is Leading Paul and Silas.
God Will Lead Us
God Will Lead Us
Now most of us have been so infected by the American Gospel- the idea that Jesus called us to take up a crown and not a cross- that we think whatever God is leading us to will always be better than where we are, easier than where we are, more comfortable than where we are, more successful than where we are. Friends, that simply is not true. God rewards us with higher levels of service, not necessarily higher levels of income. He gives us more important assignments, not more indulgent assignments.How many Navy Seals sign up with the expectation that the harder they work- the safer they will be? The more they get promoted, the easier life will be. Let me answer that for you. None.If they work hard, serve faithfully, and continue in service long enough to be promoted- the best they can hope for is to be entrusted with the responsibility of sending other men into harm’s way- an assignment far more difficult than going yourself for those who have already gone.What we see with Paul and Silas is that God clearly leads them to Macedonia. But when they get there- life is not paradise. Heaven will be paradise. This life is war. We have marching orders from our Commander to march into the battle and push back the enemy and liberate the captives. That is not a vacation. This is war.And Paul and Silas find themselves in the middle of this war.As soon as they arrived, they encountered two things:SalvationsSatanic oppositionWhen we follow God, He will use us to reach the lost and confront the enemy. One will be fun. One will not- but it will be necessary.Watch what happens. You would think that the satanic opposition would come in the form of an enemy- someone out to get them. But actually- just the opposite. A slave girl starts bragging about how great Paul and Silas are. Satan knows the power of pride. He will try to puff us up to bring us down.And this fortune telling slave girl, who has a demonic spirit, comes to Paul and Silas and starts bragging about them. There is a huge difference between encouraging some one and enticing them. Both say nice words but they have a different motive.Encouraging them is saying kind words to help them follow the Lord, to not give up, to strengthen them.Enticing them is saying nice words to influence them, control them, to manipulate them into what you want them to do.The devil is using this slave girl to say nice words- not to help them, but to distract others from hearing them.Paul discerns by the Holy Spirit the motive and the spirit behind the slave girl’s words and rebukes the demonic spirit. The result is that the girl is set free. Praise God right.Paul does the right thing. He confronts the demonic spirit.He delivers a child from demonic possession.He proclaims the Gospel. He should get a trophy right. At least a good offering. A handclap.We must confront demonic distraction to make way for the proclamation of the gospel.But the devil is never happy about being confronted and dethroned.And often when we do the right thing, bad things result. The slave girls’ greedy owners do not rejoice in her freedom, but rather they attack Paul for driving out the spirit. Paul and Silas are dragged before a kangaroo court, unjustly beaten with rods and thrown into prison with their feet fastened in stocks.And that is where we take up the story.How would you react in this situation? Frustrated. Sullen. Disappointed. We see none of this from Paul and Silas. Rather, what we see is men of God moved by their love for God- even in the darkest of circumstances.Untested faith is of questionable value. But it is the faith that has been through the fire, that has stood through the storm, that has endured a dark night and still keeps standing, that still keeps praising, that still keeps worshipping God, despite the blows, despite the blood, despite the storms- that is the kind of faith that I want to have. That is the kind of faith that is worth more than gold.Faith at its core simply says- God is good and I can trust Him.Of course, it is more difficult to believe that God is good when we go through something difficult, something bad, something painful.And that is where Paul and Silas are at.They trusted God. They followed the lead of the Holy Spirit. And suddenly that got beat, put in jail and locked in stocks. What would you do in that moment.They did something powerful. They began to praise God!After everything they had suffered, they lifted up their voices and praised God for His goodness.I don’t know what you are going through, I don’t know what you are facing, I don’t know what sickness is affecting your family, what bills are weighing on your mind, what shame and failures are weighing you down, but this is what I do know. If you will praise God- even in your darkest hour, God will show up.You see, He promised to inhabit the praises of His people.
NLTYet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
And God dwells in unapproachable light.
NIV84who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
And He promised to never turn away from anyone who calls on Him.
NIV84for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
So that means, if you are in a dark place and you need light to know the way, then turn on the Praise and watch your heavenly Father show up and shine out. And with Him comes the overwhelming glory of His presence.