Good morning! I’m Peter, and I have the privilege of being the pastor here at Hope City. I’m glad you’re here. We’ve been talking about Miracles. How many of us have found ourselves in a situation where you’ve been totally and completely frightened? You know the type of moment that is utterly overwhelming.
Several years ago I was surfing up in New Jersey when I had this type of moment. It was fall which meant that we needed a wet suit to get into the balmy 60º ocean water. I’m not much of a surfer. But surfing is a big activity with my in-laws. And I’m down to try anything. Well, I didn’t have my own wetsuit… I was very honestly a fair-weather surfer in the truest sense of the word. The waves were going to be great, and so I decided to go. But I was going to wear my father-in-law’s wetsuit. That sounded good in theory. But it was another thing in real life.
I’m paddling out through the waves to get beyond the break so I can attempt to ride them, and I’ve got 4 millimeters of neoprene rubber pulling against my arm, holding me back. I’m doing this for 15 minutes straight, and I’m utterly gassed. One final wave comes and tosses me off my board and I get rolled around in the wave like a towel in a washing machine. And that’s when it happened. The moment when it was all over. My wetsuit opened up, and filled with water. My arms and legs filled up like balloons. I was forced to struggle even more to get to safety. I thought for sure I was going to die there in the ocean. All I can remember doing is asking God to SAVE ME!
Have you had a moment like that? Hopefully not being tossed around in 60º water… but a moment where you cried out GOD SAVE ME!
Maybe for you it was a college final… GOD HELP ME PASS THE TEST!
Maybe for you it was some flashing lights behind your car. GOD GET ME OUT OF THIS TICKET AND I’LL NEVER SPEED AGAIN!
Or maybe for you it was someone close to you. GOD HELP MY CHILD AT SUMMER CAMP. I’ll serve extra in the Nursery this fall! Whatever.
I’LL DO ANYTHING YOU ASK! JUST SAVE ME!
We’ve all had moments like this where we are terrified, and we don’t know what to do. We encounter problems that show up in crazy ways. A problem isn’t defined by the size, but by the situation. Think with me…. When have you been fearful, or frustrated by a situation that you were dealing with? And we make statements like this… we make promises that if we’re honest are beyond our ability to keep.
People have been facing problems like this from the beginning of time, right?
We’ve Got Adam and Eve… they had the whole issue with a fruit tree.
Then theirs Noah and the rising Flood waters. That’s pretty problematic.
Then of course we’ve got Abraham and Isaac… You want me to do what with my only son?
And then of course we’ve got David and Goliath. One of the greatest underdog stories of all times. History has shown us that there have always been problems… But History has also shown us something else, and that is God has the Power to save us from any problem that show up. God can miraculously protect us from Harm! But it’s probably not for the same reason you think He would.
This morning, I want to look at a problem that a guy by the name of Paul and Silas faced when they were in Macedonia. This is found in Acts chapter 16:20-34. That’s found on page 756 in the Bible’s around you. Now, Paul, you may know him as the Apostle Paul, the man that God used mightily in the Mediterranean rim planting churches where ever he went, and starting little faith communities similar to our own. These two guys were on their way to Macedonia because of a vision God had given Paul… Paul saw a vision of a man begging them to come to Macedonia to help them.
When they arrived in Macedonia, they were being followed around by a demon possessed woman. This woman had the ability to predict the future and some people saw a cash cow here. They put her into slavery and her owners were making a fortune off of her. Paul and Silas grew tired of this woman following them and they called this demon out of her. They exorcised the demon from this woman. The owners of this woman became irate because they devalued their property. Their fortune telling business went bust! So they haul Paul & Silas before the local authorities. Look what happens in verse 20:
They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. Acts 16:20-24
Can you imagine this scene? Paul and Silas are here in Macedonia because of a vision from God that led them there. And all of a sudden they find themselves verbally assaulted, accused, beaten, whipped, and thrown in jail. Who knows what they had planned for these two men. They were to be watched carefully and placed in the inner cell, with their feet in stocks. Moral of the story… they weren’t going anywhere. And yet, it would seem they were exactly where God wanted them to be right?
Did they miss interpret the vision? Was it bad pizza from the night before? Why were they in prison? What gives God?
The truth is that [Point 1] EVEN WHEN YOU OBEY GOD BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN.
Have you been there? Have you ever felt like you were doing exactly what God wanted you to be doing and yet you’ve faced adversity, you’ve faced abuse, or you’ve had people get in your face and discourage you? Maybe you’ve experienced physical pain because of decisions you’ve made.
There is an incredible temptation when we are in pain, and experiencing problems. It is so easy to think that because of the problems that I’m facing, I must not be doing what God wanted me to do. You can spend all your time asking WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? God I thought that we had this thing figured out. You asked me to honor you with my body, to not have sex before marriage, and yet… now my boyfriend leaves me. Or my friends are pressuring me, and the rumor mill is crushing me. Or God, I am honoring you with my finances. I’m tithing, I’m giving financially to the mission here at our church, and doing my best, but it is so stressful when I look at my bank account. I thought it would be easier than this. It can leave you feeling completely confused.
Some people get Angry with God because of their situation. They feel like because of their obedience God owes them something. I’ve done all of these things… look at what I’ve done. And so when a problem comes up the temptation is to get angry. This comes from a works based mentality. If you think that you are working to earn God’s favor than you will be disappointed when something negative happens in your life. But listen to me, we don’t work to earn God’s favor. We are loved by God right now the way that you are. And because of that Love we work to obey God…. And yet…
Even when you are obeying God, Bad things can happen! Your problems don’t reveal a lack of faith… but your response to those problems show where your faith lies.
Paul and Silas are sitting in prison with their bodies beaten and bruised because of their obedience. Look what happens next. Look at how they respond.
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
These two guys have just been beaten to a pulp, and thrown in prison, and they respond in an incredible way. They respond with Prayer and Worship! In the midst of their problem, these guys hold a worship service! There is no problem that is going to keep them from praying and worshiping God. They have realized that Pain and Problems are going to happen. Here’s what we need to learn… [Point 2] You can’t choose your problems, but you can choose your response to them. Paul and Silas were in jail. They were out of control, and they didn’t sit and grow in anger and bitterness. No! They did something about it. They responded in a way that made a difference. In a way that mattered. Why? Because we know that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD. And yet, sometimes we find ourselves being handcuffed by something in our life, an event a situation, or a relationship, and we feel totally helpless, and yet we still try to figure it out on our own. We try to figure out how WE can solve the problem. When in all reality we should be turning to a God who has the power to save! He can MIRACULOUSLY protect us from harm and provide for us in our pain.
Maybe you haven’t been beaten with rods in your life. I hope not. But likely you’ve been beaten down with other things…. You’ve been beaten down by someone else’s words. You’ve been beaten down by your own doubts that overwhelm you. You’ve been beaten down by discouragement and you wonder where is God?
You may not have been stripped of your clothes like Paul and Silas. But you have been stripped of your hope. You’ve been stripped of your faith in others and your trust in others. HOW COULD THEY? And you ask, WHERE IS GOD?
Listen to me, you can’t choose your problems. But you can choose your response. Look at why it was so important that Paul and Silas’s response was so important.
They prayed. These guys were praying, why? Because they believed that God could do anything. They believed that God was a miracle working God. What is a miracle again? (Miracle Def- same as weeks before)It is when God in heaven intervenes here on earth. They knew that what they needed was a supernatural response to their natural circumstances. This is why they prayed. They cried out to ask God to protect them and provide for them. They believed that God would do it.
Let me ask you, do you believe that God is the God of the impossible? Where in your life right now do you need God to intervene?
Prayer shows our reliance on God. It puts our heart in alignment with Gods, it reminds us that we are who we are and that God is who He is.
How did they respond to their situation? They prayed first and worshipped second. The writers of Hebrews tells us to offer a sacrifice of praise. That we are to praise God… Listen, it’s one thing to praise God when you see his power! GOD… I PRAISE YOU! EVERYTHING IS GOING RIGHT! It’s another thing to praise God WHEN YOU DON’T SEE HIS POWER!
There are two times to worship God though. When you feel like it, and when you don’t. Worship is thanking God, it’s placing a value on who God is. It is an expression of what is going on in our hearts. We worship God for WHO HE IS, not for WHAT HE DOES.
So here are these two guys in the middle of prison, in the middle of the night, and they are praising God, they are praying… and nothing has even happened yet. But they are believing that it will. And look what happens next.
26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
God shows up in a big way! These guys are praying… and a miracle happens. An earthquake shakes the prison that they are in. The earthquake is violent enough to shake open the prison doors, and yet, everyone is safe. The chains came off of their arms and feet. It was a miracle.
God miraculously protected Paul’s life. He protected Silas. This brings us to our third thought this morning. Before Paul and Silas had a problem, God had a plan. [Point 3] Before You ever have a problem, God has a plan! It may not go the way that you thought, but it isn’t your plan any way. Let’s look at how this plan unfolded.
27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Do you see what happened here? God used Paul and Silas’ problem to bring an entire household to faith. Paul’s guard and his whole household believed in Jesus that day. Why? Because Paul and Silas were patient in their problems and God supernaturally protected them through it. God miraculously protected Paul’s life.
Sometimes God protects you in so many ways that you don’t understand. This looks like times when you are late to a meeting, or you get stuck on 75 behind a snow bird going 45 miles an hour. You can wonder why this is happening in the moment, and yet we don’t always see what God is protecting us from.
Sometimes God protects us from some of our own prayers. God, give me what I want… not what I needed… Maybe you were praying that God would let you marry that one guy… You were begging God! Please Lord… let me marry that guy. You know the guy you THOUGHT you loved. Or maybe it was GOD please let me get the job.
I prayed and prayed for God to provide me with a job before moving to Florida. I was planning on going to a church across the state from here. I was applying to be a teaching campus pastor at a fairly large church and they wanted to fly me down for a weekend interview. I was pumped! Everything seemed right. It looked good. I wanted out of my current job… and I interviewed well… we were good to go. We had the tickets booked. And the night before we were supposed to fly down to FL, Tiffany and I are laying in bed, and she says to me, I don’t think we are supposed to go there. I mean it’s 1:30 in the morning. And she’s telling me that we’re not supposed to go to this “DREAM JOB” that I’ve been praying for. Do I need to remind you who is the pastor in this relationship? Men, sometimes the voice of the holy spirit sounds a lot like your wife’s. 😉 After hemming and hawing. Some tears. I called up expedia and canceled our ticket.
God’s eternal purposes don’t always align with our temporary plans.
It is safe to say that if I had taken that job, I would never have made it over here to Sarasota. Tiffany and I would never have planted Hope City Church, and we wouldn’t be here today. Sometimes God has a bigger plan that what we are capable of seeing in the moment.
Are you so stuck on your wants that you can’t see the way that God is working? Maybe God is working a miracle of protection while you are handcuffed in your current job. Maybe God has even bigger plans for you than you could imagine for yourself.
Paul and Silas were miraculously protected, and God had a plan for them even before they had a problem. They still ended up in Jail. They were still beaten and flogged. Did they hurt? Yes. Did they feel pain? Yes.
They knew something incredible. They knew that they would rather hurt obeying God than living comfortably disobeying Him. This wouldn’t be the last time that God allowed Paul to spend time in prison. But Paul didn’t waste prison. Paul wrote letters, letters that you and I still have to this day. Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.
Paul wrote we rejoice in our suffering!
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Listen to me, don’t waste your problems… Don’t waste your time in prison. No matter what… your break ups, your break down… when you lose, and when you win. The things that you wanted, and even the things that you never wanted. God can work a miracle through them.
Let me remind you of a promise that God made. God never promised that he will ALWAYS protect us. He did promise that he will never leave us. Long before you ever face a problem, God has a plan.
Will you TRUST God’s plan?
While you’re trusting, while you’re waiting I want to invite you to PRAY! Prayer is not trying to convince God but communicate with God.
Psalm 69:13 says,
“But I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.”
Would you this week convert one worry into a prayer. Instead of focusing on your problems, start praying. Start by simply changing the time you’ve been worrying into prayer time. Or, turn the radio off for 10 minutes on your drive into work and just talk to God. Prayer is the backbone of a relationship with God.
When you’re tempted to focus on your problems, start praying. Start praying for protection.
Start praying for your spouse… Pray for your kids. Pray for protection from the lies of the enemy.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your problem is, we’re going to pray. And in the midst of our prayers, no matter what, we are going to worship God. We are going to worship God because of Who He is. Not because of What He does.
What can God do through you today as you trust Him?