Praise in Times of Trouble

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MUSINGS

Praise in Times of Trouble

Acts 16:16-34

With Paul and Silas, we came to Philippi in Macedonia, a Roman colony, and, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Message: “Praise in Times of Trouble”

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”

Did you hear that?

Really let that sink in for a moment.

Were Paul and Silas attending the Wednesday night prayer meeting and hymn sing?

No?

Where were they?

Right, in prison.

And what had just happened to them?

The crowd attacked them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and beaten with rods. Only after a severe flogging were they thrown into prison.

Now Roman prisons were not known for cleanliness and hygiene. So here they are black and blue from the beatings, bloodied from the flogging, roughly thrown into the inner part of the prison, and bound hands and feet in chains.

Imagine for a moment the sights, sounds, and smells that surround them, there in the dark. The stench of urine and feces. The buzz of insects, rattling of chains. And painful groans of other prisoners.

And what were these Christian men doing?

That’s right. They were praying and singing hymns!

And who was listening?

That’s right the prisoners were listening.

Put yourself in the shoes of those other prisoners … well, most of them probably didn’t even have sandals … but imagine yourself bloodied and bruised and laying and squalor and you hear them singing and praising and praying in the cell next door what would be going on in your mind?

  • Are they crazy?

  • I wish they’d just shut up and let me stuffer in peace.

  • If their God loved them, they wouldn’t be in this nasty place!

  • What the ( blankety blank blank) do they have to sing and praise God for?

  • Just a couple of fanatics!

  • I’ve heard these guys preaching in the center of town. They must truly believe in this Jesus, they call the Christ.

Then a few minutes later a low rumble was heard from deep under ground. It was a violent earthquake so intense that the whole prison was shaken.

But no other buildings were disturbed.

With a high pitched screech, that would send chills through your body, the rusty doors scraped open as the locks blew apart and the chains fell off … from all of the prisoners hands and feet.

God could have freed only the faithful Paul and Silas.

As the now freed prisoners stared at the chains laying on the floor what do you suppose was going through their minds now?

  • What happened?

  • Do I run, hide, or stay?

  • Maybe those dudes aren’t as crazy as I thought.

  • I want some of that power they’ve got.

The other prisoners didn’t know that Paul and Silas had a secret. Though they had been humiliated, stripped, beaten, and jailed, they knew something special about their God. They knew what the prophet Jeremiah (20:13) proclaimed, “Sing to the LORD! Praise the LORD! He rescues the oppressed from the power of evil people. And they also knew that “all things work for the good of those who love God those whom he has called according to his plans.” (Romans 8:28)

Don’t let that slide past you. Listen closely … all things work together for the good of those who love God. Not some things. Not the pleasant things. Not the easy things. But ALL things.

It is easy enough to praise God when everything is going our way. “Praise the Lord the sun has come out after days and days of gloom and rain!” ” thank God my test results came back negative.” “Glory to God our house loan was approved.”

But when the hard times come (and they will) we tend to cross her arms, stick out our lower lip, stomp our feet, and cry, “Why me, Lord.”‘

If you read Ecclesiastes 3:16-19

“I saw something else under the sun: There is wickedness where justice should be found. There is wickedness where righteousness should be found. I thought to myself, “God will judge righteous people as well as wicked people, because there is a specific time for every activity and every work that is done.” I thought to myself, “God is going to test humans in order to show them that they are like animals.” Humans and animals have the same destiny. One dies just like the other. All of them have the same breath of life.

The short answer is, we live in a broken world. This is not the paradise that God created. When Adam and Eve broke the covenant with their maker, a curse was placed n this world.

Because of the cursed earth, many people right now – right this moment – are living through hard times. The times that Jesus promised would come.

Listen to Luke 6:26 in a modern translation. “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests – look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.”

Listen as Jesus continues on how to handle adversity.

27 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.

Let them bring out the best in you.

If you are never tested … how do you know the depth of the power of God in your life.

Love your enemies. Because, in spite of what they plan, God can use it to strengthen you and bring glory to HimselfA.

Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.

28 When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.

Okay, we can do that, Amen? After all, prayer for those nasty, hurtful people doesn’t cost us anything.

But wait! Jesus is going to get real and require more from usor.

29 If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 30 If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

Now verse 31 should sound familiar even in a different translation than you are used to.

31 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!

Yep, the golden rule.

Then Jesus said,

32 If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. 33 If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. 34 If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

35 “I tell you, love your enemies.

Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never – I promise – regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst.

And verse 36 suns it up srt and sweet.

36 Our Father is kind; you be kind.

Hard times are life draining, stressful and seem never ending.

We don’t need to praise God for the hard times. However, we should praise him during and through the hard times also.

In the book of exodus 12:14 God gave instruction to the people of Israel to celebrate in his honour because of the great things he has done in their life.

In other words, in the hard times, remember the good times and blessings received. Remember how the Lord lifted you from the quicksand of life, or held your hand through the last hard time.

Celebrating God should be a way of expressing our appreciation for what God HAS done for us.

God sent his only begotten son, our Lord Jesus Christ to take away our sins and because of Jesus, we have access to the father (john 14- 6). He has made a way for us to have a Father-Child relationship with God and for this reason, we have the great opportunity to call Him Abba father. (Galatians 4:5-7).

When those hard times come and it’s hard to remember the blessings you’ve receive, read Psalm 145.

I will highly praise you, my God, the king. I will bless your name forever and ever. I will bless you every day. I will praise your name forever and ever. The LORD is great, and he should be highly praised. His greatness is unsearchable. One generation will praise your deeds to the next. Each generation will talk about your mighty acts.

I will think about the glorious honor of your majesty and the miraculous things you have done. People will talk about the power of your terrifying deeds, and I will tell about your greatness. They will announce what they remember of your great goodness, and they will joyfully sing about your righteousness. The LORD is merciful, compassionate, patient, and always ready to forgive. The LORD is good to everyone and has compassion for everything that he has made.

Everything that you have made will give thanks to you, O LORD, and your faithful ones will praise you. Everyone will talk about the glory of your kingdom and will tell the descendants of Adam about your might in order to make known your mighty deeds and the glorious honor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. Your empire endures throughout every generation. The LORD supports everyone who falls. He straightens the backs of those who are bent over. The eyes of all creatures look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand, and you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is fair in all his ways and faithful in everything he does. The LORD is near to everyone who prays to him, to every faithful person who prays to him. He fills the needs of those who fear him. He hears their cries for help and saves them. The LORD protects everyone who loves him, but he will destroy all wicked people. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and all living creatures will praise his holy name forever and ever.

This psalm highlights some of the reasons for celebrating God.

  • Because of his abundant goodness

  • He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

  • He is good, he is trustworthy and faithful

  • He lifts us up

  • He gives us food

  • He satisfies the desires of our heart.

  • He watches over us and fight our battles

We need to Celebrate God for every moment that led to the day, we need to celebrate God for the lessons we’ve learnt in life, we need to celebrate God for all our blessings, our drive, our passion and our spirit. We need to celebrate God for courage to fight through the hard times, for the people in our life, for putting food on our table, for air in our lungs, for healing our body, for creating opportunity to take our life to the next level. We need to celebrate God for the mental strength to survive difficult times. We need to celebrate God for our health, because many are in worse condition. We need to celebrate God for fighting our battles.

If we will remember these things when we feel beaten, alone in the dark, imprisoned physically, spiritually, mentally, socially, our financially, then like Paul and Silas, we can sing, pray, and praise the Lord. We can know that “all things work for the good of those who love God those whom he has called according to his plans.” (Romans 8:28)

Amen

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