Summary: Acts 16 is the story of 3 hearts: Lydia’s TENDER heart, the Slave Girl’s TORMENTED heart, and the Philippian Jailer’s TOUGHENED heart. Link included to formatted text version and PowerPoint.
A Toughened Heart
Is there someone you know who needs to be saved, and you would label them as “a tough case”? Have you ever been discouraged, thinking, “oh, they’ll never get saved, they’re too hardened”?
A good subtitle for this message would be: Jesus CAN save the hard cases.
Paul and Silas were imprisoned for preaching the gospel. Last time we saw the slave girl delivered from demonic possession. She had psychic abilities, supernatural powers, not of God. Her masters were making a lot of money off of her, and when she got saved, they got mad, so they trumped up false charges against them…and this resulted in one of the greatest conversions recorded anywhere in the Bible.
1. The Persecution
How many here thought that when you got saved, it would be an end to all your problems?! If so, then since that time you’ve learned that man’s days are few and full of trouble [man born of woman/as sparks fly upward!] Jesus didn’t come to save us from all of our troubles, He came to get into trouble with us! If getting saved is the end of our problems, it’s the FRONT end!
Problems you’ve never had before are ushered in:
II Tim. 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Paul and Silas here in ch. 16 are in trouble, not because they’re out of God’s will…but because they’re IN God’s will! Not for doing the wrong thing, but the RIGHT thing!
3 things they did to this pair:
A. They beat them.
v. 23 many stripes – that’s easy for us to just read right over, but what does this really mean? What is the full impact of that?
Each Roman province had a group called the “lictors”, they were brutal policemen…the strong arm of the Roman gov’t, and they were commanded by the magistrates. Each carried a rod like a policeman’s night stick. And if a magistrate commanded a lictor to beat someone, he’d beat them half to death, w/ welts on their back and all.
B. Cast into prison
v. 23-24 Just eliminate from your mind the images you have of today’s prisons. This was nothing like that…it was a hole in the ground, much like a dungeon. And they were in the “inner” prison, which would be the deepest, darkest part. It was damp and cold, and history says this kind of prison would be rat infested. It would be impossible to lie down or relax w/out rats nibbling at you…this is a far cry from the cable tv, college degree rehab farms we have today. This place would have had lice, no restrooms, and little ventilation. It would have been crowded, and the sounds of moaning and groaning of many others would fill the air.
In prison and jail visits in my ministry today it’s unpleasant…mostly the crowd in there and the anger in the air…well, imagine back then!
C. Put in stocks [& bonds!]
v. 24 The stocks were intended for 1 purpose…to induce pain. They would spread the prisoner’s legs as far as they could, until the hips were almost out of joint, and then their legs would be locked in that position. Leg cramps would ensue. Ever had one of those? They’re bad, but you walk it off…but they couldn’t!
So, by this point they have raw, bloodied, bruised backs and they’re undergoing painful punishment in this hell-hole of a prison…and all for preaching the Word of God!
Let’s get practical. When was the last time that you actually suffered for your faith? What have you endured for the purpose of the Word of God and the work of God going forward? If this story does anything to us at all, it ought to challenge each of us to put away our pettiness, and quit “playing church” and get our eyes on the goal…the main thing!
It’s amazing what we spoiled American Christians get upset about. They say the level of your character is measured by what it takes to get you to quit. And it’s amazing how little it takes for some people to leave the great cause of Christ.
I just heard of a Baptist church in town, in danger of a split, and all over pettiness.
Joke-- A man was stranded on a deserted Pacific island for years. Finally one day a boat comes sailing into view, and the man frantically waves and draws the skipper’s attention. The boat comes near the island and the sailor gets out and greets the stranded man.
After a while the sailor asks, "What are those three huts you have
"Well, that’s my house there."
"What’s that next hut?" asks the sailor.
"I built that hut to be my church."