Summary: We live in a day when people love to worship only when the mood is right, the sun is shining, and everything is okay, but this is not biblical. We need to be a people of worship...no matter how we feel. We need to make a choice...
If I were to ask the question: why do we worship God? What answer would you give? Do we do it because He is good? Do we do it because He has blessed us? Do we do it only when the sun is out and we’re happy? This type of Christian thinking falls apart when things don’t go well. When you are feeling sad, confused, frustrated or lost can you still worship? This morning I want to tackle this question. We need to explore what it is that we bring to God and whether it should be driven by a choice or by emotions and circumstances.
We pick-up our story here in Acts 16 when Paul had set out on his second missionary journey. He was now travelling with Silas having been sent out by the church to Syria and Cilicia. We catch up with them in this story in Philippi, which was a major city in Macedonia. They were doing the work of the Lord spreading the Gospel message. They weren’t doing anything wrong or sinning against the Lord, yet they end up beaten and imprisoned. They found themselves in circumstances that would have been painful, dark, frustrating, and disheartening.
Beaten and bound (vs.19-23a)
It is interesting that Paul and Silas are thrown into prison because they did something that most people would have seen as a miracle. How great would you be feeling just after freeing a woman from the bondage of demon possession? They were doing the work of the Lord, successfully I might add, and where does it get them? Beaten, locked up and thrown into a prison which would have had a constant guard. The girl they freed was making lots of money for her owner as a fortune teller and he was furious. A mob formed, and after the beating of their lifetime they were thrown into the inner prison, which would have been open on every as to prevent any chance of escape. To add to the impossibility of the situation they were shackled and their feet were placed in stocks. Imagine how feared they must have been to be given such royal prison treatment. Did God abandon them in their hour of need?
Ever felt like you have been giving God your best and something terrible comes from out of nowhere? Maybe you have been having a great week and you finally shared your faith with that co-worker. It could be that you have been having a great month of ministry and things are really going well. Then it happens, something that leaves you feeling beaten, bruised, and all tied up. Has that ever happened to anyone here this morning? It knocks the wind out of you and you are left trying to catch your breath. Let me tell you something this morning, God has not forgotten or abandoned you, but He is testing you. It is in times like this that our faith is tested in a God that is supposed to be in control and good all the time, right? Most would say forget about worshipping, I have too many questions! God would say do you live for me because of what you get out of it or because of who I am?
Forgetting our Focus (vs.23b-24)
If sit back and think about it Paul and Silas had an opportunity to really give it to God. This would have been one of those ministry defining moments for some people and they might have thrown in the towel. “How could you let this happen God? After all we’ve been through and the travelling and preaching and staying in that last home where the wife was a terrible cook and the cot was uncomfortable; this isn’t fair!” Most people would think that they had every right to be in this frame of mind. Paul and Silas deserved better than a dirty dungeon and a beating to boot. It would have been so easy to take stock of their current condition and completely loose focus on the God that had saved them and called them to this mission.
No where in all of scripture does it say life will be perfect and we will understand everything that happens to us. In the tough times that we don’t understand we often forget our focus. When things are uncomplicated it is easy to serve God and focus on Him, but what about when things get complicated and uncomfortable? The saying, “you can’t see the forest for the trees,” comes to mind. We have the tendency to get so focussed on the problem directly in front of us that we forget that, although your circumstances have changed, God has not. We must learn worship God, not because He is good, but because He is God; even in the darkest of circumstances. God is unchanging, always faithful, and sovereign, worthy, gracious, loving and deserving of all honour and glory. That is more important than any circumstance that you will ever find yourself in. He is more important than your troubles, worries, and situations.