Summary: Happy Christians make for happy places.
Title: Happy Places
Text: Acts 16:16-34
Thesis: Happy Christians make for happy places.
It was on one of those old school, whirlwind, whistle-stop political campaigns. A well known politician was riding that train as it passed through a major eastern city. He suddenly produced a $5 bill and said, “I’m going to throw this $5 out the window and make somebody happy.”
One of his staff suggested, “Why don’t you throw five $1s out the window and make five people happy?”
A member of the media seated across the aisle said, “Why don’t you just jump out the window yourself and make everybody happy?”
In one of Charles Schultz’s early Peanuts comic strips, Lucy is waxing philosophical. “Why do you think we’re put on earth, Charlie Brown?” she asks.
After pondering for a moment, Charlie replies, “To make others happy.”
Lucy seemed to think that was a pretty good answer and then a scowl darkens her brow. “I don’t think I’m making anyone very happy,” she admits. “Of course, nobody’s making me very happy either.”
In the final panel Lucy is screaming out in big, capital letters: “SOMEBODY’S NOT DOING HIS JOB!”
We are not unlike Lucy in sometimes thinking others exist for the sole purpose of making us happy.
If your happiness is based on the actions of others you will be unhappy most of the time.
I. People can be exasperating
This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her. Acts 16:16-18
Maurine Corrigan wrote, “It's not that I don't like people. It's just that when I'm in the company of others - even my nearest and dearest - there always comes a moment when I'd rather be reading a book.” (Maureen Corrigan, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books)
I referred to Charles Schulz earlier. He once famously said, “I love mankind, it's people I can't stand.”
In the story today Paul and Silas are on their second missionary journey (Paul’s first missionary journey begins in Acts 13; the second in Acts 16; and the third in Acts 19). Paul’s journeys typically followed coastal cities and trade routes… extending from present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, maybe Bulgaria, Greece and Italy and then back by sea including the Island of Crete.
They were guests in the home of Lydia, a business woman from the city of Thyatira. For days a woman followed them around wherever they went shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.” Acts 16:17
Imagine pulling into the Shell station to buy gas and having a woman standing there under the canopy shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.” The same thing at King Soopers grocery. The same thing at George’s Café. The same thing at Wal Mart.
This was not exactly the endorsement Paul wanted in that the woman was perceived to be possessed by a spirit or a demon that gave her powers as a fortune-teller. She was a slave-girl and her owners made a lot of money charging people for having their fortunes told. Her endorsement of Paul and Silas was not to affirm them but to serve as a distraction for them and those to whom they spoke.
Finally Paul had had enough. The bible says that this went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated he turned to her and exorcised the demon from her in Acts 16:18. This was in fact a good thing for the woman but her owners were not pleased. We are all aware of the old adage, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Her master’s hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. Acts 16:19-21
Wouldn’t it be nice if whenever someone exasperated us we could simply perform an exorcism so we would always be surrounded by people who knew how to behave? I’m not sure what we are supposed to do with this part of the story in terms of a practical application. Do we tell them to shut up or do we get them committed or do we avoid them or get restraining orders to keep them away? But at the very least this piece of the story serves to remind us that people exasperate us and sometimes literally hinder the work God has for us.
Just as people can be exasperating at times… there are times we wonder where God is and why God is not intervening in our unfortunate circumstances.