Summary: It is a question for the ages. Is God really in control. The answer is YES!
August 4, 2013
Is God Really in Control?
Opening words: This summer we are looking at the first eight chapters of the Book of Acts. I have called this sermon series, Church Planting. So much has happened to this point. The Holy Spirit was unleashed on the world and the church was created. Lives were being changed. The disciples were transformed into apostles, who began to flex their spiritual muscle. Under their leadership individuals were healed and thousands were experiencing the power of the resurrected Jesus. The church had grown beyond Palestine. Through the eyes of God, everything is perfect. Through the eyes of the Orthodox faith, things are growing worse. It is for this reason the Christian persecution begins. They are trying to stymie the growth of this Jesus movement.
The first martyr of the church was Stephen. You remember his story. He was respected by everyone. Outside of the Apostles, he performs the first miracle. For that act of kindness he is arrested and tried. He is found guilty of telling the truth and last week we learned he died by being stoned. This week we learn the persecutions are spreading and for this reason the church is forced to scatter. May God give you ears to hear this morning’s scripture lesson, Acts 8:2-8. Let me call this message Is God Really in Control?
Acts 8:2-8 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
This morning the Colonial Hills Baptist Church is a grieving church. Their story has been in the news recently. It grabbed both my attention and my heart. The Indianapolis church had sent their young to a church camp in northern Michigan. It was a successful time away and everyone was excited about returning home. Everyone must have been thrilled their 365 mile trip home was nearly complete. Then, tragedy struck. One mile from the church the bus’ brakes failed. It slammed into a wall and over turned. There were 37 people on the bus. Dozens were injured. Three were killed, including the youth pastor, his pregnant wife and a chaperone. The youth minister was the senior pastor’s son. The parents who had assembled at the church to pick up their children were shocked. Their happy reunion was replaced with sadness. Does that story make you wonder? That story makes me wonder.
On Tuesday, a mother was pushing her eight month old daughter’s baby stroller in West New York, New Jersey. She was doing nothing wrong when tragedy struck. It happened in the blink of an eye. A commuter van, running between New Jersey and New York City, went out of control. It hit two lampposts and a tree. One of those lampposts fell and hit the baby stroller. The baby was suddenly gone and the mother will spend the rest of her life putting the pieces back together again. That story made me wonder. Have you ever wondered? Have you ever wondered why God lets things like that happen? Have you ever asked this question? Is God really in control?
This message is not about why bad things happen to bad or foolish people. We know why bad things happen to them. Every night the news gives us their stories. How many gang related shootings have you heard about lately? How many drug related shootings have you heard about lately? Have many motorcycle driver have been killed who refused to wear their helmets? How many automobile drivers have been killed who were not wearing their seat belts? Drunk drivers are asking for it. We understand why bad things happen to bad or foolish people. What we don’t understand is why bad things happen to good people, to innocent people? It is those stories which force us to ask the question, is God really in control? Ours is not the first generation to ask that question and our generation will not be the last to ask that question. The early church must have asked that question. That is what we find in this morning’s scripture lesson. If you are ready to look at the text together say, “Amen!”
We find ourselves in the eighth chapter of Acts, verses two through eight. This passage is challenging for anyone who assumes God will eliminate the hardship in our world. It does not matter how you turn the story, you find pain and suffering. Listen to what I am about to say. The people who are experiencing the pain and the suffering did nothing wrong. Stephen did nothing wrong. He was doing what he was told. He was telling the world about Jesus and for his evangelistic efforts he is killed. The members of the early church did nothing wrong yet verse three tells us they were imprisoned for their faith. It is obvious. Pain and suffering have been part of the church from the very beginning. And with the pain and the suffering comes our question for today, is God really in control? The answer is YES!