Summary: We can overcome lifes trials and be powerful witnesses of the grace of God to others.
Title: We can!
Text: Acts 16:22-34
Thesis: We can overcome life’s trials and be powerful witnesses of the grace of God to others.
In Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne is wrongfully convicted of a crime and sent to prison. He is a model prisoner and was recruited by the Warden to do some creative banking so he had access to the Warden’s office. On one occasion, Andy came upon a recording of Mozart’s music so he locked himself in the warden’s office and played one of Mozart’s pieces over the prison public address system. For a moment in that ugly place, every prisoner was transformed by the music. As a consequence for his indiscretion, Andy was locked up in solitary confinement for a month. When he was released back into the general prison population, his friend asked him how he survived. Andy said, “I had Mr. Mozart to keep me company.” The music playing in his mind could not be confined by even the darkness and dankness of solitary confinement.
The story today reminds us that praising God, i.e., worship, enables us to overcome our trials.
I. We can sing when we shouldn’t feel like singing.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:22-25
A grandmother told of an experience she had with her 4 – year – old granddaughter. She was playing Christmas carols on the piano for little Natalie and as she began to play “Away in a Manger,” she began to sing. She thought her granddaughter would like to sing along with her as she played and sang. After just a few words she felt a hand on her arm and as she looked down at her little granddaughter, she said, “Just let the piano sing, grandma.” (Aurlette Driver, Christian Reader, Nov/Dec 2003, p. 11)
Not all of us are good singers and few of us are good singers in the worst of life’s circumstances.
Paul and Silas were in jail. They were branded as agitators and blacklisted as Jews. The local magistrates had them stripped, beaten and locked in stocks in the inner most and securest cell of the local jail. Never mind the charges were false and never mind the fact that they were Roman citizens who had been imprisoned without the benefit of a trial… which would ultimately put the magistrates in something of a bind. But meanwhile, they had been publically humiliated, physically abused and unjustly jailed.
“Different people take disaster in different ways, and certainly this was a new way to take a jail sentence. Most people would have spent the night protesting the injustice of their punishment. Paul and Silas spent it praising God, for Paul and Silas had something inside themselves which gave them that extraordinary human capacity to rise above any and every situation and to mold the raw material of their lives in such a way as to master it.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, # 9, Acts/Romans, p. 220)
“The one thing you can never take away from a Christian is God and the presence of Christ.” (Wm. Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 136) In Psalm 139 the Psalmist declares that there is absolutely no corner in the farthest reaches of the universe where we can escape the presence of God. And Paul in Romans 8 asserts that there is absolutely no one or nothing in the entire universe can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
On a balmy afternoon in 1982, Badger Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin was packed. More than 60,000 die-hard University of Wisconsin fans were watching their home team gets routed by the Michigan State Spartans.
What was odd was that as the score became increasingly lopsided, there were increasingly more applause and shouts of triumph from the Wisconsin fans. How could they be cheering like that when their team was being so soundly defeated?
The reason… many of the fans were listening on portable radios to a game taking place seventy-miles away where the Milwaukee Brewers were beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the 1982 World Series. (Greg Asimakopuoulos, Naperville, IL, Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4)
The reason the Wisconsin fans were cheering in Madison was because their minds and hearts were in Milwaukee.
One of my favorite texts is from II Corinthians 4:18 where Paul encourages us to fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is not seen, for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.
Paul and Silas were not fixing their eyes on their present circumstances… they were fixing their eyes on the God of all hope. They were not singing songs of deliverance from their trials, they were singing songs of faith and hope and contentment in the midst of their trials.