Summary: People have always longed to know what the future holds ... but we don't need to know the future - we just need to know He who holds the future in His hands! Life is full of uncertainties but God's commitment to you is unwavering! Witness how God can ta
When The Chains Come Off - Acts 16:16-34 - May 22, 2011
Folks, May 7th, in the year of our Lord 2044, will surely be a momentous day in my life. In fact it is certain to be a day like absolutely no other that has gone before. You see, that will be the day that I die. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I came across a health website last week. Based on information I provided, it projected the expected length of my life, and then determined the precise date that I could be expected to die. When it provides you with your expiry date it also displays on your screen a helpful clock counting down the remaining seconds of your life. So thanks to this website you can literally watch your life slip away. Now, the good news is this: if I eat right, get into shape, and lose about 35 lbs, I can gain 1 year and 1 day in this world.
Well, I don’t put much stock in such projections. Too many other factors that the computer can’t account for come into play - not the least of which is that my life is in the hands of Almighty God. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away and no website, no matter how sophisticated it might be, can take into account the mind and the plans of our God!
But the question was raised in my mind: Would you want to know the date of your death? Or even: Would you want to know what the immediate future held? That question has been asked many times, and in different ways over the years, hasn’t it? Most recently a form of it has appeared in the preaching of Harold Camping and his followers. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, over the last several months they have traveled across the United States proclaiming that yesterday, May 21st, 2011, would be the day that Jesus would return and call the faithful to be with Him. This would usher in the beginning of the end and then the world as we know it would come to a sudden conclusion sometime in October of this year. May 21st has come and gone and yet we’re still here. Camping has attempted to delve into something Jesus confessed that only God the Father knows. We can admire the fervency of their belief but we must mourn their date setting for in his doing so he has made a mockery of the things of God in the eyes of the world.
But there are some who took his preaching to heart. They too longed to look into the unknowable and to see what the future held. And that shouldn’t surprise us because the polls would suggest that something like 1/3 of us would want to know what the future held, or how much longer we had left to live, if such things were, indeed, knowable. The rest of us don’t have any desire to know the answer to that question. The burden of knowing might be too much. I think of some of Camping’s followers, who, if I understand what I've been hearing rightly, in preparation for the end, have sold their houses and businesses and emptied out their bank accounts. Now they’re left to try to pick up the pieces of their lives.
So perhaps it’s just as well that we don’t know what lies ahead because in the knowing would be the temptation to do something differently; to avoid the hardships; to sidestep the trials; to pass by the difficult times. At first that sounds like a good thing but we would be doing everything we could to avoid the very things that God might be using to refine us, and to shape us, and to use our lives to build the kingdom.
Think back to our Scripture passage this morning. Can you imagine what might have happened if Paul and Silas had known what that day would bring? What if they could have seen what the next few hours held for them? I think that if they had known what awaited them that they may have faced a very real temptation to just pack their bags and get out of town while they could. And who could have blamed them? They were just hours away from being forcibly seized by an angry mob, hauled before the authorities, publicly humiliated, flogged within an inch of their lives and then imprisoned in the most secure cell that could be found. To add insult to injury, battered and bleeding, they were put into stocks so they couldn’t even move around and try to make themselves comfortable. It doesn’t get much lower than that.
Now I’ll be upfront with you - if I could have seen that in my own future I’m pretty sure it’s something I would have tried to avoid at almost any cost. But if Paul and Silas had known, and if they had taken the easy way out, they would have missed seeing the hand of God at work and an entire family may never have known the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ. Open up your Bibles to Acts 16, please. Acts 16 and we’re going to pick right up where ______________ left off a few moments ago. Acts 16 and we’ll begin reading in verse 25 …