Summary: How should we respond when we're "between a rock and a hard place", one of those bad situations in life in which there seems to be no escape no matter which way you turn? In this sermon we learn how we can "be of good cheer in such situations.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
February 4, 2018
NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation is available for this sermon by request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Acts 23
Illus.- An old magazine, Mission USSR, used to tell the stories of Christian prisoners who suffered for Jesus in the midst of constant persecution in Russia's Soviet era. One story in my files was titled "Surviving the 'Valley of Death,'" the testimony of a lady named Valentina who was arrested at the age of 28 for transporting Christian literature and sentenced to five years in prison, beginning January l982.
After her trial, she was transported to a Siberian camp called the "Valley of Death" by the prisoners because of the high mortality rate and spread of tuberculosis. She was completely cut off from her physical and spiritual families and all the things familiar to her. Without the comfort of her Bible and surrounded by prisoners spying on and cursing each other, she said, "There were periods when it seemed I couldn't pray, that the heavens were sealed up and silent."
That's what I would call living "between a rock and a hard place." Have you ever been between a rock and a hard place like that before?
You know what I mean by that phrase, don't you?- You're in a trial of affliction or opposition-and you look for escape or relief in ONE DIRECTION and it's like you run into a ROCK-and you look in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION and it's like you're against A HARD PLACE. In other words-no matter which way you turn, there seems to be no hope-no escape-no help in sight-no answer.
How do you get through the times when you're between a rock and a hard place? All of us either have been there in the past, or are there, or will be there in the future. So, when you're there, what can you do?
Well, when you're between a rock and a hard place-take heart-you're in good company! In Acts 23 we see that Paul was in just such a situation. Paul had come to Jerusalem to heal the breach between the Jewish and Gentile Christians, was spurned in his attempts, got caught up in a riot based on a misunderstanding, was saved by a local Roman military unit, whose captain, instead of arresting those fomenting the riot, promptly arrested PAUL, due to mistaking him for a wanted notorious criminal. Paul was saved from an interrogation and flogging only by informing his guard that he was a Roman citizen.
The next day Paul was brought to the Jewish council-essentially the Supreme Court in Israel-to see what the charges were against him. The council was divided, so Paul was hauled back to prison, his fate still undecided And that's where we find him in Acts 23.
Here we find Paul between a rock and a hard place-alone and without his Christian friends. He MUST have been hurt and disappointed that the Jewish Christians had rebuffed his efforts to bring about a reconciliation between the Jewish and the Gentile believers. And he found himself falsely jailed and at the mercy of unjust and corrupt leaders.
He was between A ROCK-the harsh custody of the Romans, and A HARD PLACE-the Supreme Court of Israel out to destroy him if at all possible, just as they had done to Jesus and Stephen and other Christians.
And yet, as we will discover-God is greater than our rocks OR our hard places! Look with me at verse 11 - "And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, 'Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.'"
The Lord stood at Paul's side and said, "Be of good cheer." Now THAT'S a jolly good thing to say in a situation like that! Here he is-rejected, falsely accused, beaten, the victim of a mistaken identity, and in prison. Now, if you came to me in that situation and said, "Hey dude, cheer up!"-I'd say "Get out of here. You don't know what I'm going through!"
But when it's the LORD who says it, well, that's a little different, isn't it? Jesus came to assure Paul that even though he was between a rock and a hard place, God was still in control. So there was no reason to be worried or upset-"be of good cheer."
Why SHOULD Paul be of good cheer? Let me give you three reasons Paul could "be of good cheer." They're the same reasons you and I should "be of good cheer" when we're between a rock and a hard place in our own lives:
I. FIRST, BE OF GOOD CHEER BECAUSE OF GOD'S PRESENCE - verse 11a - "And the night following the Lord stood by him…"