- Sermon Notes
Purpose in Your Position
Intro: Why here, why now?
In Acts chapter 16, Paul and Silas are sent on a mission by God to preach the Gospel to those in a town called Philippi. After experiencing success in seeing a woman name Lydia and her household come to salvation, it seems that their next steps would take them to an unlikely destination as they are thrown in prison. Though stuck, locked up and locked in, what we will see is that Paul and Silas did not use it as an opportunity to give up, or give in, rather, they understood that the Lord could use even the difficult position they found themselves in. And after being beaten, bloodied, and bound up, they knew there was still purpose in their position and did not let their difficult condition get in the way of their God given mission.
Read Acts 16:16-34
Falsely accused and placed behind prison bars, Paul and Silas hit the floor in prayer and praise rather than sleep the night away. The bars that shut them in became an avenue for Lord to continue to use Paul and Silas to do what they otherwise would not have been able to do. Though their conditions had changed, their mission remained, they knew that they were to go to Philippi and preach the Gospel. Though things became difficult and hostile, they would not waver or waffle. Their condition became another way to move forward in their God given mission.
I. Remain Fastened to Jesus
Acts 16:23-24, When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
After being falsely accused, dragged before the chief magistrates, beaten and jailed; Paul and Silas find themselves in prison.
Paul and Silas came to Philippi to share the gospel of Jesus. With great excitement, they began sharing and encouraging those in the land to give their lives to Jesus.
I am sure they expected a degree of difficulty in their mission; however, they might not have envisioned it going this way.
After being badly beaten, the jailer given charge over them is ordered to guard them securely and places Paul and Silas into the inner prison, and to fasten their feet in stocks.
The inner cell of the prison was the harshest, least ventilated, most degrading location. The stocks would have been wooden stocks, which were anchored to the floor and were commonly used for torture and detention.
The stocks were reserved for prisoners with low social status. Once in these stocks, the prisoner was immobilized.
Additionally, there are two factors surrounding the charges that should be noted:
There was an assumption that Paul and Silas were not Roman citizens based on their Jewish appearance. This was an incorrect assumption, as Roman citizens their civil rights were guarded and, in this case, illegally violated due to their appearance as Jews.
Secondly, due to the bias against Paul and Silas, the vague charges of being “troublemakers” their reason to falsely accuse, beat, and place them in prison.
These two factors could have given Paul and Silas a sense of entitlement when they arrived in prison. “We will be out of here tomorrow, we don’t belong here.” “Let’s just do our time, wait it out and tomorrow we will sort all of these false accusations out!”
However, they understand a greater purpose to their position, and it seems that they looked at it as an opportunity to sing a different song than most would in their situation.
Though they were fastened to wooden stocks, they used it as an opportunity to more firmly be fastened to the Lord, to look for an opportunity for His good in the midst of a bad situation.
Like Paul and Silas, we too have been given a mission to pursue. And it is imperative for me and for you to remain fastened to Jesus…
Just as Paul and Silas had a mission to preach the gospel despite their current conditions, we do as well.
2 Corinthians 5:20, Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us.
Matthew 28:19, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
These verses give us insight that we have a mission in this life. So easy it can be to let our disposition surrounding that mission to change based current events or conditions, but our mission, despite difficulty, remains.
2 Corinthians 4:17, For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
It is interesting that Paul would call his afflictions momentary and light. He had been stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, thrown out to sea, placed in prison, and had a thorn in flesh that simply would not rest; yet he calls it all “light.”
He calls it light because he had great spiritual sight, he saw whatever he was facing circumstantially as light compared to the weight of God’s glory.
Psalm 16:8-9, I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices…
2 Corinthians 4:8-9, We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
Illus. 40,000 pounds of pressure.
Here in Acts 16, what Paul was seeing didn’t look so good: His body bloodied and beaten after being struck with many blows, placed in a dirty inner cell, and his feet fastened to stocks likely rendering he and Silas, his partner in ministry, physically immobile.
Afflicted, persecuted, and struck down; Paul knew that there was more at stake than what was included in the current wake they were facing. And what we find when they are pressed, is a song begins to rise.
And with you and I, when pressed, afflicted, or struck down…We have the opportunity for a song to begin to rise.
The question, however, is: will that song reflect our being fastened to Christ? Or a picture of our being immobilized by chains of this world?
Psalm 34:1-3, I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; the humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
Illus. In 1 Samuel 19, we see Saul send men to David’s house given orders to watch him all night and put him to death in the morning. David finds out what is happening and decides to sing praise instead of declaring his fear.
Psalm 59:16, But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of your lovingkindness in the morning, for You have been my stronghold and a refuge in the day of my distress.
Know that the song you sing matters
Acts 16:25, But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
Picture this. Paul and Silas are thrown in prison, bloodied and beaten.
Surely the others in prison knew the condition Paul and Silas were in. They had just been severely beaten.
Surely the jailer knew why they had been placed there. Those in the other prison cells understood their position, they too were stuck.
But right there, while locked down and locked in, Paul and Silas don’t throw in the towel, give up, or give in, rather, they let the praise begin.
And for me and for you, the proper posture, when your circumstance is beyond you.
What do they do? At midnight, in the midnight hour, they begin praying aloud and singing hymns of praise to God.
Illus. Do you hear that?
Illus. Let’s see if we can get them to join us!
The song you sing in difficulty matters, how you sing it and who you sing it to matters. If you are a follower of Christ, your actions and decisions, they matter.
Colossians 3:2-3, Set your mind of the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
You never know who might be listening or watching you in your life. Make your life hidden in Christ, so that when others see you, they see a reflection of Him.
1 Corinthians 11:1, Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Here Paul essentially says, “if you want to know what to do…Just follow my example.” My hope personally would be that we can make this statement a reality in our lives as well amongst our families, co-workers, and those who we come in contact with.
Matthew 5:16, Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Live as one who brings the light of Jesus into your every situation.
John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Paul and Silas did not know the outcome of this midnight hour of prayer, they didn’t have Acts 16 to look back on, yet they praised God trusting He would “work all things for good.” (Romans 8:28)
Psalm 43:5, Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
Know that the song you sing matters! In Psalm 43:5, the Psalmist speaks to his own soul with the reminder, put your hope in God!
There’s more beyond the door
After the prison doors are opened, the jailer responsible to oversee the prison, prepares to end his own life.
He knew that once the news about this came out, he was going to be finished so he was about to save his superiors the trouble.
Paul yells to him…“We are all here, don’t harm yourself.” vs. 28
The jailer runs to Paul and Silas, and after falling down before them asks, “what must I do to be saved?” vs. 30
“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household.” vs. 31
The jailer took them to his house and they spoke the word of the Lord to his family. They also believed and were baptized.
Through all these troubles and trials God was making a way for the gospel.
Illus – God wanted Paul and Silas in that prison, at that time, to open not just prison doors, but to make a way for the jailer and his family to be saved.
Ultimately, the purpose the Lord had called them to Phillipi was fulfilled, to evangelize.
The way this evangelism would take place was different than they expected, there was great difficulty and pain.
Had they not endured that difficulty, been falsely accused, beaten and placed in jail, that particular jail; the jailer and his family would not have likely met Paul and Silas.
Through it all, Paul and Silas respond in tune to how the Lord would want to use them in the midst of their being stuck, beaten, immobilized and imprisoned.
While we don’t always know what we might find ourselves in the midst of in this year ahead, I encourage you to respond in tune, just as Paul and Silas did.
Romans 8:28, And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Psalm 27:13-14, I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!
Isaiah 40:31, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave woman who had a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing great profit to her masters by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us and cried out repeatedly, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation.” Now she continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and he turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was suddenly gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities, and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men, Jews as they are, are causing our city trouble, and they are proclaiming customs that are not lawful for us to accept or to practice, since we are Romans.” The crowd joined in an attack against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Now about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul called out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And the jailer asked for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas; and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of God to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and was overjoyed, since he had become a believer in God together with his whole household.