- Sermon Notes
Purpose in Your Position
As we turn to Acts 16 this morning, we are given the circumstances surrounding a scene where the importance of remembering one’s purpose, despite the position they might find themselves in, is seen powerfully. Paul and Silas, after concluding that God had called them to a particular place, end up in a problematic position…in prison. But their posture and response to it, gives us an example and insights into how we can pursue God and His purpose, no matter the position we might find ourselves in.
Paul is out on his second missionary journey traveling with a man named Silas, and young man named Timothy, and now a doctor named Luke, the writer of Acts who beginning in verse 10 changes from using “they language” to “we” language. The purpose of the journey is to preach the gospel and minister to many of the cities they had gone before, plus a few more.
We will begin reading in verse 19, but prior to starting there, I want to give some of the context. They had traveled to and through some cities and regions they had been before, and then were forbidden by the Lord to speak the Word in Asia at that time, or go to Bithynia, though they were trying to. After the Lord did not allow them to go to these places, Paul got a vision in the night of a man from Macedonia pleading with him to come there. Paul understood the vision as direction and calling from the Lord and knew they were to head there. They end up in the city of Philippi, which was a Roman colony and leading city in Macedonia.
Upon their arrival, they experience some success after seeing a woman name Lydia and her household respond to the message spoken by Paul and come to salvation, however, others in that city respond differently.
From verse 16 we understand that while they were on their way to a place of prayer, a woman in slavery who was used by her masters for profit as a fortune teller began to follow Paul and the others around. She followed them around for “many days,” “crying out repeatedly saying, ‘these men are bondservants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.’” Her method of making sure people knew their message was not the way they wanted their purpose articulated. After she followed them around for many days, Paul rebuked the evil spirit which left immediately. Upon the evil spirit leaving, her masters realized that their money-making scheme was gone.
With their opportunity for making money gone, and this girl in slavery now free from the evil spirit, they bring Paul and Silas before the authorities with vague and false accusations. Because of these accusations, they would be beaten and placed 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 would bring about His purpose, even in the difficult position they found themselves in.
Read Acts 16:19-34
In Philippi, Paul and Silas end up in an undesirable position, but their response to it all is an important and powerful example for you and I. They pursued the Lord’s purpose, despite their difficult position.
- Don’t Let the Conditions Stop the Mission
Acts 16:22-24, 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.
- Prior to going to prison, Paul and Silas were seized, dragged before the authorities, accused falsely, attacked, beaten with rods, struck with many blows, and thrown into the inner prison with their feet fastened to stocks.
- Paul and Silas had come to Philippi to share the gospel of Jesus. With great excitement, they began sharing and encouraging those in the city 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 is ordered to guard them securely and places Paul and Silas into the inner prison, with their feet fastened in stocks.
- The inner cell of the prison was the harshest, least ventilated, most degrading location.
- Their feet were fastened into wooden stocks. These wooden stocks 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.
- There were two charges against them from verses 20 and 21. The first charge was that they were Jews causing the city trouble. And the second was that they were proclaiming customs that were not lawful for those in Philippi to accept or practice because they were Romans.
- The accusation that they were proclaiming customs that were unlawful for those in Philippi to accept or practice was technically true.
- There was a law forbidding Roman citizens to practice any foreign religion that had not been sanctioned by the state, however, the law was rarely enforced, and, in this case, the charges were vague. The disciples had not caused trouble in the city, rather, they had caused some trouble for the slave owners who lost their way to make money.
Illus. Rarely Enforced?
- The accusation that they were causing trouble in the city however, was false. The men accusing were upset over their lost profits, Paul and Silas were not stirring up the city.
- Additionally, there was an assumption on the part of the accusers that Paul and Silas who were both Jews, were not also Roman citizens.
- Paul and Silas, however, were in fact Roman citizens. As Roman citizens their civil rights were guarded and, in this case, were illegally violated due to their appearance as Jews.
- Paul will later tell them that he is a Roman citizen. There were certain rights guarded and other right afforded a Roman citizen. To beat a Roman citizen without a trial, was against Roman law.
- These factors could have given them a sense of entitlement when they arrived in prison. “We will be out of here tomorrow; we don’t belong here!”
- Often, when we are led somewhere that leads to a tough situation that is unwanted or unfair, many begin whether or not God has a purpose in their difficult position.
- Paul and Silas knew there was a greater purpose to their position than just being stuck in prison.
- Just as they had a mission to preach the gospel despite their current conditions, we do as well.
2 Corinthians 5:20, We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us.
Acts 1:8, …You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.
- 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 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.
- Afflicted, persecuted, and struck down; Paul knew that there was more at stake that what was included in the current wake they were facing. And what we find when they are pressed, is a song begins to rise.
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.
- Know that the Song You Sing Matters
- 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?
- 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.
- My hope is that the more he grows and further he goes, his following my example would look more and more like following an example of Christ.
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.
- Live as one who brings the light of Jesus into your every situation.
- Paul and Silas did not know the outcome of this midnight hour prayer, they didn’t have Acts 16 to look back on, yet they praised God trusting He would work all things together for good.
- They were locked in, behind prison doors, but God had more in store, he was working, while they were praising!
III. Pursue What God has in Store Beyond “the Door”
Acts 16:25-26, 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.
- From verse 27 we learn that the jailer who was given orders to guard Paul and Silas securely keep watch over the prison had fallen asleep. When he woke up, he saw the prison doors opened.
- His response to the sight, was to end his life thinking that the open prison doors meant that the prisoners had escaped.
- Under Roman law, if a prisoner escaped during your watch, it would be your responsibility, and the payment would be your own life. The jailer 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 knew this as well, and yelled to him… “Do not harm yourself, we are all here!.” vs. 28
- The jailer asked for lights and rushed into Paul and Silas, and after falling down before them asks, “what must I do to be saved?” 30
- “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household.” 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. Purpose in your position.
- The people who persecuted and imprisoned Paul and Silas meant it all for evil. But God had a plan!
- And the purpose the Lord had called them to Philippi was fulfilled, to be witnesses to Christ, and to point people to put their faith and trust in Him.
- 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, I encourage you to trust the Lord for what He has in store.
- When you are stuck, bound up, with seemingly nowhere to go, look up! Don’t allow your conditions to stop the mission, know that the song you sing matters, pursue the Lord, He has a plan beyond the door.
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.