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Sometimes it’s tough to trust God when things aren’t going well. Here’s the outline to a sermon I preached recently that dealt with this issue.
- Introduction: Dr. Bill Kilgore tells of visiting a giant shopping mall in a major American city. In the lower level of this multi-story mall was a pet store. In the center of the store was a bird cage, and in the bird cage was a canary, singing its heart out. Dr. Kilgore asks, “How can a caged bird sing?” After all, the canary is a long way from the freedom for which it was created. It was made to fly free in the fresh outdoor air, not to be cooped up in a cage in a store in a mall—without even a glimpse of the sun. Why didn’t that canary complain about its circumstances? Have you ever felt like that canary could have felt? Have you ever felt like a victim of circumstances? Things just aren’t working? Bad luck?
- Acts 16:16-40 (especially verses 22-24 (”The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks” [NIV (Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.)].)—Paul/Silas wrongly imprisoned
- Things happen to us, even when we’re innocent, and we don’t always feel like God really is there
- Psalm 42:9, 10 (”I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’ My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” [NIV].)—one example out of many—sometimes we wonder, Where is God? Why doesn’t He help me?
- Paul and Silas could have asked these questions as they were sitting in jail, but they didn’t. Instead…
- Acts 16:25 (”About midnight Paul and Silas were were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” [NIV].)—Why were they singing in chains?
- Psalm 42:11 (”Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” [NIV].)—They knew that God is always in charge
- Trust/faith—God is sovereign, and nothing at all can happen that He forbids
- Hebrews 13:5b, 6 (”‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” [NIV].)—God will never abandon us—He’s in charge
- Romans 8:28 (”And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” [NIV].)—God always works for the good
- Let’s stop asking why and trust that God knows best
- Two reasons why God usually doesn’t answer our why’s:
- God’s ways are much higher than ours, and He has a much broader perspective. We probably wouldn’t be able to understand much of the time if God were to explain Himself
- More importantly, if God must always answer our questions, then we are, in effect, holding Him accountable to us—setting ourselves up as gods and placing the God of the Universe on trial. Instead, God wants us to trust Him and believe that He knows and is doing what is best.
- Acts 16:26-28 (”Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’” [NIV].)—How did they relate to the jailer?
- They helped him out
The severity with which the jailer had treated the apostles had not aroused their resentment. Paul and Silas had the spirit of Christ, not the spirit of revenge. Their hearts, filled with the love of the Saviour, had no room for malice against their persecutors. (Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 216.)
—and so they spared his life
- Even though they had every “right” to be upset with their treatment, they were trusting God, singing in chains, not thinking themselves above suffering when Jesus had suffered so much
- Acts 16:29-34 (”The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family’ [NIV].)—How did the jailer respond?
- The fact that Paul and Silas trusted God and didn’t hold a grudge led directly to the jailer’s salvation—an outcome that Paul and Silas couldn’t have predicted when they were thrown into jail
- God often works unexpected outcomes in our lives, as well