An excerpt from my sermon
As i was preparing this message, I had a few things on my mind. I am aware that in our org we like to talk about our experiences. Our experiences with God, our testimony — how God speaks to us during our quiet times. Many times we don’t want to call it preaching, instead we might say, sharing.
Many of us ( actually not only us, contemporary Christians and emerging church members like to change some terms to be more nice and acceptable maybe… ) think that the term preaching might sounds too orthodox. These days everyones wants to be relevant, they want to please everyone ( especially in the west ).
I can easily share my experiences, but they are not valid until they are proven by the Word of God.
Let me tell you a short story :
Two months ago I went to a small village. In this village there was one witch doctors grave, where people come and sacrifice chickens. After they have done all sorts of rituals they bring back the chicken and give to the sick person to eat. This place is quite famous. Even from other provinces people come and do animal sacrifices. Once when I was there, I asked the witch-doctors granddaughter why her granddad’s grave was so famous.
She told me, a long time ago, a girl from another village was sick and paralyzed for 3 months. The parents came to this place and performed a chicken sacrifice. And after 3 weeks she started walking again. I was quite amazed! So here is the thing: If you are going to tell this girl your personal experiences with God; what He has done for your life, she could easily say the same things too. She will tell you how, through this sacrifice to the witch doctors grave, helped her. So when we share the Gospel we can’t always base everything on our testimony or experiences. We can’t use just experiences to prove the Truth that we present. We can’t always base the Gospel on miracles either.
So we have to have a final authority that covers everything. That’s why I love the Bible. It is the living word. Today we also will look into the word of God. I truly believe that, the word of God is always relevant.
Let’s open our Bible. Acts 16: 11 – 40
Everyone is very familiar with this chapter, or this story. Especially when a miracle happened like this, it’s easy to remember. This whole chapter is about salvation.
Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy were traveling around preaching the gospel. At this time they were in Philipi. They were doing their short term mission trip.
Salvation is the work of God, not by Man :
They went down to Philipi, they met some women worshiping. Amongst those women, there was one named Lydia. As we can see in verse 14: ‘God opened her heart ‘. She was ready for the Gospel because God already had prepared her heart. I wish i could meet this kind of person everyday. How about you? If you meet that kind of person everyday, i think your financial support would increase pretty quick ! ( laughter ) We all love good results don’t we..
You see, Lydia was just the right person to receive the gospel. God just opened her heart. Doesn’t sound like a very big miracle or an amazing thing. What we can clearly see is that, Salvation is the work of God, not the work of men. In comparison; later in this chapter we see that, to convert the jailer; God used an earthquake. In these two conversions, it’s very clear that salvation is the work of God. Paul was just the vessel that God used.
Does that sound so basic ? To learn that,” Salvation is the work of the Lord” Yes, it is basic, but it is very important to remember and even to remind ourselves.
If you have ever been to a Mission conference, you will often hear something like this : ” The lost are perishing because we did not tell them ” ” They are going to hell because you are not telling them. ” Even in my native language we have so many songs that emphasise the urgency of preaching the gospel to the lost.
For example : Because of me, millions of people are perishing in eternal damnation. ( Keimah vangin thlarau chiar sen loh, An boral tawh chatuan thim hnuaiah hian ) I understand, the need to emphasise on the urgency of the gospel and our responsibility to tell others. I am not trying to diminish the importance of evangelism. But, if you really believe that your brother, your father, your mother, your close friend is going to hell or lost in eternal damnation, I don’t think i could sleep even a single night !! Could you?
The Bible says…“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up on the last day.’ ( cf : John 6:44 )
Most of us come from that kind of background where we are challenged by the urgency of the gospel. So when we came out in the field and share with non-believers, there is danger that we might attempt to think that we are in control — consciously or sub-consciously of saving these people. Sometimes, we even say that; “I converted 3 people in my last mission trip ” But ultimately, God is the one who saved them, not us. We cannot save the lost, we can just be vessels that He might use. Anyway, the Bible never tells us that, we should save the lost, he simply says, go and preach ( tell ) the gospel.
The other thing is that, If you think that you are really saving people, when you do not see people converting as quickly as you would like to see, you will be disappointed. We just have to walk in obedience; and preach the gospel faithfully. Whether we see the results as being fast or slow. I know this is very difficult for most of us. NOT seeing the fruit quickly. That’s always a challenge for me. I have to remind myself that I am not in charge.
Praising God In the midst of problems :
We just saw Lydia’s conversion and her household being baptized. And we saw a slave girl who had an evil spirit that can predict the future being cast out. Truly a miracle. If you see how people reacted, it’s very clear that miracles doesn’t necessarily bring people to Christ. Miracles are important, but it should not be the primary focus.
Paul and his friends were really successful so far. But right after this; the angry crowd dragged them, took off their clothes, and beat them with rods. Their bodies were covered with bruises and wounds. Now they put them in prison-inner cell of the prison. Not a nice place at all! Stinky and rotten!
At this moment Paul and Silas have good reason to complain to God. But they didn’t complain. Instead they were praising and praying. How could they do that ? What would they be praising God for? Because Paul and Silas knew that, God was in control. They knew that God never changes. Philipians 4;4 says, ” Rejoice in the Lord..” The scriptures never say, Rejoice in your circumstances. It simply says, “Rejoice in the Lord”. Because our Lord knows that, there will a time when we can’t rejoice. If we are supposed to rejoice based on our circumstances or our problems, most of the time we can’t.
If it’s us, we might say, ” Lord we just converted people and baptized one whole family. We even cast out an evil spirit. We are obediently doing what you told us to do. Why are you keeping us in this trouble? Where are you Lord? The truth is, God is always with us. Whether we feel it or not. The human tendency is to complain as soon as things didn’t turn out as we want.
The key is: Lord even though it hurts, is painful, i don’t understand why, but I know that you are in control. I will still choose to praise you. That’s how we overcome hardship and difficulties.
There are so many books and articles written about : Where is God when it hurts ? Where is God in my trouble ? Where is God when we suffer ? Where, Where, where……Even in debates or Q & A times, you will often be challenged by these kind of questions. These are all legitimate questions.
But, have you ever wondered, why it is so difficult to find such a book like : Where is God when I am Happy? Where is God when everything goes well in my life? Is God far away or distant from us, when we face trouble ? And near only when we are in happy state or when things goes well ? The answer is NO. He is still the same. He is still with us. The problem is US, not GOD. Many times we understand God just based on our feelings and emotions.
The Jailer converted :
I like this Chapter because just in a short time, the whole thing happened. Mission trip, preaching, conversion, persecution, miracle, salvation- conversion again. When Paul and Silas were praying and praising God, all the doors in the prison were opened, and the chains and stocks fell off ! God was doing what he wants to accomplish through his servant. Even though for Paul and Silas it was not easy to go through. Yes, sometimes it’s not always easy when we preach the gospel, there might be persecution, hardship and trouble.
Many of us here, might not face physical persecution, but there are times, when you go to villages to share or when you share with your friends, you are not going to be welcomed. There will be a time they will say, ” He is a religious freak ” by doing this, they are turning their backs on you and your message.
Even your own co-workers might think that you are too bold, not concerned enough about the outcome or security issues. Paul could have easily defended himself when they were beating him. Because, according to the Romans law, you can’t beat a Roman citizen. But Paul was willing to go through this hardship and physical pain. In verses 34-40 we see that Paul mentioned that particular law just to protect the new believers, not necessarily to protect himself.
When the jailer saw that they did not escape, he was shocked! Also I’m sure greatly relieved, because if they escaped he could lost his job. But, Paul and Silas, even other prisoners did not run away! And he asked the right question. ” Sirs, what must I do to be saved? “. And we know that the jailer was converted into a Christian, and his whole household. Amazing story! Paul and Silas didn’t stop preaching even in prison. This is one example we can learn: we should be willing to preach the gospel anytime, anywhere. Not just in our target area or with our focus people group ( UPG )
As we continue to preach the gospel faithfully, He will do the rest !
Let’s pray :
Lord we thank you that you are in-charge of saving people. If the salvation of mankind was completely the work of our hands, we wouldn’t do it justly. We might save only the people that we like. But we are grateful that you commanded us to preach the gospel throughout the world. We don’t see this commandment as a burden, but as a great privilege. We acknowledge that you can save the whole world without us. But you have chosen us to be vessels to be used to do this. Thank you Lord.
As we continue to preach the gospel; we might face persecution, ridicule and hardship. Even when those times come we will not blame you and we will not complain. Rather we will rejoice in you knowing that you are in control of every situation. But we ask one thing, that you will help us in these circumstances to bring glory to your name. And our faith will only be based on who you are.
In Christ’s name. AMEN.
[ Hei hi kartina kan pawl ( org ) inhmuhkhawmna a ka thusawi, ka’n chhopchhuak ani e ]