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HUNGER FOR GOD 8 May 5-Passion at Midnight

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Spiritual Passion in the Midnight Hour

Last week we began what you could call a 2 part look at how to respond to God in passion when thing are just plain going south on us. Last we looked at Psalm 42. This week we turn to Acts 16 because Acts 16 is one of the great chapters that deal with the pursuit of God even in the midst of trials.  Let’s go there now please: ACTS 16

Let me set-up our text. In the first part of the chapter, verses 1-5, we see Paul’s first encounter with Timothy who later on, will play a vital role in Paul’s ministry, both relationally and professionally.  Then in verses 6-10, we see how Paul and Silas try to go a number of places but are prevented by the Holy Spirit until Paul is given a vision: v9

And so they do…settling in the city of Philippi, where Paul will eventually establish a church and to whom he would later write a letter known to us as the Book of Philippians.  It is also here in Acts 16 that we are introduced to the first convert in Philippi…a woman named Lydia:  v14 & 15

Now, it’s what happens next that sets up today’s message: VV16-18a, 19.  Let me stop here and make an important observation:  Christian Commitment brings inconvenience and suffering.  That is, all those who would live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer.  So it’s not a question of whether you will suffer or not…it’s how you respond to it that is at question.  

In fact read with me:1 Peter 2 (sermon notes). These verses make it clear, that there is a weight of suffering that comes with living out your faith publicly, so it’s how you respond that counts. That is the situation with Paul and Silas…they have shared Christ. As a result, their detractors cry out, “We’ve got to do something about these public Christians, it’s starting to cost us.” 

You see…going to church —that will never get you in trouble…belief in God—that will never get you in trouble…saying grace around your meal—that will never get you in trouble…but proclaiming Jesus…that will get you in trouble. So…v22  This is not going to be one of those “feel-good” sermons.  You talk about a bad day: v23  So they weren’t just beaten and sent home to lick their wounds, they were put in jail.  But not only jail but look: v24

Now, I hope you don’t think their jails were like our jails today.  A trip to Rome even today will dispel that thought.  The prison dungeons were dark, and dreary, and dirty.  But did you notice?  It was even worse than that; their feet were put in stocks so that they could not even move.  Think about it, beaten, sore, flies in your wounds, and now they can’t move.  I saw one of those prisons in Ireland known as the Wicklow Jail—a prison set up and run by the British.  In that prison they would crowd large numbers of people into small rooms with no running water, and no windows, and no sanitation facility, so if you had to go, you just had to go over to a corner and go.  I cannot even imagine the smell in that place.  And that is precisely the situation in which Paul and Silas find themselves.

IOWs, Paul and Silas are suffering because of their testimony. Why is their testimony such a problem—because Christ is always counter-cultural to the world.  That’s why if Christ does not effect your business practices, especially when we’re in a recession…if Christ does not effect your ethics when no one would know anyway…if Christ does not effect your choices, especially when the right choice makes you worse off, then there is something missing.  IOWs, if we are not willing to pay a price for our faith, then the question must be asked:What value is the faith we have?

You see, it’s easy to follow Christ when everything is going great, but what about those times when everything is about to collapse, what then? Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice!” You know, roosters only crow when the sun comes up. The trouble today is, there’s a lot of rooster Christians, “I’ve been blessed today; new job today…more money today…but then hard times come and---nothing---silence.

Yes, you ought to bless the Lord at daylight. But the test of how serious we are about praising God is NOT when times are good. The test comes when your commitment and love for God transcends even your bad circumstances.

That’s why I like verse 25: “Round about midnight” – woo-wee, that verse will preach.  What is midnight? Midnight is when we are discouraged; midnight is when things have collapsed on you and there seems to be no way out.  Midnight is when you expect God to do one thing and He does something else. Midnight is when you’re trying to do right, but everything is still going wrong – that’s about midnight. 

It’s about midnight when you give your best and still get the worst.  It’s about midnight when you’re standing for God, but it looks like the devil is winning.  It’s about midnight when you’re trusting God for a victory, but you get a defeat.  It’s midnight when you have earned a promotion, but the guy below you politicked his way through and got it – that’s about midnight.

IOWs, it’s midnight when it’s not right, it’s not fair, you don’t want it and quite frankly you don’t deserve it.  And that’s why how you respond at midnight is the ultimate test of what you believe.  Why – because anyone can praise God when the sun is shining.

It says:  V25a  If it’s midnight, how can God expect you to get your praise face on?  There’s only one reason you can praise God at midnight.  That is, when your world has collapsed, it’s not fair, and you’re in shackles—the only reason you praise God at midnight, is because you know God is still God at midnight.

But let me tell you something, if you’re not used to praising God in daylight… then it is going to be mighty hard to praise God at midnight. IOWs, if you don’t learn how to reach heaven when it’s good, it’s going to seem a long way away when it’s bad.

And loved ones, I worry about some of us.  We’re so worried about being so prim and proper, so decent and dignified we don‘t know what it means to really let go and praise God.  In other words we say, “Oh, no you don’t,  I saw you try to laugh, you just keep your joy to yourself, this is church!” or “Hey mister, I saw those hands start to move above your waist!  You just get those things back down to your side.  You start doing it, everybody’s going to start doing it, and people will think we’re a bunch of crazy charismatics. 

Dear ones, instead of worrying about what other people think…while the times are good…we better let go and praise God!  IOWs, we better learn to praise God when it’s good, so we’re equipped to praise God when it is bad. Why—because believe me midnight is coming.  But that raises a theological question – How can you praise God at midnight?   I’m in shackles, I’m in prison, in fact, I’m in the worst part of the prison, it’s dark in here, there are rats, it smells, and it’s terrible, so how am I going to praise God in here? 

Listen to me loved ones: It is your knowledge of God from the good times that must be applied when it’s bad.  Let me illustrate: your teachers in school, in order to find out if you understood what had been taught, gave you a … what?

Now we used to argue with them, didn’t we?  “I know this stuff  Teach, you don’t need to test me.  Just take my word for it, I’ve got it down cold.”  So she would say, “Then you won’t have any problems will you?”  And she would test us anyway just to see if we had been paying attention.

Paul and Silas are in a major test, and so they start singing and praising God at midnight.  And because they did, they show us 3 things that take place. IOWs, when we praise God when we don’t feel like praising God; when we glorify God when it doesn’t seem there is anything to glorify Him for; 3 things happen:

#1 It changes you.

You see, praise is a vacation for the soul.  Ps. 42:8 from last week says, “I will give you a song in the night.”  That is, in the time of deepest despair, the Lord will come put a song in our heart and as He does, if we will praise Him, it will cause our soul to spring back.

Did any of you ever have one of those punching balloons when you were young?  You know what I mean it was made of a heavy gage plastic, it stood about 4 ½ feet tall and no matter how hard you punched it, it would just come right back up.

Now why?  What made it come back up like that?  The secret to punching balloons was not the outside, it was the inside.  You see, down at the bottom was a weight, you couldn’t see it, but it was there, it was a weight.  And what was down on the inside, overruled what you were doing to it on the outside.  Are you with me?  What was deep down…what was all the way down there was so heavy, so weighty on the inside, that what you were doing to it externally—even if you knocked it flat—was never its final position.  Why – because what was on the inside overrode the difficulties, trials, and circumstances that were happening on the inside.

And so, at midnight, when Satan and circumstances are beating you black and blue; at midnight when things are not going well at work or on the job; at midnight, when there are family problems you can’t resolve; at midnight when there are rebellious children who won’t come home; at midnight when the finances are not working out like they’re supposed to; at midnight, when you are discouraged and you don’t think you can make it another day;         at midnight when the doctor says I don’t know how the tests are going to come back; at midnight when circumstances are knocking you simple;

at midnight if you’ll get your praise going…hear me now…the devil may knock you down, but he cannot keep you down.  So #1, praise at midnight changes you. But…

#2 Praise at midnight changes your situation.

Verse 26 – “And suddenly.”  Suddenly means, out of no where; unexpected or in an unpredictable way – you see all they know is they’ve got their praise going, but out of no where:  V26a

Now notice, it wasn’t the prison house that was shaken, it was the foundation.  Now the foundation is what is underneath, it’s what the prison house is sitting on. And in order to get a foundation to shake, the ground underneath has to get active. 

You see, human beings built the prison, but they didn’t make the ground.  In other words, what they did was build their prison on God’s territory.  So I don’t care how many demons are controlling your prison, or how many demons have got you shackled up, or how many circumstances are out of your control, because whatever the situation, God made the ground on which they sit…IOWs God has access to the foundation.

So what’s the implication? If your foundation is in trouble, whatever is sitting on top of it is in trouble too.  See, at midnight, we go around and try to unshackle ourselves, but if you can get a hold of God, He goes underneath to the foundation upon which that stuff is standing and God shakes it loose.

It says: V26b  You see one of the things that makes midnight, midnight is the fact that you can’t unshackle yourself.  That’s how you know it’s God.  IOWs, when nobody but God can get the credit…it’s God!

Some of us have things in our life that just aren’t fixable, we’re shackled, in fact every time we try to fix it, God breaks it again because God wants you in a place where He has to fix it, and He alone will get the glory.

So praising God at midnight, changes you, it changes your situation, and finally:

#3 It Changes Others

In verse 25 it says, V 25.  You see, when midnight comes the others caught in the same thing want to see what you’re going to do with your midnight.  They want to know so they say, “You been spouting off about your God, how you’ve been hearing the Word of God at your church, and even telling other folk what to do with their midnight, now what are you going to do?

It says the other prisoners were listening…so it’s midnight for everybody… it’s just that only 2 them know what to do with it.  And look what happens!  As Paul and Silas are praising God, not only do the chains fall off of them, but everybody around them is set free!

In other words, their praise became a blessing for everybody!  But watch this, it gets better: V27   That jailer didn’t see any hope, he knew the Roman government was going to kill him for not keeping those prisoners. I mean, how is he going to explain a localized earthquake? So watch this: 

V28—Come on Paul, what are you doing?  God set you free, you’re supposed to get out of Dodge!  You and Silas should be running for the hills, because after all… you got your blessing.  You got your blessing, why don’t you just go enjoy your blessing yourself?

But instead Paul remembered:

-         You are blessed, to be a blessing.

-         You are delivered, to be a deliverer. And he remembered that…

-         If God came through for me, God expects me to come through for others.

But there’s another thing for us to see:  Paul says, “We are all here,” “We are ALL here” – that means Paul is there…Silas is there…and all the other prisoners who were listening to them were there.  Do you understand how powerful that is?  If my shackles had fallen off I’m out of there.  I’d say, “No Paul, you here, I’m gone!” But instead, they say, “Anybody’s praise that can do this, I’m hanging with them!” 

So when you get your praise going around midnight, when things are falling apart, and falling down, and turning over, God changes you, God changes your situation, and then God changes others…because that’s when the people of faith shine their brightest. 

I love this next verse! Everybody ought to cut this one out and put it somewhere you can read it daily: HABAKKUK 3:17-19 (sermon notes)

So when things turn dark, IOWs when it’s about midnight and circumstances are bad…that is the time to praise God anyway:

-The doctor does not believe things are going well, but I’m going to get my praise going anyway.

-I lost my job, but I’m going to praise Him anyway.

-My spouse is not treating me right but I’m still going to trust God, even when there’s no reason to trust God.

-My kids are not responding well, but I’m still going to give God glory, even when I don’t feel like giving Him glory.

-The people are talking about me at work, but I’m still going to get my praise on.

 

Why – because I’m going to say like Job, though God slay me, yet will I trust Him, yet will I see Him, for my Redeemer lives.

Are there any people of faith in this building this morning who are going to praise God about midnight?

Who, when things are down are going to give Him glory?

Who when things are confused, are going to lift Him up?

If you are…then get to your feet and let’s start praising Him! Come on…Give God the Glory today you people of faith for He is worthy of our praise!!

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