4/26/09

Acts 16:25-40 - Hardships - They are not about Us!

Acts 16:25-40 – Hardships - They are not about Us!
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 16:25-40

The title is drawn from Paul and Silas’ response to the suffering and hardship of their circumstances.
The way they respond gives us insight into a "world", or a way a Christian is to face hardship, that is otherwise very hard to understand.
And though this hardship is brought to bear on account of the Gospel, the principals apply to any hardship except that which is self-inflicted.

1) PAUL AND SILAS’ EXPERIENCE

What were the circumstances of Paul & Silas’ experience?
Verse 19 – seized and dragged to marketplace.
Verse 22 – their clothes were stripped off.
Verse 22 – they were attacked by the mob.
Verse 22 – they were beaten with rods.
Verse 23 – after many blows, they were thrown into prison.
Verse 24 – they were put in stocks that spread their legs to induce additional pain.

What would be an understandable response to these circumstances?
Speculate on how you might respond?


2) IN THE MIDST OF THIS, THEY WERE DOING WHAT?!

They were praying and singing hymns.
They were not escaping - they stayed in prison.
They spoke the word of the Lord to Jailer and Prisoners.

POI – One thing they didn’t do is ask, “Why me?”
To do so would have made it all about them.
Paul and Silas lived lives that were all about God.

3) WHAT WORLD WERE THEY LIVING IN?

Scriptural descriptions of this world:
2 Corinthians 1:8-9
8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

In Paul’s world, circumstances and suffering take there toll, but a full surrender to God is the purpose.
We are to be refined & defined by God and His truth not our circumstances.


2 Corinthians 12:8-10
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

In Paul’s world, hardships are like empty vessels designed to be filled with Christ’s power.
And so, paradoxically, Paul can say “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
God is magnified in our weakness.


2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

In Paul’s world, the body and transient are nothing compared to the spiritual and its future glorification.


Romans 8:28-30
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

In Paul’s world, we can be certain that all is for our good because we are in a relationship with a God who predestined us, justified us and glorified us.


Ephesians 5:18-20
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

In Paul’s world, the Holy Spirit is the source of the ability to endure circumstances like Paul and Silas did.


Are we really expected to respond like Paul & Silas – to live in their world?
Philippians 4:4-9
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Peter 5:10
10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Peter says "after you have suffered" not "if you suffer".
We will face hardship and we should face hardship for the sake of the Gospel.
This lesson is showing us how we are to respond.

POI – In Paul’s world, actions can seem idiotic to the world.
Why did Paul and Silas not tell the magistrates the day before that they were Roman citizens? Because their aim was to advance the Gospel.
Sharing their Roman citizenship would have spared them all the pain and suffering.
In fact, by withholding this info, Paul most have known things weren’t going to be good.

Philippians 1:12-13 – Written from a Roman prison to the very church our verses describe.
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

Philippians 2:17
17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
Paul’s aim was to glorify God, and as we already have seen, in weakness God is glorified.


One of the hardest things to come terms with as a Christian is that at the moment God opened your heart to hear and receive the Gospel message; the purpose of your life was transformed from being all about you to all about God.
The completely alien nature of this truth becomes the lens through which all our experience is to be filtered, never the other way around!

What is the purpose of your life all about – You, your wife, your kids, your job, your recreation?
What do you live and prepare for?
We are called to surrender all that to God and make Him the purpose of or lives.
We are not called to ignore or deny any suffering as Paul made clear in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9.
However, our new reality leads us to understand during hardship that we are to “rely on God” which glorifies Him and can even present us with jailers to whom we can speak the word!