Sep21WedSeptember 21, 2016
Occasionally as I’m reading the New Testament, I try to imagine how I would respond to various situations, teachings or events if they had taken place in our modern day. Suppose that you were at your cousin’s wedding when some unknown thirty year-old named Jesus turned water into excellent tasting wine. Or imagine being at the Pumpkin Festival when some religious teacher began to shout, “If anyone thirsts, come to me and drink” (John 7:37). Just imagine...
This exercise reminds us, first, that these events did happen around ordinary people and that your response would likely be similar to theirs. But re-imagining the context also helps us see the incredible faith and powerful working of the Holy Spirit in and through the disciples of Jesus.
For example, consider Acts 16, one of our Scripture readings for this week. Suppose that you were traveling with Paul when the Lord healed a demon-possessed girl through him. Immediately you both were accused for disturbing the peace through acts of treason and were subsequently stripped, beaten by an angry mob, thrown into solitary confinement and chained to the wall.
How would you react?
Would you curl up and weep with the injustice and harm done to you? Would you immediately call your lawyer and then ask to speak to the chief of police? Would you begin to scheme a plan to gather friends outside of the jail to protest the unjust practices of the Philippian magistrates? #FreeThePreachers
All of these are reasonable to imagine both in our context and in the first century. But what did Paul (and Silas) do? “About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25). After such unjust acts of physical abuse and imprisonment, these two men worshipped the Lord their God! At one of the lowest moments of their life, praise was flowing from their lips. Incredible!
Prayer and worship are tools given to us by the Holy Spirit to lead God’s people to a place of rest in the midst of incredible suffering. Unfortunately, singing and praying are usually the LAST things that we feel like doing when life beats us down. When’s the last time that you broke into song after losing your phone or bouncing a check? How quick would you be to pray if co-workers or family members spread false rumors about you? Yet, that is exactly what Paul and Silas did. Most of us struggle to consider this as a viable and Godly response in the face of suffering because we’ve never seen it modeled for us - or we've never developed regular habits of practicing these things when life is going well.
Next week, after our Rock Solid Living series comes to a close, we are going to begin a new series on prayer and worship. We’ll be looking at various psalms that deal with specific emotions – studying how to express then in prayer. You see, the Psalms are like God’s prayer guide for when life throws you curveballs. Likewise, there will be special evenings to ‘practice’ this together. Our first corporate prayer and worship night will be on Thursday, September 29th at 7pm. This is intended to be interactive, worshipful and easy for those who struggle to pray at all.
You may not be in the midst of a great trial right now, but just wait…it will likely come. When it does, how will you respond? May we grow to see the value in praising the Lord through song and prayer even if we are chained to wall!