Sermon delivered on Ascension Sunday, Easter 7C, June 2, 2019 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.
If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.
Lectionary texts: Acts 16.16-24; Psalm 97; Revelation 22:12–14, 16–17, 20–21; John 17.20-26.
May the Words of my Mouth and Meditations of our hearts Be acceptable to you o Lord our Rock and Redeemer. Amen
But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. (2 Tim 4:5)
It seems like everywhere you look today, listening to what is going on in the world, many are predicting that troubled times are ahead. I’ve heard several who have claimed that this nation today is more divided than it has been since the days before the civil war. I’m not completely persuaded about that, but I do think this country is more divided than when i first came here, and that many are saddened by the fact that we are living in “troubled times.”
But we shouldn’t be surprised that many decry the fact that the times are troubled. In fact, Jesus said that’s the way life will always be in this world until He returns to make all things new.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
He never stopped at that but prayed for us that we may be one even during those troubled times.
Paul and Silas were ministering in the city of Philippi when trouble befell them.
It seems that the work Paul and Silas were doing was perceived by some to be a threat to their business, so they had them arrested, flogged, and imprisoned. Ever have one of those days when things don’t seem to be going too well? Well, it was certainly that kind of day for Paul and Silas, and I’m sure you’ve had a few of those, too. Interestingly enough, some people mistakenly think that Christians are people who God promises to protect from problems and difficulties. On the contrary, God tells His children that since they belong to Him, not only do they have the usual difficulties that everyone else encounters as they live in this world, but now they have Satan as an enemy, which can often compound the problems the Christian encounters.
But take heart! God has a purpose in allowing His children to deal with difficulty. His purpose is to use these times to reshape us into the image of His dear Son, and, in the process, allow us to show a lost world the difference a relationship with God can make in one’s life.
You see, the Christian faces the same kinds of problems in this world that everyone else encounters – Christians have to deal with disease, losing their job, raising their kids, working through marriage problems, getting an education, losing a loved one, dealing with change, and living in a nation that is, at times, severely divided. Christians face many of the same kinds of troubles that everyone else does. The only difference is that we, christians have a God to turn to in troubled times.
God’s design is for us as Christians to bear testimony in troubled times to the difference God makes. And God uses our “tests” to allow us to present a “testimony.” But how? Let’s see what we can learn from the example of Paul and Silas. During troubled times . . .
- Give our attention to prayer
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
Every day of my life is a time of need, I just don’t always realize it. But when I find myself facing troubled times, I become more aware of my need of the Lord. It’s in those times especially, when I should turn to Him in prayer! As I do, I can rejoice in knowing I can come before His throne with confidence because I’m His child. As I humbly acknowledge my need of Him, I can rest assured that He will provide me with the guidance, the peace, the calm, whatever I need to deal with the troubled times I am facing.
“God can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him.” – Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire: What Happens When God’s Spirit Invades the Hearts of His People
In the devotional, “My Utmost For His Highest,” Oswald Chambers says that it is wrong to say that prayer changes things. Instead, it is more proper to say that prayer changes me so that things might be changed.
Through prayer, God can use troubled times I have to deal with to change me in whatever way is necessary to enable me to respond to the difficulty in the right way and reflect Christ to a lost world.
- Center our attitude on praise
“Every problem is an opportunity to prove God’s power. Every day we encounter countless golden opportunities, brilliantly disguised as insurmountable problems.” – Chuck Swindoll, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Through praise, we acknowledge the power of God. Praise focuses our attention away from our problems to God’s sovereign power. It causes us to be reminded that God is on His throne and that He is in control. Through praise, we are enabled to surrender to His divine purpose and abandon ourselves to His sovereign will.
Praise is also a declaration of faith by which we declare the greatness of our God.
? Through prayer we can tell our God how big our problem is; and through praise, we can tell our problems how big our God is.
Through praise, I testify to my faith in an all-powerful God who is worth serving, despite the problems I face, because I know that His power is greater than any problem, and that His purpose for my life transcends any difficulty I might encounter. “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” – Romans 8:18 (NLT)
Through praise, we can present a positive testimony in troubled times.
- direct our action toward people – vs. 27-31
Rather than thinking only of themselves, Paul and Silas concerned themselves with those around them who could be influenced by their testimony in their time of trouble. In this case, it was not only the other prisoners, but the jailer and his family.
Notice how Paul and Silas were concerned for both the jailer’s safety (vs. 26-27); and his salvation (vs. 28-31).
In times of trouble, there are many who concern themselves with the safety of their fellow man. And, certainly, the Christian should be concerned for the physical well-being of others. But if that is the limit of our concern, we will have failed to effectively bear the witness that is needed. We must also be concerned about their salvation.
Difficulties have a dramatic way of causing people to think about eternal things. As Christians, we also must be alert to matters of eternal significance and take advantage of every opportunity we have to urge others to make sure they are prepared for eternity; and to also testify to them about how a personal relationship with God can see you through daily difficulty and troubles in this world.As we do this let’s hear everyday the same voice that John heard:
“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the ?rst and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. The one who testi?es to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
God is calling us to transform our tests to testimony in troubled times, we need to commit ourselves to bearing a consistent testimony everyday.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” – Ephesians 6:13 “But as for you, be clear-headed in every situation [stay calm and cool and steady], endure every hardship [without flinching], do the work of an evangelist, fulfill [the duties of] your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:5 (Amplified) That means that daily, I must give my attention to prayer, center my attitude on praise, and direct my action toward people!
In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen