Peter and John in prison

‘Weak people who were given strength’

It’s not easy to stand up for what you believe !

But it’s encouraging to know that all through the Bible, the people God used to be his messengers and servants were often weak people, with many faults and weaknesses, people who were often anxious and afraid.

Not all Christians qualify as C’s.

God knew that, and he still used them. You see he knew their true potential.

Take for example

Moses, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Gideon, Jonah, Sarah,

Abraham, Simon Peter, Zaccheus ……

And many, many more…….

All weak people who were given strength. (as it says in Heb 11)

Some of these spiritual giants, were afraid to speak out, some felt too unworthy, some succumbed to sinful ways, some felt too unclean to serve God, some really cowardly. They were people who were human……

who in time came to a deeper knowledge and love of their God through their walk with him and through their failings, and by learning from their mistakes.

We are such people . We have all sinned, we’ve all fallen short, we’re only human.

But God is able to see the little faith we do possess, and he can always build upon it, and lead us on, if we trust in him, and keep our eyes focussed upon him.

Paul and Silas’ response

It can’t have been easy to have suffered the beating and the humiliation that Paul and Silas went through, when they were thrown into prison.

They could see no way out. In verse 25 you can almost hear them thinking, “We’re not going to let this get us down; we will be ‘C’s’ not B’s or A’s.

What was that response?

Their love and devotion to God was such that they could not help themselves. They started praying, singing and praising God by singing all of their favourite hymns, at the tops of their voices!

They were full of the love of God, it came out in their praise.

They knew the perfect love that casts out fear.

Their chains fell off, their hearts were free!

When they did that they were releasing God’s power to do a new work in their lives.

So easy to retreat from the problems which face us.

It’s so easy in this world today to go under what with all the bad news we seem to read about, with so much that’s negative around, with all the problems and tragedies that affect us.

It’s not always easy to stand up for Jesus, or be on the Lord’s side!

Sometimes it’s seems easier to retreat from the world and to just curl up in a ball and do nothing at all, after all we tell ourselves what can we do, what can one person do?

It’s so easy to lose our faith when we don’t understand why terrible things happen, and why there must be suffering.

It’s so easy to erect walls, to protect ourselves from the dangers and hurts of this world. But when we build those walls, we effectively shut out God’s love, and the strength we can be given by being in fellowship with God’s people.

Our walls must come down

God wants those walls and defences we build to come down, he wants us to receive his love, which is the best defence there is, in our fight against evil. He wants our pride, our inhibitions, our hurts to be cleared to one side, to make room for his own self to dwell in us.

The Wall Song (see Music link)

Positive steps to take

Where there is bad news, it’s up to us to be the good news for others, in whatever way seems sensitive and right.

What we CAN do is be POSITIVE in the face of all that’s NEGATIVE.

What we CAN do is simply cling to the love we know God has for each one of us.

What we CAN do in the night of our loneliness and despair, is to reach out to hold the hand of God , and ask him what he wants of us?

What we CAN do is to pray that our love for God and for our neighbour can be stronger and deeper and wider, so much so that it drives away our fear.

Then in our prisons we will find ourselves lost in praise,and wonder. We will be able to stand and see the hand of a mighty

God at work .

The battle is his, not ours, and LOVE gives us courage

I remember at college speaking out for the first time ever, in a fierce college debate about whether RE in schools should be abolished. I blurted out my opinion, trembling at the knees,

“How will children ever learn about God unless they are taught, how will they ever have choice, where else will they learn about God?” I said and sat down. The debate was won.

I was terrified! But I believe that in that moment, God knew I loved him, because I had stood up to defend him, (if indeed God needs any defending! I think not!) You see, at that point in my life I had turned away from God …because of the death of my Dad.

I think the ‘sinful’ woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair, must also have been terrified.

She was certainly not made welcome in the house of the Pharisee.

She was an embarrassment to them, yet she did a beautiful thing for Jesus.

She reached out and touched him and kissed him. Her tears bathed his feet. No one else in that room had done that. It was the woman’s deep love for Jesus, that gave her courage.

How deep is our love for God?

Ephesians 3 has this to say:-

I pray that out of his glorious riches that he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.

Amen.

Quiz:- (also based on Acts 16 vv 16-38

Some people have been bothering you, and making nuisances of themselves and upsetting you, what do you do?

a) Just ignore them completely and hope they’ll go away.

b) Say nasty things about them behind their backs and cause trouble for them.

c) Stand up for yourself and speak the truth, in a loving way, to them.

What would be the Christian thing to do?

Some people have been telling lies about you, and encouraging others to believe in their stories about you. They are all becoming quite angry and violent. What do you do?

a) Run for your life

b) Say to them “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

c) Give yourself up, and let the truth come out in the wash.

What would be the Christian thing to do?

You have just been attacked by some people for no reason, you have been beaten up, robbed, and injured and it’s not fair. What do you do?

a) Cry your eyes out, and demand justice be done.

b) Complain and tell everyone how badly you have been treated.

c) Accept that this has happened, and that for the moment nothing can be done, and pray for God to enter into the situation.

What would be the Christian thing to do?

It’s the middle of the night and everything is dark. You feel lost, helpless and worried. You are in the middle of a very evil situation and you don’t know the way out of it. What do you do?

a)Hide under the blankets.

a) Scream and shout and panic until help comes.

b) Start praying and sing all your favourite hymns to God, at the top of your voice.

What would be the Christian thing to do?

How did you score?

Were you mostly a’s ? ………in which case you are in company with a whole host of damaged and frightened people living in this world today. So take heart, you are not alone.

Did you score mostly b’s?…You’re are not afraid to make your voice heard, but again you are one of many who feel really angry and frustrated about the injustice in this world, yet at the same time you feel helpless to do anything about it. Be careful, you may be handing your anxiety and fears on to others.

Or did you like Paul and Silas, score mostly c’s? If you did, you may end up seriously injured one day or perhaps executed for those strong beliefs of yours.

But at least you love God and you’re not afraid to stand up for what you believe.

Whether you scored a’s, b’s, or c’s; you must always remember that God is with you.

Dungeon of Despair

‘Ad Lib drama : based upon Acts 16 vv16-38

Needed: three volunteers.(drama leader can take part too, by taking a ‘voice’, to keep it flowing)

Leader to seek out likely volunteers before the service to prepare them for what is to come. Leader then asks for the following, during the service:-

One volunteer to be Paul, who doesn’t have to say anything, who is languishing in prison, (must put on plastic handcuffs, check the key is at hand)

One voice to be a positive voice, (a good conscience.)

The other to be a negative influence (a bad conscience)

* The Voices stand on either side of the ‘prisoner’.

** A Silas character could also take part, but another set of handcuffs would be required.

The Negative Voice : points out:_

the damp walls, the darkness, the rats, the discomfort, the hardships , the beatings, the pain , the injuries, the fact that he might never be released, the worry that he’ll die there and he’ll be forgotten; that he is a failure, the unfairness of his imprisonment, that he is a Roman citizen,that he may want to seek revenge, turning the tables and getting his own back.

(all this summarised in four or five sentences)

The Positive Voice: must agree that injustice has been done, but God can handle this: reminds Paul of what God did in Jesus, how he was set free even from death, he points out what God has already done in his life, his conversion, the people who have already been touched by his message of salvation, how God is in charge even now, he invites him to lift up his heart and sing praise to the God who does great wonders even today.

(all this summarised in four or five sentences, in response to negative voice)

At the end the leader then says:-

“Now in this this drama, I said that the character of Paul does not SAY anything, that is true, but he does now have to SING his favourite song at the top of his voice! We’re going to ask him to do that right now… because if he doesn’t, that negative voice will stay with him, and continue to disturb his thoughts.

(If the character is too shy, then all can sing a favourite chorus, while the negative voice hurries back to his seat.)

Finally tell the character who plays Paul that the key has been lost and he must keep the handcuffs on until the key is found!