Deeper Trials Of The Deeply Committed - Acts 16:16-30 NIV
#1 - The deeper we go with Jesus, the deeper the ______ we shall face.
Not talking about the trials that everyone faces - mortality, sickness, stress, relationships. Everybody faces those including non-Christians. These are unique struggles BECAUSE we are Christian. Paul:
"We were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future." Acts 16:16 NIV
Was annoying! (v. 18) "They are servants of the Most High God." Paul felt like he had this evil spirit at every turn. Command it to leave woman.
For our purposes today, it's important to know...
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12 NIV
To be clear, we still have the struggles that everyone has... but on top of those we struggle against the dark, evil forces in the spiritual realm. Note that Paul uses the phrase, "the powers of this dark world." This is not Heaven. This is not where God's will is done. When you follow Jesus, you identify yourself with Jesus, His enemies become your enemies!
#2 When we battle the spiritual enemies of Christ we will make ________.
So how does this work? Usually, there's power and money involved!
"She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling... When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas." Acts 16:16b and 19 NIV
She was a slave. She was owned. She was trapped. She had few choices. She made money for her owners. The kindest thing that could be done for her was what Paul did - excise the evil spirit from her. But that took away her owners' ability to make money from her.
We do not have to use our imaginations much to see this exact same thing today. In almost every case where we find the darkness of evil we find power over people, slavery and money. Drug addiction. Trafficking of women and children. Prostitution. People who make money off of these fight to keep their power and the money flowing.
As a Christ-follower you will find yourself annoyed with the slavery and addiction and hurt inflicted upon people. The Spirit in you will fight!
"Put on the full armor of God... Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place" Ephesians 6:11 and 14 NIV
Notice it's not just the full armor of God. Yes, we need God's strength and power. But we also must have the belt of truth! Being able to see things and evil the way God sees it. With the absolute truth of absolute right and absolute wrong. Also why the breastplate of righteousness, because there's no room for excuses. No compromises. None of - well, it doesn't affect my family because as we've discovered this evil affects all families, no matter how well off or exclusive or self-righteous they are.
#3 - When we battle on the enemy's turf, don't expect ____________ .
Surely gov't leaders and the general public would see that what Paul did for this slave girl was a good thing. That these slave holders were wrong!
"The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods." Acts 16:22 NIV
No! Not fair. Evil fights fair at every turn. Because for evil it's not about right. It's not about fair. It's about power over people and money. It's very possible that these magistrates were bribed or participated in some way. And the crowd? Doesn't represent everyone. But a mob can be bought!
Knowing that this world is not fair - isn't all that helpful when the unfair- ness is being directed straight at you. Especially when you're trying to do something good and right. This is why "faith" is so important.
"Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Ephesians 6:16 NIV
This is so much more than "just have faith." That's weak. Eph. 6:16 is anything but weak. "With which you can" is the Greek word, "dunamis" which notes explosive power or dynamic power. Where we get our word dynamite. "By which you are dynamically empowered." The shield itself is not just something we hide behind. It becomes its own weapon against the weapon of evil. Roman soldiers would douse / soak their shields in water. Shields were water-logged so that no fire could grab hold. We douse or soak our faith in the Word of God.
#4 - In the midst of spiritual battles, look for _________________ .
God specializes in taking the wrong and making it right. He specializes in turning evil directed towards us and turning it into good. So look for God to be working. Look for opportunities. In Paul & Silas' case...
"Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open and everyone's chains came loose... The jailer asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'" Acts 16:26, 30 NIV
The jailer knew the unfairness of the whole situation. His only protection were the chains on the prisoners' feet. He was also beholden or a slave to the magistrates. If prisoners escaped his life was forfeit. When no one escaped, he could see the truth of the powerful God that Paul and Silas served. He wanted to know how he could be saved too.
"Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17 NIV
God is still working today. He is still fighting evil today. God is still saving people today. The helmet of salvation is our awareness of God's work. The sword of the Spirit is our awareness to work in God's power not ours
So what should we do in the midst of our trials?
#5 - In the midst of trials _____________ with prayer / worship / praise.
Paul wraps up his spiritual battle talk in Ephesians with this conclusion:
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." Ephesians 6:18 NIV
This goes against all of our natural instincts. When we face trials because of our faith, we want to bemoan our faith. Why Lord? We want to get out of our trouble. Maybe even complain a little. But Paul says the way we stay alert, (stay in the fight), is to pray and worship!
"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,
and the other prisoners were listening to them." Acts 16:25 NIV
Paul practiced what he preached. Imagine being beaten and hurting and being so uncomfortable in those chains. What would you do. Try to sleep! Try to escape consciousness. Paul did just the opposite. And the other prisoners noticed. This is why our worship at all times, especially in our times of trial are so important!