Rejoice in the Midst of Suffering

by | Jun 4, 2023 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Bishop Alex Farmer

Scripture: Acts 16:16-40

The Lord uses times of sufferings and pain, not necessarily even for our good but that someone else might be reached. The Lord does not waste any of our pain or any of our suffering but he requires that we continue to be willing to risk for the kingdom.


Will you pray with me Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts and minds of your faithful people and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight O Lord our Rock and Our Redeemer amen you may be seated well Church of our savior it is so good to be with you today to get to share and and this time of of worship with you and this is my very first time to be able to worship it a church of our savior I bring you greetings from Saint Francis at the point on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay where I was last weekend there a 1928 prayer book with an Eastern facing altar so this is a bit of a culture shock for me so but I’m I’m happy to be back in something I’m a little more familiar with to see you this morning so yes I pray that you will uh you’ll that you will allow me to bring greetings from you to Resurrection Parish in Shalimar Florida and I’m honestly not really sure where Shalimar is but it’s somewhere in the Panhandle and I think it’s not too far from Eglin Air Force Base so but I’ll let you know next time I see you but it’s been good my wife Jody and I are privileged to now be in the 10th month of serving myself as your bishop and and she is uh Bishop’s Wife to the to the diocese to this awesome Gulf Atlantic diocese so it has been great yesterday was wonderful seeing some old friends and from various parts of our our lives and also meeting lots of new friends today so it’s good to good to be with you Jody and I both grew up in Jacksonville and uh I up in Arlington and she over in the south side if you don’t think that that teenagers are not old enough to make decisions for themselves and I do believe that my father said do you want to we moved to Jacksonville do you want to live by the ocean or by the river and I foolishly said by the river so I grew up in Arlington not not at Jack’s Beach so it is good to be with you today um Father David excuse me David I realized the father is not used much here see all the things that a new bishop has to get used to uh David was saying something about a younger Bishop I think that may have something to do David with you getting older as well as a new bishop so you know you may find bishops to be younger and younger as you go along so
but uh but it is it is indeed good to serve and and what a blessing to to know the diocese to know so many of the clergy you have an amazing Rector in David I know you’re thankful for him and his leadership let’s just give him a round of applause

and he and Gracie are are good friends and so we we enjoy being with them again uh what a wonderful occasion 10 years 10 years that you’ve been in existence as a church praise the Lord there was no Anglican Church here just think about that 10 years ago and now this one sits on this property and not only are you here but your intention is to actually expand that you might reach out with greater depth into this community and be a light for Christ to be a city set on the hill as Jesus said that’s a a wonderful thing and it’s amazing so you know we’re preaching through the book of Acts or you are and I’ve been invited to preach from this acts 16 and it’s a privilege to do so um it’s Trinity Sunday so it avoids me having to do the difficulty of preaching the Trinity which is always hard to understand but also to to look at this church plant that’s taking place here I just to just remind you what may have been said last week but this this part of Acts chapter 16 is really important for two reasons one because it it is when the physician Luke joins Paul’s planting group basically he this missionary group you you’ll see the switch from they third person to we second person in chapter 16 right here because Luke is now on the road with Paul and Silas and all the merry band of of missionaries that were being sent out around the Asia Minor so we get this wonderful picture of Luke describing in first person the work that’s being done there also importantly remember that this is describing the church plant work at the city of Philippi that should be familiar to you the letter to the Philippians is Paul’s writing from Rome years later but he’s writing to this church at Philippi that he established through this church plant so when we read about Lydia the seller of purple and and now this young slave girl and the Philippian Jailer we’re reading about the people that Paul is writing back to years later is he writes that wonderful book of Philippians and if you were to to survey many Christians I would I would guess that that’s probably one of the most quoted uh memorized books of the New Testament and oftentimes a favorite for many Christians so let’s just for a moment consider this this this calling to Planet Church in Philippi as you Church of our savior look to begin your second your next phase of life together expand your ministry build upon the work that God did 10 years ago when he planted you Paul of course wants to go north further into Asia Minor but he is kept from that he is strongly reminded that he’s not to keep going north although eventually parts of turkey that he didn’t get to go to would be evangelized but Paul rather has a dream of this Macedonian man come over to Macedonia and help us Philippi is a major city in the area of Macedonia and that is exactly where Paul goes he goes to Philippi to plant this church the first convert is easy that was maybe touched on last week Lydia the seller of purple he goes to a Bible study the Lord opens this woman who’s a businesswoman she’s a person of means where’s Chris Chris would love to meet Lydia he would have a conversation with her and give her his business card easy to do but but from there it gets a bit tougher for Paul and that’s where we pick up this morning now I’m not going to spend lots of time talking about this this woman possessed and delivered the slave woman that’s possessed and delivered by Paul but uh because the scripture really doesn’t tell us much about her we don’t we don’t even really know for certain that she joins this church plant in Philippi we make the Assumption if if you had a if you were delivered from a demon I think he would probably have a strong sense that there was a God who had called you and had a purpose for your life but we’re not given much about her but but it is actually Paul’s annoyance with this demon and asking the demon to be driven from this young slave girl that ends that lands Paul and Silas in prison I have a friend who’s uh in the Deliverance Ministry and he always says and I believe him that you know if someone has a is possessed by a demonic Force it’s relatively easy to to drive that out demons flee at the name of Jesus as a matter of fact I know a few people that believed in the presence of evil before they believed in the presence of God and and it was the Demonic that actually drove them to the foot of the cross where Jesus saved their lives amen
this woman Paul deals with the demon easily he cast it out but in that moment these men who’ve been manipulating this poor slave girl early if you will trafficking of this young woman results in the loss of their income and their condemnation of Paul before the magistrates of the city and so Paul and Silas are thrown into jail and that is where I want to pick up the narrative this morning as we consider what can we learn from this church plant in Philippi that would be applicable to us as Believers in the 21st century you who are about to embark on this new phase of your life together and for me as a bishop as we pray and discern where God is calling us to plant new churches all around Florida Georgia Alabama and Mississippi well the first thing I want you to notice from the scripture this morning if you take a look at if you’ve got your service booklet there open up you’ll notice that as the The Narrative continues uh Paul and Silas are are in prison but the first thing I want you to recognize is that Paul had to enter in he had to take the risk of entering in to this battle the spiritual battle in order to bring about the conversion of the Philippian Jailer again the the driving out of the demon was relatively easy but what happened in the throes of that was that was that the principalities the powers of this world rose up against Paul and Silas and they’re unjustly beaten and thrown into jail now there’s clues in the narrative at the end that in fact even the magistrates realized this was a bad idea even before they knew Paul was a Roman citizen but even before that happens Paul had to enter into the spiritual battle there is a sense the reason why if you want to know the reason why we have to continue to plant churches it’s because as churches get older I know it’s not going to be true for Church of our savior but his churches mature they tend to be risk adverse they tend to care about who’s in the church more than they care about who’s outside the church I believe it was Archbishop William Temple years ago that said the church is the only institution that exists for those who are not yet its members and yet he had to say that because the reality is that oftentimes churches become risk adverse a church plant can’t afford to be risk adverse by definition you’re risking everything to start a church many of you shared stories with me yesterday or some of you shared stories from yesterday about how risky it was to to leave where you were worshiping before to come out to be true to the gospel and begin something that you had no Assurance would be successful that you’d be sitting here in this lovely building here on Beach Boulevard 10 years later but oftentimes we become risk adverse as we grow in our faith it almost sounds counterintuitive and yet it’s the temptation of every Christian Paul by engaging with the powers and principalities that were gripping this young woman he awoken an adversary that sought to bring harm to him now the Lord ultimately has the glory in the situation but I want you to notice that that begins with the willingness of Paul and I assume Silas although you all often wonder it’s like with Silas you know was was science like Paul let’s just leave the demoniac girl alone right or uh do we really want to stay in prison even after the bars of the of the gates and everything falls on but Paul was a was a force of course and we know that I rhymed there I didn’t mean to but um Paul was a force and was led by the spirit the second thing I want you to notice from the from the narrative this morning is that Paul and Silas rejoiced in the midst of their suffering now again they were unjustly imprisoned they were they were they had no trial there was there was no reason to go forth with this punishment to be beaten and then thrown in jail and yet Paul and Silas don’t dwell on that in the moment but rather in the midst of their suffering we’re told that at midnight they’re praying and singing hymns and giving praise to God I don’t know about you but I can’t think of anything more difficult than being in a dingy first century prison without the Comforts of modern prisons I can assure you and there they are praising the Lord in the midst of their suffering brothers and sisters there is something really clear in the scriptures that we are not guaranteed a life of ease as a matter of fact our lord Jesus says in John 16 in this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer I have overcome the world and all that is in it see the problem with preaching through the book of Acts is that you get to some pretty hard stuff and and we are challenged to say where in the midst of our sufferings are we as our tendency to cry out for our rights to be answered and to to seek to avoid that pain that suffering such that we miss the opportunity in the moment Paul in the appropriate time does say he says I’m not going quietly right at the end of the passage he says no no you messed up I’m not going quietly I’m a Roman citizen I expect somebody to come and apologize for the way they’ve been treated fair enough but in the midst of the situation he doesn’t allow himself to be so preoccupied by his unjust treatment by his suffering that he misses the opportunity growth to praise and worship the Lord and also to be there for this Evangelistic moment that occurs in the life of the Philippian Jailer he rejoices they rejoice in the midst of their suffering and are not preoccupied with their own situation thirdly I want you to notice there was a price to be paid for the conversion of this jailer the earthquake occurs the the the jail is wrecked the chains come out of the wall or whatever happens however this happens the for those that are in the room that are Engineers I’m sure your minds are going crazy with how exactly does this happen I don’t know we’re not told but we know what we’re told is that there was an opportunity for all the prisoners to flee including Paul and Silas and Paul and Silas don’t flee and they somehow miraculously talk the other prisoners into staying now we are given the clue in the scripture that that the other prisoners are listening to Paul praying and singing hymns and so perhaps they’ve already begun to believe that that then there’s an authority and there’s a power in Paul and Silas that they are drawn to that they are attracted to even in the midst of their own pain and misery but they stay in prisoned and allow this encounter with the jailer again how hard would it be to remain in that place and not to take the opportunity later Peter has some miraculous freeing from prison Peter gets up and leaves the jail right or actually earlier in the book of Acts but here Paul and Silas at personal cost remain so that when this Jailer awakens and and sees that the prison assumes the prisoners are gone because of the breakdown of the jail he doesn’t he doesn’t have a reason to commit suicide I don’t think he was just suicidal I think probably this is what a part of a shame honor culture and for him to be the Jailer and even if he wasn’t Beyond his control to to see these these prisoners you know not kept that was what would have been a shameful thing and so he’s about to take his life but Paul and Silas cry out we’re not gone we’re here

Don’t Take Your Life

nothing’s changed you’re still the jailer and in that moment through Paul and silas’s willingness to suffer the Jailer is brought to Faith it wasn’t the earthquake it wasn’t the demoniacs that the the woman possessive demon that was set free it wasn’t these things but it was rather Paul and silas’s willingness to take the risk to rejoice in her suffering and to pay a personal cost to see this one come into the kingdom now I pray that there won’t be a time when I have to face the sorts of challenges that Paul and Silas face but may I suggest to you that this was not where Paul and Silas began on their spiritual journey their their call to risk to rejoice in suffering and to pay a personal cost started much earlier and it they found themselves in this place and I can tell you my experience of being a follower of Jesus is that there are times where the Lord does call me to do the same things that he called Paul and Silas not to the same extreme but in a similar way and I’m sure there are many Believers here this morning who give that same testimony that there are times where we have to allow ourselves into situations such as this so that the Lord might use it for an Evangelistic opportunity

the Lord did call me to live in Gainesville for 20 years so I don’t know if that counts as suffering um you live alone that Atlantic Ocean I lived in a swamp 20 years

and I’m a Georgia fan on top of that for some of you living in Gainesville wouldn’t have been as harsh as it was for me but but in those times and many other things the Lord gives us opportunities to walk into he uses those sufferings and that pain in those places not necessarily even for our good but that someone else might be reached I I’ve sat through you know events that I really didn’t want to be a part of and and uh you know I remember I I was at a birthday party that I that was terribly boring for way too long and I’m sitting there thinking why Lord why am I enduring this and then one of the guys that I hardly even got to talk to a young man named Kyle walks up to me in church three or four years later and says the Lord woke me up and told me that I needed to come to church this is a this is a really unchurched young man he owns a tattoo parlor in Ocala Florida and he said the Lord woke me up and said I need to come to church and you’re the only Pastor I’ve known

well I baptized young Kyle young he’s in his 30s and uh and now he’s a member of the congregation in in Gainesville

you see the Lord doesn’t waste any of our pain any of our suffering but he requires that we continue to be willing to risk for the kingdom we’re told that the Jailer says how may I be saved and Paul responds believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved you and your whole family and there we’re told in verse 32 that then Paul speaks the word of God to both this Jailer and their family and they commit themselves to Christ if you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead you’ll be saved where the heart man believes to righteousness with a mouth confession is made unto salvation

this jailer’s family this entire household is brought to Faith by what Paul and Silas allow God to do through them through their suffering and risk Church of our savior this morning how many households are out there along these beaches or across the intercoastal that need the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will you continue to be a body that risks will you rejoice in your suffering and will you be willing to pay the cost to reach out to those who are not yet a member of this body oh may it be so everything that it cost us to follow Christ is worth it Paul said may your word your manner of Life be worthy of the calling of Christ and you he says to the Philippians years later you who were called by him have also been privileged to suffer with him
it never is in vain and it can always be to his glory oh may it be so for you and for me for the gulf Atlantic Diocesan for Church of our savior at Jacksonville Beach amen amen amen in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.

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