J.A.I.L. MINISTRY: A MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
Have you ever felt like you were in prison? Have you ever felt like you were in a deep dark place, and all the circumstances around you seemed to make living life difficult? Paul and Silas are going to model for us a way to respond when we're in a situation like that, and you're going to see in this story the 3 PARTS that are always at play in our lives: God's Part, Your Part & Other People's Part. Last week we left off with that last point: To obey God and trust the consequences to Him. This is exactly what Paul and Silas are doing. They have obeyed God and are trusting Him with the consequences. Now, they have been beaten with canes, bound up, and thrown in prison...and that's where our study this week begins. Follow along as Pastor Joe finishes out Acts 16, in his Book of Acts Series. Consider the truths in this message and allow them to help equip you for J.A.I.L. Ministry...
J = Joyful / Endurance The definition of THIS KIND of Joy: "A Delight in God that is not affected by pail or pleasure. It is a Joy that 'just is'. Whether things are going good or difficult, this joy is always present." Psalms 16:11 In the Presence of the Lord there is FULLNESS OF JOY. Have you lost your joy? How do you get it back? You get in the Presence of the Lord. This is how Paul and Silas could pray, and sing, lifting their voices to God; even in the darkness and shackles of prison. See, they had been in the Presence of God. Nehemiah 8:10 The Joy of the Lord is our strength. Some of us have lost our Joy, and in response to that, we have lost our strength. Habakkuk 3:17-19 Worship is not circumstantial; it's intentional. Habakkuk says "It doesn't matter what the circumstances appear to be, I will rejoice and be joyful in the God of my salvation. In the midst of the devastation Habakkuk was experiencing, he reveals a key: If we will rejoice and be joyful in the God of our salvation, regardless of the circumstances, God will make us 'sure-footed' through the circumstances. Glory to God! Galatians 5:22-25 Joy is mentioned second of the Fruit of the Spirit. It's not fruit that we cause to grow, it is the Fruit OF THE SPIRIT. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so the fruit that the SPIRIT produces within and through us is there all the time. It goes where we go. John 14:27 - It's Jesus' Joy He gives us, not the circumstantial joy that the world gives. Consider these questions: What would it take to lose your peace? What would it take to keep you from praising God? What would it take to get you to back off from your intimacy with the Lord? What kind of difficulties could come your way that would SHUT YOU DOWN? There are days that you are going to feel like you are in jail. God never said that He would keep us from trials and hard times, but He said He would sustain us, give us the Grace to endure, and give us HIS joy, which cannot be quenched by life's momentary difficulties.
A = Audience: Those Listening / Watching Verses 25-26 says that as Paul and Silas were singing and praising God, all the other prisoners were listening. This is an important point: As we are going through struggles in life, as we all will, their are people watching us, listening to us. You may not even realize it. What an opportunity... 1 Timothy 6:12 Your relationship with God is personal; but it is not private. Psalms 40:3 God has delivered us into His Kingdom and given you a NEW SONG, and the world is listening. As we put our faith and trust in God, the world hears our song and it will cause some to come to the Lord, because of its great witness. 1 Peter 3:15 Why are they EVEN GOING TO ASK? Because they are going to see something different about you; especially during difficult times. People will see that you do not respond to layoffs and other hard times like everyone else. When the world is drinking their sorrows away...not you, because the joy of the Lord is your strength. It's going to make your audience begin to ask, WHY? 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 You are an open book, a living Epistle that the whole world can read. What will they read? What will they see? What will they hear? What will your story tell them, especially in hard times?
I = Interceptions / Divine Appointments: "Preventing someone or something from continuing to a destination." Acts 16:27-34 we see that that Paul and Silas are freed by God. The jailer wakes up and is about to kill himself, but Paul stops him. The guard asks "What must I do to be saved?" and because Paul and Silas were obedient to suffer beatings and prison, this guard and his entire household are saved. This is divine intervention. We are called to be interceptors. Genesis 37:21-22 You are where you are for a reason. Sometimes we find ourselves in deep dark places because God has placed us there to reach somebody. We are there to intercept someone, so that God can change their path and destination. Ruben was an interceptor for Joshua. Did God place someone as an interceptor in your life? John 10:10 Don't be surprised that the enemy is always trying to kill, steal, and destroy people's lives. We, through Christ Jesus, are interceptors; bearers of LIFE. Colossians 4:3 We are not in chains to sin and the world. We are in chains to the mystery of Christ. We are where we are at for a reason. Are you in a dark place? Are you in a job you don't like? Want to move away? Can't stand your neighbors? Be careful how you think about the situation, God may have placed you there to intercept someone life. You may be there, not because things are going bad or because you have made wrong choices; it may be that you are right where God placed you and needs you to be, to be an interceptor. Have you thought about that? Consider Pastor Joe's story about "Mean Betsy." [at 25mins on video]
L = Love / Love Limits Liberty As we read we see that Paul was a Roman citizen. This fact caused quite a stir because it Paul would have stated this from the beginning, because of his Roman rights and privileges, he would have never been put in prison. Paul understood a very important point about J.A.I.L. Ministry...Love. 1 Corinthians 9:12,19-24 There are times when we must lay down our rights, freedoms, liberties, for the higher purpose of God's will. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 Sometimes, for the cause of Christ, for the sake of others, we will lay down our rights, liberties, privileges, comforts, for the sake of the higher calling; to reach others for Jesus Christ. Galatians 5:13 How are you using your freedom? Are you using it to serve yourself or to serve others? We have been given freedom and liberty in Christ for the purpose of the Kingdom. 1 Peter 2:16-17 Love trumps liberty every time. Even though the government was an enemy to the early church, Peter encouraged the church to show respect. Why? Because it is not about me or you, it's about the cause of Christ; it's about the Kingdom of God.
If you are in a bad place...If you are in a spot that you really want to get out of, practice J.A.I.L. Ministry. J = Get your Joy back. Start Praising God in the midst of your situation. Worship Him IN your circumstances because He is God and He has given you Salvation regardless of your momentary situation. A = Remember that their is an Audience watching you. Chose to respond differently than the world. Choose to respond like Paul and Silas and glorify God. Give the world, friends, enemies, family, co-workers, strangers, something that makes them ask "Why?" & "How?" I = Be an Interceptor. Remind yourself why you are there: because God has placed you there to intercept someone's life. Divine Intervention. Remember the 3 PARTS: God's Part (don't worry about His part, He's got it), Other Peoples' Part (which you can't do anything about), and Your Part! Obey God and leave the consequences to Him. L = Allow LOVE to trump your Liberty. Don't allow yourself to fall for the idea that life should be fair. Don't allow yourself to be sidetracked by what's not fair. Life is not fair, BUT GOD!...but God chooses to use us in every circumstance to further the Gospel, showcase His great Salvation, and win the lost for His Glory. How fair is it that the God and Creator of the universe has chosen to use you to represent His Great Name, His Kingdom, and the message of Salvation to the whole world? It's not fair at all, and that should be enough to cause us to glorify and praise Him in every circumstance that we are blessed to discover He has placed us in. Amen