First Lesson: Acts 16: 16-34
Responsive Reading: Psalm 97
Second Lesson: Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17, 20-21
Gospel Lesson: John 17: 20-26
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
When I was in 9th Grade, I played Basketball on the Junior Varsity team. I had all sorts of disadvantages to being a good basketball player: I was short, slow, lacked jumping ability, couldn’t dribble well with my left hand, and so I spent a lot of time sitting on the bench. My playing time was limited to only moments when the game was long decided. I decided though to work hard over the summer between my 9th and 10th-grade year. I attended Basketball camp, and really worked on my shooting skills.
10th Grade starts- the first game of the year, I played well the team won by an unexpectedly big margin, I would soon be sitting the bench for varsity rather than junior varsity. I then got elevated to a starter for the junior varsity point guard; things were finally working out on a basketball court.
The next game starts, I start turning the ball over repeatedly against a tough press, the coach pulls me like two minutes into the game down 10-0. We get blown out. As the season progressed, my time at the end of the bench got longer and longer.
At the end of the season, I made a decision that I regret over twenty plus years later; I stopped playing basketball. I figured sitting on the bench wasn’t worth it, I thought I knew more than the coaches.
Now I was never going to be given any money as a basketball player, but because of my impatience, I gave up an activity that with a different attitude could have brought me great joy in my final years of high school.
Today’s First lesson tells the tale of two men who found hope in great adversity and we’re ultimately better off because they saw their mission for the sake of the Gospel was indeed worth it.
Our lesson from Acts 16 begins with Paul and Silas visiting Philippi. They were going to a “place of prayer,” like every other day. They then encounter a slave girl who made her owners a great deal of money through fortune-telling. The lesson describes the woman as being possessed by an evil “spirit” that allowed her to predict the future. The first time, she encounters Paul and Silas, she starts yelling at them, perhaps in a mocking tone. Finally, Paul commands her spirit to come out, she gives up fortune telling, but her owners are outraged.
Paul and Silas are then seized and dragged into the marketplace.
An angry mob strips them of their clothes and begins beating them with rods.
They were delivered repeated hard blows, before being thrown into prison.
The Jailer put their feet in shackles.
They experienced all these things because they traveled far from their homes, wanting to start a new church in Philippi. Now intending originally to preach to the Philippians “Freedom from their sins”, they were now captive within a Philippian prison.
Whereas I was upset about my lack of talent playing Basketball, Paul and Silas opening their mouth within Philippi had led them to a jail cell. No one could blame Paul and Silas for keeping their mouths shut, getting out, going home, and never speaking of the Philippians again.
Paul and Silas, though in their Jail Cell kept on singing hymns of praise and kept on praying for God to work through them.
Finally, an earthquake shakes the foundation of the prison; all the doors open, all the chains are loosened. The Jailer awakes, he is distraught at what he sees. He draws his sword, planning to kill himself fearing he had lost all his assigned prisoners, Paul basically shouts out “Stop.”
Amid great turmoil, comes great opportunity. The man turns on the prison lights before declaring to Paul and Silas: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Later that evening, the Philippian Jailer and his entire household were baptized.
The Jailer who was ready to take his life is described as filled with “joy” as our lesson ends.
All these great things involving the Philippian Jailer and his family take place because Paul and Silas believe their mission is greater than any obstacles that ultimately seek to impede it.
Our life often works the way that it did for Paul and Silas. What we can see are the moments when we’re beaten and shackled. What we often fail to see is the moments to come when doors swing wide open and we’re about to celebrate in the presence of others.
Wilma Rudolph was born in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee in 1940. Wilma had a tough start to her life. An early bout with polio made it difficult for her to walk. She would require leg braces and seven years of therapy to be able to walk on her own finally. At the age of 12, she wanted to play basketball; she was cut from the team. Wilma would not be deterred she would practice every day. The next year, she made the team. While playing basketball, she attracted the notice of a college track coach. At the age of sixteen, Wilma was competing as a sprinter in the Olympics. She got eliminated in the prelims. Wilma Rudolph though didn’t give up; she used her disappointment as motivation to hope for a different outcome down the line. In 1960, at the Rome Olympics, Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single game. The sickly African-American girl who was unable to walk on her own was now a gold medalist because she had a vision of what could eventually “be” within her life.
The question for us this morning is whether we are like Paul and Silas thinking the same way when it comes to the things of faith.
Once upon a time, there was a gentleman who began praying for his five friends. He did this for many months before one of them becomes a believer. The gentleman keeps praying, sees no results for the next ten years. Finally, two more of his friends embrace the Gospel. Gentleman keeps praying sees no fruit for fifteen more years until his fourth friend cries out for “salvation.” The man kept praying for his fifth friend, every night until his death. Nothing seemed to be taking place. A short time though after the man’s funeral, the fifth friend became a believer.
Here’s a famous example on the value of persevering in faith. A group of Andrew Jackson’s childhood friends, one day gathered. They couldn’t believe that Andrew had not only become a renowned military general but ultimately, the President of the United States. They started talking about other kids with whom they grew up, who seemed Andrew’s superiors, especially when it came to brains.
One of Jackson’s childhood friends declared: “Why isn’t Jim Brown, famous, he was smarter and could beat Andy three out of every four times they wrestled.” The friends were confused; they knew a wrestling match was over after three defeats. Sure this was the way things usually worked, but not for Andrew Jackson. He would keep on fighting, till Jim Brown got tired, and Andrew would be declared the winner.
Andrew Jackson knew how to handle a setback, yet he had the courage just like Paul and Silas to keep on going forward.
Every church claims to be a welcoming church. Every church claims to be a missional church. These things though seemingly, don’t often bear fruit. Even as Christian people, it’s easy to believe that a certain fate is inevitable. People have believed this as long as there’s been a Christian church out to be proved wrong. I struggle with this myself.
Once upon a time, there was an elderly lady who came across a young man who was ready to “quit.” The man declared: “I am beaten every time.’ “I must give up.” The lady looked at the frowning young man before saying: “Did you ever notice that when the Lord told the discouraged fishermen to cast their nets again, it was right in the same old spot where they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing.”
God had brought Paul and Silas to Philippi; the trip seemed destined to end in disaster. Here’s what Paul and Silas kept believing: “That even if they died in a Philippian prison cell, they would find hope, no differently than how the Roman crosses had been transformed from symbols of torture to symbols of new life before their very eyes.
Let me close with one final story, Winston Churchill was born in 1874. He grew up hating school, he frequently misbehaved, he was described by teachers as un-punctual and careless “ He was diagnosed with a speech impediment. Years later, he was asked to address the commencement class at his former school. Churchill by this time was now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Churchill gave his speech in 1941 early into World War II, a few months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Britain had already been devastated by German bombing campaigns. Winston Churchill would proceed to speak at his former school some of history’s most famous words:
“never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Churchill’s words remind us what Paul and Silas believe as they sat in a Philippian jail cell. No matter how dark the days might be, no matter how powerful of forces threaten to overwhelm you, remember that spiritual forces made known upon a cross are way more powerful than these. The forces of love, forgiveness, and hope shall never leave you. Amen
 Acts 16:16-34.
 Bratt, Doug. “Acts 16:16-34.” Center for Excellence in Preaching. Calvin Seminary. Grand Rapids, MI. 2.May.2016. Web. May.21.2019.
 Bratt, Doug. “Acts 16:16-34.” Center for Excellence in Preaching.
 Piper, John. “Delivered in God’s Good Time.” Desiring God Ministries. 26.Jan.2018. Web. May.21.2019. This is found on Email Mediatations.
 Acts 16:19
 Acts 16:22
 Acts 16:23
 Acts 16:24
 Acts 16:25-26.
 Acts 16:30.
 Acts 16:31
 Acts 16:33.
 Acts 16:34.
 Piper, John. “Delivered in God’s Good Time.” Desiring God Ministries.
 “Wilma Rudolph.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 14.May.2019. Web. May.21.2019.
 Today in the World. Moody Bible Insistute. Jan.1992.Pg.10. Found on Sermon Illustrations under perserverance. May.21.2019.
 Wilma Rudolph.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation
 Our Daily Bread. “George Muller.” Found on Sermon Illustrations under perserverance. May.21.2019.
 Our Daily Bread. “George Muller.” May.21.2019.
 Our Daily Bread. “Andrew Jackson.” Found on Sermon Illustrations under perserverance. May.21.2019.
 Unknown Author “Elderly Lady and Young Man.” Found on Sermon Illustrations.com under perserverance. Web. May.21.2019.
 “Winston Churchill.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 21. May.2019. Web. May.21.2019.
 Eclov, Lee. “Churchill's Real "Never Give Up" Speech.” Preaching Today. Web. May.21.2019.