Midnight and Miracles – Acts 16:16-34 – Pastor Scott
How do we know God is in control?
New Year’s Resolutions! Why not make your resolution a resolution to trust that God is in control? Think about it – that would relieve anxiety, decrease worry, give you peace, etc. Imagine living a life where you KNOW that God is in control and you don’t have to worry.
To emphasize that point, we will look into the lives of Paul and Silas; two men who lived knowing that God was in control and they showed it in the way they lived their lives. And so, our take-home thought this morning is: God is in control no matter the circumstance. As we get into Acts 16, we will see how God was in control in the lives of Silas and Paul – even when it looked like He wasn’t. And we will answer the question: How do we know God is in control?
1) God is powerfully in control of all circumstances. (vv.16-18) God is powerful. He can do anything. He is all powerful, all knowing, and is everywhere all the time. Here we have a slave girl who had a spirit of divination. That means demonic powers were telling her secrets that she could tell others. This was making her masters a lot of money. Her owners were using her condition for personal gain. So then, she sees Paul and his crew and yells out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”
First, notice that she calls them “servants.” Another way this word can be translated is “bond servant” – someone whose will is consumed in the will of another (in this case the Most High God).
The girl, who was a slave to man and being used by demons, correctly calls out Paul and his group. But Paul was greatly annoyed. If he accepted these words of the demon, it would appear as though he was linking the Gospel to these evil spirits. Truth and evil cannot mix. So he talks directly to the spirit (not to the girl) and says, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And you know what happened? The demonic spirit left! Why? Because Paul prayed in the name of Jesus Christ! That’s how powerful God is! Demons have to listen to Him! They have no power over Him! They have to obey Him!
Stop for a second and think about how powerful God is. There is absolutely nothing that He cannot do. Nothing! Jesus could calm the wind and the waves while in the middle of a storm and even walk on water. He gave voice to the speechless and sight to the blind. He could wither fig trees and give life to the dead. And the mention of His name casted out this demon.
When you pray to Him, it is less about getting your will in Heaven and more like getting God’s will on Earth. God’s will in our lives. Pray in His name knowing He is able to do anything! Nothing is too tough for Him. Nothing is too difficult, too complex or confusing for God! Why? Because He is God! He is the Creator of all things. He understands.
Paul commands the spirit to leave and the spirit does! God is powerful and He is the one in control. He is powerfully in control of all circumstances. Call on His name to help you! How else do we know God is in control?
2) God has a plan for every circumstance. (vv.19-26) Not only is God omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, God cares for you and me and He has a plan for your life. He thinks about you constantly and He wants you to prosper and be successful! It may seem God has forgotten about you, or He doesn't care. But He’s always watching out for you. Nothing surprises Him. Even when bad appears, God is still in control.
The owners were upset. They lost their business. Paul and Silas were interrupting their income, disrupting their daily deposits, cancelling their cash flow. And they were mad so they dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.
Not only were Paul and Silas physically dragged, they were publicly embarrassed and then they were falsely accused. They lost their freedom. This all sounds horrible! How could God have a plan when all this is happening?
God uses all things (good and bad) to put us in a position we can thrive. And it’s hard to understand, but for that moment, God wanted Paul and Silas in jail and He provided a way for that to happen. It didn’t look like it, but God had a plan.
It was midnight and they were stuck in prison and they had no idea what was going to happen. They were praying and singing to God because they knew it was the same God who was there when things were good as when they are bad. It’s the same God whether the skies are blue or when it’s pouring rain. When you can’t find a good job. When you are stuck at home sick with Covid. When you are passed up for that promotion. When you fail that class or your friends turn their backs on you. No matter what your midnight looks like, God is still the same!
Paul and Silas knew that so they were praying and singing hymns to God! Because they knew God is powerful and God always has a plan. When they were free, Paul and Silas’ main objective was spreading the Gospel. God put them in a place where they could still share. They were put in a bad situation but they still praised God! The rest of verse 25 says...the prisoners were listening to them.
It was midnight for everyone – but only two people knew what to do. The others listened and they heard Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns to God! Perhaps the other prisoners realized that this God they talked about was real. Instead of hanging their heads and wallowing in their misery, they were singing praises to God! They knew God had a plan! They didn't know exactly what God’s plan was for them but they trusted that God was in control.
God has a plan for you too…you may just not recognize it. The blessings that God provides may not always look like something we want, but God always has a plan. Trust in that. Sometimes you see results in minutes and sometimes it could take years or decades.
So Paul and Silas are right where God wants them. In a prison, sure, but they are being witnesses to those around them. And as they prayed, they weren’t INFORMING God. They were INVOVLING God. And then in verse 26… it says the FOUNDATIONS were shaken.
It doesn't matter how many demons are messing with you or how many problems have you bound in chains! It doesn't matter how many circumstances have caused you to stumble and fall. Because God is in control of the foundation on which all those things sit. And we know that our foundation is what really matters.
Sometimes when we are going through our midnights, we try to fix things ourselves. We reach down to our shackles and try to free ourselves. We try to work extra hard; we fight our enemies; we try to take control of the situation. But if we can just talk with God, He is the One who has access to our foundation and He can set us free! Look at what He did in the second part of verse 26… immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened.
It was all God! God is the only One who can shake the earth. And He did that at midnight. And notice that only two people were singing and praising God, but everyone benefited from their praises. Your actions have positive benefits on those around you! When you are going through your midnight, you need to see there is no way you can fix it yourself! God wants you to know that He is the only One who can fix it. So let Him! And let Him get the glory. Let Him get the praise!
And now Paul and Silas and everyone in the prison had a choice to make. All the doors are open and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. I would think most people would be like, “That must be God! I’m outta here!” Time for an escape! But take a look at what happened, because that leads into our third and final point… How else do we know God is in control?
3) God always prevails over every circumstance in life. (vv.27-34) Paul and Silas being thrown in jail looked like a very bleak and sad ending to the story. But God made a way where there was no way. He provides miracles even at midnight! And He will always prevail in every circumstance!
An earthquake strikes and the doors open and the chains fall off and the jailer was having his own midnight experience. He was ready to kill himself. And sometimes when we are at midnight, we want to die too. The jailer saw no hope. He knew that if the prisoners escaped, he would have to be punished. But no one left! It says in verse 28, Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” What? No one left?
Maybe you think you are free. But if you run off without God, your prison goes with you. It is better to stay with God and allow Him to truly free you! God set them free and yet no one left! They stayed because they witnessed Paul and Silas singing praises. They saw God do something miraculous. They saw the praises of these two men rock the foundations of the prison and they said, “Hey, uh, I wanna hang with you guys! If your praises can do that…I want what you have!” They wanted to know what Paul and Silas had that would allow them to pray and sing hymns under the most depressing of circumstances…and make them stay when their chains fell off! They wanted to know what real freedom was. And so they stayed to find out!
God was still using Paul and Silas to impact lives. God was showing them that He has a plan and that He prevails over every circumstance. The jailer was able to recognize that he needed what Paul and Silas had and his whole family came to know Christ. And that would not have happened if Paul and Silas were not in prison. God can take any situation and turn it good. And Paul and Silas knew this. They knew God was still at work. They knew God was still in control. They knew God would not abandon them in a dark and dirty prison. That’s why they prayed and sang hymns!
What about you? Will you sing your praises at midnight? When you feel abandoned or neglected or betrayed - Will you give praise to Jesus? When you feel alone or your back is up against the wall - will you still praise God? If you give God glory – even at midnight - you will see miracles! You will see God change your outlook. He will change your circumstances. He will change your attitude. He will change you and He will change others around you!
Give God glory and He will shake your foundation and give you a new life! You can trust that He is always in control.
Make this year special! Make 2022 the year you discover what it means to put God first in your life.
Praise Songs: O Come to the Altar, Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone), Heart of Worship, Doxology