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Acts 16:19-34

In the Midnight Hour

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • January 29, 2017

Paul and Silas were falsely accused and found themselves in prison, which was not their desired outcome. But even amidst this difficult situation, in the midnight hour, they began praying and singing hymns to God. Trials can put us in a place of feeling like we are “in the midnight hour” or a place of desperation. The next step is not clear, and a solution seems impossible. In midnight hour, when you feel there is no way out of a difficult situation, know that it is God who can make a way where there is no way.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

In the Midnight Hour

Acts 16:19-34 

Intro: Don’t worry, I’ve done this before!

It’s not the challenges we expect that put us in a state of emergency or desperation, it is ultimately, those we do not expect. These unexpected and unwelcome challenges can place us in “the midnight hour,” which is indicative of darkness or gloom.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown into prison after arriving in Philippi in Macedonia, a Roman colony. They were there to evangelize and continue sharing the gospel to those in that area. After arriving, they meet a woman named Lydia who comes to faith in Christ and after baptizing her and her household, they head to find a place to pray.

As they proceed to the place of prayer, a girl in slavery who was used by her masters for profit as fortune teller started following them. With an evil spirit of divination, she began to proclaim their purpose for being there in Philippi. This was not the way they wanted their purpose articulated. After following them for many days, Paul rebuked the evil spirit which left immediately. Upon the evil spirit leaving, her masters realized that their money-making scheme was gone. This is where we will pick up the story.

Read Acts 16:19-34

Paul and Silas, falsely accused, dragged before the chief magistrates, beaten and jailed; find themselves in prison. They came to preach and proclaim the good news and I imagine prison was not their desired outcome.

Here they are, bound up in jail, trapped, and locked up with no way out…But in the midnight hour, they began praying and singing hymns to God.

Difficult situations can put us in a place of feeling like we are “in the midnight hour” or a place of desperation. The next step is not clear, and a solution seems impossible. In midnight hour, when you feel there is no way out of a difficult situation, know that it is God who can make a way where there is no way.

I. Commit Your Way to the Lord

  • Paul and Silas came to Philippi to share the gospel of Jesus. With great excitement, they began sharing and encouraging those in the land to give their lives to Jesus.
  • I am sure they expected a degree of difficulty in their mission, however, they might not have envisioned it going this way.
  • There is an expected amount of challenge and difficulty, and then there are unexpected trials.

Illus. Fair weather fans.

  • Rather than give up to defeat, they committed their way to the Lord.
  • When you find yourself in a difficult situation, beyond a reasonable expectation of difficulty, committing your way to the Lord is challenging.
  • Paul and Silas suffered brutality and are now held in the inner prison which would be dark, damp, and cold.

Lamentations 3:21-24, This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I have hope in Him.”

  • Their response is uncommon given their situation. Ultimately, they knew that their hope was not in the jailer, or found within the walls they were locked in, rather; their hope was in the Lord.

A. He is our hope

  • This isn’t an empty hope, but a hope that is sure. The Lord is my portion and His faithfulness is great.

Romans 5:2b-5, we exult in the hope of the glory of God. And Not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;and hope does not disappoint…

  • When your hope is in Him, you walk through your situation differently than when your hope is in man.
  • When your hope is in man, you only trust what you see. When your hope is in God, you trust even when you can’t see.
  • Trusting in man gives solutions from man, and we don’t often provide the best solutions to problems.

Illus. – Stuck heading into finals. The answers are in the book.

  • Paul and Silas could have chosen a different way. They could have tried to pull their feet out of the stocks and shake the bars of the prison doors. But it is much better when God shakes those bars.
  • With their hope in the Lord, peace was found in the midst of a dark hour.
  • If our hope is in the Lord, we have confidence in His plan, trusting that He is good.

B. Rejoice in Him

  • When they prayed, and sang hymns of praise, their souls were strengthened in the Lord.
  • In times of difficulty, we need our soul strengthened, this the key to responding with faith and hope.

Psalm 63:6b-8, I meditate on You in the night watches. For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

  • We need to find that song in the night, rejoicing in the Lord; even when we don’t feel like it.

Illus. A song for difficult times.

  • As Paul and Silas are placed in the inner jail, with their feet fastened to stocks, bloody and beaten, I can imagine the silence. With a feeling of defeat, I can also imagine the song they would be singing.
  • They were there to share the good news of Jesus, trying to do a good thing, pursue the call and here they are, in the midnight hour, stuck. 
  • Paul would later write in a letter to church at Phillipi, chained to a guard, in prison, not knowing if he would be befriended or beheaded by Caesar…

Philippians 4:4-6, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God

  • Paul and Silas did not know the outcome of this midnight hour prayer, they didn’t have Acts 16 to look back on, yet they praised God trusting He would “work all things for good.” (Romans 8:28)

II. God can use Your Situation

Illus - Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and thrown into a pit. They sold him into slavery, he was accused by Potiphar’s wife, thrown into prison, and forgotten by a friend he had helped. If he not been in prison, he would not have been had the opportunity to interpret Pharaohs dream, prepare Egypt for a severe famine and become a ruler.

  • Paul and Silas are not in prison just to be in prison, God has them there for a reason.
  • God can use your situation, your life, your circumstance. Your response makes all the difference.

A. The song you sing matters

  • While in prison, Paul and Silas weren’t just singing any old songs, they were praying and singing hymns and praise to God.
  • The song you sing in difficulty matters, how you sing it and who you sing it to matters. If you are a follower of Christ, your actions and decisions, they matter.

Colossians 3:2-3, Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ is God.

  • You never know who might be listening or watching as you go through trials.

Illus. A lasting impact.

  • How you approach troubles in this world has an impact on those around you.

John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

  • Wait on the Lord and know that He can use your situation and your response, “the song your sing,” is being heard by those around you.

B. Pursue His reason for your season

  • Before any commentary, seek Him.
  • Is He up to something? Is there a reason for this beyond what is seen?

Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (NIV)

  • After the prison doors are opened, the jailer responsible to oversee the prison, prepares to end his own life.
  • He knew that once the news about this came out, he was going to be finished so he was about to save his superiors the trouble.
  • Paul yells to him... “We are all here, don’t harm yourself.” vs. 28
  • The jailer runs to Paul and Silas, and after falling down before them asks, “what must I do to be saved?” vs. 30
  • “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household.” vs. 31
  • The jailer took them to his house and they spoke the word of the Lord to his family. They also believed and were baptized.
  • Through all these troubles and trials God was making a way for the gospel.

Illus – God wanted Paul and Silas in that prison, at that time, in order to open not just prison doors, but to make a way for the jailer and his family to be saved.

  • Ultimately, the purpose the Lord had called them to Phillipi was fulfilled, to evangelize.
  • The way this evangelism would take place was different than they expected, there was great difficulty and pain.
  • Had they not endured that difficulty, been falsely accused, beaten and placed in jail, that particular jail; the jailer and his family would not have likely met Paul and Silas.
  • In your life, circumstances may bring you to a place of desperation. They may bring you to “the midnight hour.” Know that He can and will use every season and situation.
  • There are people who are seeing your situation, God wants to use your life to bring others to Him. Set your focus continually on His purposes.

Illus. Sometimes reasons are discovered later…much later.

Acts 16:19-34      NASB

19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, 20 and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, "These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, 21 and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans."

22 The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. 23 When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24 and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
 
31 They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

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