In this week’s sermon, Andrea spoke on “Overcoming Your Circumstances” by trusting in God. Beginning her message, she introduces us to Paul and Silas, followers of Jesus who had cured a servant girl of the spirit that afflicted her. However, this was not met with praise from the owners of the servant girl, as that same spirit also allowed her to ‘prophecy’, and this, in turn, made them a lot of money. So when they found out that she had been freed, they went to the lawmakers and officials and had Paul and Silas thrown into prison. Speaking from Acts 16:22-34, we hear what happened to them after this.
Andrea brings three lessons from their story. Firstly, “Don’t be a victim of your circumstances”. Paul and Silas were imprisoned on a trumped up charge. They did not deserve to be in jail. They were bound and placed in stocks, which were really heavy. They would have weighed around about eight stone. They were also placed in an inner cell, so they were stuck somewhere where there was no light, and no chance of liberty or freedom.
When someone has a single view of us, they will aim to keep us fastened and bound in a position in which we are imprisoned, but what we must remember is that God has not abandoned us. He is a seeker, and will break through anything to get to us. If our hearts are seeking Him, and Hi is seeking us, we will meet Him. He has not forgotten us. He has our names carved on the palms of his hands, where He took those nails on the cross. He will never stop seeking after us. The truth is that our physical condition is not our spiritual condition. While, physically, we may be stuck, we are spiritually free in Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 49:14-16 says:
“But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me”
It is our view of God that influences our response to Him. Our view of Him is only as good as our relationship with Him. The question is, are we trusting Him? Spiritually, we are free. We need to know who He is. Spiritually we are invincible, but sometimes, we can get caught up in our circumstances. We all like a bit of fuss at times. We like to know that someone cares enough about us to look after us. The potential problem with this is that we can sometimes put our faith in the people of God, rather than in God. The truth is that Christ is the cornerstone. He is our victory; only Him. He will NEVER leave or forsake us, and it is this truth that we must cling to as we refuse to let circumstances have victory over us.
Secondly, we must not become reduced by our circumstances, which leads to us not fulfilling the calling and purpose on our life. Sometimes, we allow ourselves to be reduced but there is nowhere in scripture that it says this. Turning back to the passage of scripture in Acts, we see Paul and Silas in dire circumstances, and yet we read that they do something that the other prisoners cannot fathom. In the middle of the night, they are singing out, lifting their voices in praise and worship to God.
Andrea then tells us of two things that we need in order to transcend our circumstances. These are Praise and Worship. Praise expresses our respect and gratitude, and Worship expresses our reverence and adoration. In short, praise applauds, and worship honours God for who He is. These are both essential for a truly wholehearted relationship with God.
Paul and Silas were thanking God that they were in prison. They were looking at the big picture; seeing the God’s eye view of their situation, and they trusted Him to bring them through it. Worship is the result of our Praise. It is where we lift up our voices and thank Him. Our human nature is selfish, but we need to try and put this to one side as we let go and praise God. Andrea encouraged us to “Get our praise on”, and to tell God how great He is. We read in scripture that God inhabits the praises of His people, shown in Psalm 22, and Psalm 42. In conclusion of this point, Andrea encouraged us to pray; to ask God to teach us through the hard times. We must trust God in all situations; believing that He only intends good for us. We must pray to Him for providence, and fix our eyes on a huge God, who wants nothing but good for us.
Thirdly, Andrea says that we must not let ourselves be defeated by our circumstances. Taking the illustration of the jailer, from verses 26-28 of the passage in Acts, we can see that it can be so easy and tempting to just give up and take the easy way out, but Paul and Silas do something incredible for the jailer. In truth, their true victory hinged on them being able to forgive the jailer, which then led to remarkable transformations for him and his family. Here, we see that forgiveness is key. The way that we overcome our circumstances shows others how to be saved. Our forgiveness frees us. It is an act. A deep down, hard fought battle, but it is one that we must win if we intend to overcome our circumstances and step out into freedom in Christ Jesus. God does and will act; our job, then, is simple. We must simply use our blessing to bless others. Paul and Silas did this when they forgave the jailer; who turned and asked them what he must do to be saved. The jailer avoided defeat by realising his true path.
Andrea told us that “when they go low, we must go high”. When people circumstances threaten to overwhelm is, we must not withhold ourselves. We must be a blessing to them; and in doing that, God will move and will give us a breakthrough from circumstances that hold us back. We must worship Him. We must adore Him for everything he has and will do for us.
In closing, Andrea explained that our circumstances can be a lifeline to others. The fruit of our struggles will provide a path by which others might meet God and be saved. The truth is that there will be times when our circumstances will threaten to overwhelm us, but we must not let the trauma and tragedy prevent us from moving forward in Christ Jesus. Though we may be knocked down; Still, we will rise; in God, and in Christ Jesus.
Scriptures: Acts 16:22-34, Isaiah 49:14-16, Psalm 22, Psalm 42