Main Idea: We’re called to always be thankful, whether in good times or bad.
We’re talking today about being thankful at all times, whether in good times or bad. Even in bad times, we can be thankful for who God is and what He’s done. Today, we’re going to read about how even sometimes bad, like an earthquake, can be an occasion to be thankful to God.
So, from now on every time I say the word “earthquake,” I want you to rumble your hands and feet like this. Let’s practice that once, okay? Earthquake. Good! Now, just remember, everytime I say “earthquake,” you make it sound like an earthquake.
BLIND TASTE TEST: I need two adventurous people who don’t have food allergies, and two more people who will feed them. Put on these blindfolds. Your job is simply to determine which product is real, and which is an off brand.
We’re going to talk this morning about how God wants us to be thankful in all circumstances, whether we get what we want, or not.
Someone read for us Acts 16:24.
Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. (Acts 16:24)
So here’s the situation. Paul and Silas were put into prison, not because they had done anything wrong, but because they cast a demon out of someone who was demon possessed, and were accused of stirring things up in the city as they were sharing the gospel. They were put in jail for telling people about Jesus. So how would you feel if you were thrown into prison for doing something right?
UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT: Everyone needs three of these small pieces of paper. On the first, write your name. On the second, write something good that someone can do. On the third, write a punishment. It can be silly or serious. Pick one of each and read them like this: “John, you were caught helping an old woman across the street, so you will be punished by having to stand in the corner for 5 days.” Read several.
Paul and Silas were caught doing something right! They were sharing Jesus and casting out demons! They probably thought they were exactly where God wanted them to be, doing exactly what God wanted them to do! And for that, they were put into prison.
Imagine getting everything you want, and then losing it. Imagine working on your dream job for years, only to see it collapse in an instant. How would you feel?
Well, honestly, I’d feel pretty low. That would be kind of the lowest, darkest time of my life. I’d wonder, “God, I thought things were going great! I’m serving you! I’m casting out demons! Ministry is taking off! This is awesome! So why am I now stuck in this prison?”
I’d feel pretty pitiful. I’d be discouraged, and I’d question whether I should be in ministry at all.
That’s where Paul and Silas found themselves. But check out how they responded to the situation. Someone read verse 25 for us.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25)
Instead of feeling pitiful, they were full of praise to God. They were praying and singing songs to God so that other prisoners heard them continue to share the gospel even in their darkest hour.
Here’s the thing: we’re called to always be thankful, whether in good times or bad. In fact, when you’re feeling sad, one of the best things you can do is remind yourself of how much God has done for you, so that you become thankful.
BE THANKFUL: Everyone take seven of these index cards. On each card, I want you to write one thing that you can be thankful for. Maybe you’ve done this kind of thing before. But here’s the catch, I want you to make sure you can be thankful for these things even on bad days. So if you’re thankful for your family, I want you to think about a situation in which you might be annoyed with your family, and remind yourself why you’re still thankful for them. I’ll give you just a couple minutes to do that. Here are some ideas.
So here’s what I want you to do with those. This week, I encourage you to read one of these cards every day of the week, reminding yourself everyday of something you can thank God for. And if that’s helpful to you, if you get 31 cards, you can do the same thing every day for a month, and if you get 365 cards, you can do the same thing every day for a year. The point is, no matter the circumstance, no matter what day it is, you can be thankful.
Paul would later write this in 1 Thessalonians 5. Someone read it for us.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
JOYFUL IN JAIL: Okay, so here’s what we’re going to do. Get a partner, and one of you will be in jail, and one of you will be the jailer. Take two strips of construction paper, and tape them together like this to make handcuffs for the person in jail. The jailer can make sure they are tight, because if those chains come off, you’ll lose your job!
Now, since we’re called to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances, let’s sing.
God is so good.
God is so good.
God is so good.
He’s so good to me.
So we’re to be thankful at all times. Even when we’re in prison. Even in the hardest times. So Paul and Silas were in prison, and yet singing praises to God. And that’s when things got really interesting. Verse 26.
and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. (Acts 16:26-27)
So this is crazy! They’re in prison, singing hymns, being thankful to God even during the bad times, and then suddenly there’s an earthquake, and they’re miraculously free! And if you followed our directions from the very beginning, you should be free, too. And it’s now the jailer who’s in trouble.
Have any of you ever experienced a bad earthquake? I’m not talking about a little rumble, like we’re doing with our feet, but a magnitude 8 earthquake releases as much energy as detonating 6 million tons of TNT!
According to my kids, if you were to try to detonate 6 million tons of TNT in Minecraft, it would destroy everything on your screen and most likely crash your computer!
So I wanted to try it. I don’t know much about Minecraft, but Cory does. So I had him make 6 million blocks of TNT using Minecraft, and this is what happened.
[Video of TNT in Minecraft]
We don’t know how bad the earthquake was when Paul and Silas were in prison, but it was bad enough to break open the prison doors, and break the shackles that were on the prisoners, so that they were free to leave! In the midst of a bad situation, they received something good!
Now, if that were to happen while you were in jail, how many of you would take that as a sign from God, and get out of there? I would!
But for a jailer’s prisoners to go missing meant that he had failed his job. He would probably be under investigation, and would likely be accused and condemned for letting his prisoners go. So rather than face all that, he decided to just kill himself right then and there. Verse 28.
But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:28-34)
So Paul and Silas, even though they were in prison, were truly free. They felt their freedom in Christ so much that they remained in prison, even when they had the opportunity to escape. And the jailer, even though he was free, lived in fear, but then found freedom in Jesus when he believed.
So the jailer and all his family were baptized, because they all came to believe in Jesus. Baptism is a symbol of what Jesus has done for us and in us. Jesus died and rose again. And when we receive Him as Savior, we also die to our old life, so that we would begin to live a new life in freedom.
We’re called to always be thankful, whether in good times or bad. When you’re thankful for what Jesus has done for you, you find that you’re always free. And when you’re always free, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in, you can always be happy in Jesus.
You see, salvation isn’t just for where you go after you die, but for today. When you’re saved, you’re set free to be thankful at all times. Our sin causes us to live in fear, but Jesus sets us free to rejoice. I’m not saying everything will always go your way, or that you’ll always be happy, but you can always be thankful for what God through Jesus Christ has done for you.
So, believe and be baptized. Follow Jesus, because He saves you by grace, and be thankful.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)