October 20, 2015

Great Themes of the Bible
Acts 16:16-40

There’s a little bird I’ve come to admire, the Chickadee. This bird lives in some really harsh country, the northern U.S. and Canada.

Picture it’s the beginning of winter and all the migratory birds are long gone, and the animals are either in hibernation or hunkered down as the first storm of winter comes barrowing in. People are also hurrying home to make final preparations.

Gray clouds begin moving in and the winds begin to pick up. But then you hear a noise, faint at first, but becoming louder. It’s the joyful sound coming from a flock of Chickadees.

They’d fly from tree to tree always on the move, and when you see them you just want to shout of the coming danger. Why aren’t they flying away? Are they lost, confused, dazed? But still they fly around singing as they fill the air with a sort of joyful bliss. They know the storm is coming, but they just don’t care.

The blizzard comes and the next morning the snow is piled high, and you wonder, “Did these little birds survive?” But then you hear their cheerful melody filling the air. In fact, they seem happier as they flutter in the snow.

It’s as if the whole countryside looks forward to these little birds and their cheerful song in the midst of this terrible outward condition. This may be why the Chickadee is known as the bird of the merry heart.

It’s similar to a story we read in the Book of Acts.

Read Acts 16:16-40

If ever there were a story of finding joy in the midst of life’s hardships, it would be that of Paul and Silas on their mission trip to Philippi.

While Paul and Silas were sharing the gospel, they had been falsely accused and were denied a fair trial. They were illegally beaten and unlawfully imprisoned. Their backs were severely bruised and bleeding, and their ankles were in stocks.

Instead of complaining about their situation, they rejoiced and praised the Lord. While in the midst of the second chorus of Hallelujah an earthquake rocked the prison and opened the prison doors, loosing their chains.

God was moving heaven and earth in response to their praise and open display of joy, and as a result the jailer and his whole family came into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Paul and Silas were able to produce godly joy in the lives of others because they were able to rejoice in the cruelest of circumstances.

When I think of the trials we go through, and how we suffer and come out on the other side, the story of Chippie the Parakeet comes to mind.

Chippie got his name because he would sing and enjoy himself all the time. He never thought trouble would come his way, and therefore never saw it coming.

One day his owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum cleaner. They would just suck up all the seeds, feathers, and other stuff. No muss, no fuss.

But as they started the phone rang. Instinctively they picked up the phone but as they did they heard a loud “swoop.” The vacuum cleaner sucked up Chippie. Immediately Chippie’s owner dropped the phone and ran to the cage.

Their worst fears were realized; Chippie got sucked up. They turned off the vacuum cleaner and opened it up to find Chippie still alive but stunned and covered with soot.

Being a conscientious owner, they grabbed Chippie and rushed him to the bathtub. They stuck him under the faucet and turned it on. To us it may be nothing, but to a parakeet it’s like standing under a waterfall, and Chippie was flattened.

Stunned, wet, and shivering, Chippie’s owner turned on the hair dryer to dry him off and warm him up, but instead it just fluffed him out.

Chippie had been sucked-in, washed-over, and blown-out. Needless to say Chippie no longer lives up to his name.

In much the same way, due to the trials we face in life, we feel like we’ve been sucked-in, washed-over, and blown-out and no longer living up to our potential as our joy has gone south to stay.

How Can We Be Joyful In Spite Of Our Circumstances?

1. God is With Us

Look at this remarkable passage spoken by the Lord through the prophet Isaiah.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 43:2 NKJV)

No matter what we may be going through, what we need to realize is that we’re not going through it alone. God is with us every step.

David knew this, even in the darkest of days when he despaired of life itself. He knew God was there by his side.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 NKJV)

David knew the truth that God would always be there, and that He would never leave him nor forsake him.

Listen again to David when he said,

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side … then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul.” (Psalm 124:2-4 NKJV)

To live a joy filled life we need to realize that no matter what we go through, the Lord is there with us through it all, and it will not destroy us. The waters may get high, but they will never drown us, and the fires may get hot, but they will never burn us.

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19 NKJV)

And so we can be filled with joy because the joy of the Lord is found in His presence.

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)

Paul and Silas had been beaten within an inch of their lives, their backs were bruised and bleeding, but they were in the presence of the Lord and their hearts will filled with joy. And so they sang of that joy, and it literally rocked the house.

2. God Has A Plan

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15 NKJV)

God is not only with us, but He has a plan for each of us. He knows what we’re going through, in fact, He saw it coming, but allows it anyway because He has a plan to use it to mature us. He knew that all these things would work together for our good, and according to His plan.

The story of the Jews is one of the greatest miracles of all time. They’ve faced one trial after another, passing literally through fire and water. They’ve been butchered, massacred, hunted, torn, and scattered, but they sill live and thrive, and the reason is because of God’s great purpose and plan, along with their continual praying and calling out to Him.

God also had a purpose for what Paul and Silas went through as well, that through their suffering He was going to save the jailor and his family, and give to that small church in Philippi safety and a much needed boost.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)

God has a plan for each one of us, and so we can rejoice, because it is to give us peace, a future, and a hope.

3. God Will Help Us

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 43:5 NKJV)

It’s God’s desire to help us in our difficulties. If you call on the Lord for deliverance, for victory over sin and the evil that has bound you up, then God will hear your cry. God will not turn a deaf ear, but He will hear and answer.

Just be sincere. God knows our cry. He knows when we’re sincere, when we’re truly sorry, or if we’re just putting on a show for others to see.

How can we know the difference? If it’s pretend then all we want is for God to get us out of our problems, but we’re not willing to change.

What Are those Things That Steal Our Joy?

1. Selfishness

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” (James 4:1 NKJV)

That which steals our joy is selfishness, that is, wanting what we want the way we want it. It’s been said that the root of all relational problems isn’t communication; rather it’s a power struggle between two selfish individuals.

We’re all self-centered. If you don’t believe that, then when you look at a picture, which face do you look for first, your own! How do you judge whether that picture is good or bad, by the way you look! If you don’t look good, it’s a bad picture.

2. Resentment

“Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” (Hebrews 12:15 NKJV)

The only person who’s hurt by your resentment and bitterness is you. Think about it, the person you’re resenting isn’t sitting at home, upset, unable to eat, pining away, because you’re upset with them? Chances are they don’t have a clue you’re upset. They, on the other hand, are probably out having a good time while you’re stuck at home not being able to eat, pining away and upset.

Resentment keeps picking off the scab of our hurts and making it worse. It’s like grasping a hot coal in your hand with the intention of throwing it at the person who hurt you. However, you’re the only one who gets burned.

3. Fear

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25 NKJV)

Fear literally brings a person down with their face pushed into the ground. Fear causes us to build walls instead of bridges. Fear says, “I’m never going to let myself get hurt like that again.”

Fear isolates us and makes us miserable. In a relationship when there is fear there is no intimacy.

When fear builds up, joy flies out the window.

Thinking of flying, ever notice how you hardly ever hear about the joy of flying, rather it’s always about the fear of flying? I think the airline industry is to blame.

They say that the place where airplanes take off and land is called the “Terminal.” That really doesn’t install a lot of confidence.

And our confidence decreases when we realize that we’re strapped into a vehicle that travels hundreds of feet off the ground and goes hundreds of miles an hour, and it’s built by the lowest bidder.

Then there’s the verbiage, “We’re on our final approach.” What there are not do overs?

And when they tell you to stay in your seats until the plane comes to a complete stop, have you ever wondered what an incomplete stop looks like, and then it dawns on you, “In the Terminal.”


It’s all a matter of perspective. Perspective makes all the difference in the world as to whether we’re going to be joyful or miserable. It’s what we choose to focus upon. Paul and Silas chose to focus on the Lord; rather than their situation, and the joy of the Lord was their strength, and God rocked the house.

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