WOL Newsletter 174: Dancing in the Dark
January 31, 2016
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Edited by Stacie Thomas

The one thing that really stood out to me from Doug’s sermon was the line (and I’m paraphrasing because I didn’t get it verbatim in my notes) ‘You never know when tomorrow will be the day that you will be someone’s everything but you’ll blow it because of the way you act or what you say.’
That pretty much just sums it up. How many people have you turned off from Christ because of the things you’ve said or done? I don’t even want to know… [sigh]. And then when I think a little harder about the things I’ve said and done (not to mention the bitterness, anger and resentment I harbor) when no one is watching—no one but God Himself… and [double sigh]. Because, it’s not just about showing love to God when others are watching; it’s about showing love to God when no one else is watching… And it’s when no one’s around that I allow myself to wallow in my self-pity…I argue with God’s all-knowing plan…I cry over the hurt He allows me to continuously feel…
It’s so easy to get sucked into your pitiful world; but you can also look around you (locally and worldly) at people that have it worse than you (though I think Paul and Silas might have most beaten), and it’s harder to stay in your self-indulgence of wallowing. “You don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself if you’re constantly thinking about what you can do to glorify God right now…” (Pastor Doss)
So why waste the ‘right now’ by focusing on your self-pity? Why deliberately put yourself through that agony? Why not decide (because ultimately it’s a choice you make) to be content with your life (and a concious decision to be happy will actually make you happy…) and give God all the glory and honor and praise that He deserves; whether you have an audience or not.

Dancing in the Dark

Acts 16: (v16-18)Paul and Silas were traveling on the way to prayer when a slave girl ridiculed them and their work. (v19-23): 1) the magistrates were swayed by the mob and reacted immediately to keep them calm (without fair judicial action—they didn’t allow for a hearing or any defense on behalf of the disciplees). 2) Paul and Silas endured severe beatings, had their clothes ripped and were left naked, were unfairly treated since they were Roman citizens, and were imprisoned falsely for doing God’s Will. (v24): they were placed into the innermost part of the prison, with their feet stretched apart and placed in wooden stocs (they couldn’t move or attend to their wounds), nor giving them an area to relieve themselves, but to sit in humiliating filth with open wounds, in the pitch black darkness. (v25): they sang praises to God because they were content—because they weren’t focused on themselves; they were excited to suffer for their God to show love because they knew God was in control and had a purpose to all things. The rest of the prisoners around them (who probably didn’t have it as bad as them) watched their reaction and their real joy, and knew something was different and authentic about them, because of their reactions in the next months. (v26-27): all prisoners bonds were broken, yet no one left because Paul and Silas had an authority and an influence that comes from confidence in a real God, and other saw that confidence and conviction and naturally followed in their own insecurities. (v29): even the jalier who was over them in authority recognized that out of all of the prisoners, they were different; they were responsible for all fo the othes still being there and doing the right thing; and he bowed down in respect and desperation to know that God was real and powerful. Paul and Silas didn’t have to beg or talk him into it with promises of blessings and health—they simply loved their God with all of their hearts, in front of others, trusting when things looked terrible, contented wherever they were in faith. (v30-34): What does your faith look like and sound like every time you it an obstacle, unfair treatment, crisis? Do you complain chronically to all who will hear? Do you stay angry and depressed? Every word and action speaks volumes louder than any previous claim for Christ; every word and action shows Christ your true level of love and trust. Every show of contentment, joy, and faith could just be the biggest testimony you ever give to them. (This could be the very reason it all happened.) Paul and Silas showed total love and care, total subjection to authority to those that had placed them in such terrible, unfair predicaments. They remained prisoners by choice, in respect, convincing others to do the same; caring for the guards life and stopping him from suicide, and loving, sharing and baptizing the very enemy that held him in prison.
In 1948, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was arrested by the Russian Secret Police; he was in prison twice, totalling 14 years for his love of Christ. He suffered unbelievable tortures under his captors. "I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold—and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly in¬explicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts…It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners, as it is in captive nations today. It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating. A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching, so we accepted their terms. It was a deal: we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching; they were happy beating us—so everyone was happy…The following scene happened more times than I can remember. A brother was preaching to the other prisoners when the guards suddenly burst in, surprising him halfway through a phrase. They hauled him down the corridor to their beating room. After what seemed an endless beating, they brought him back and threw him—bloody and bruised—on the prison floor. Slowly, he picked up his battered body, painfully straightened his clothing and said, 'Now, brethren, where did I leave off when I was interrupted?' He continued his gospel message! I have seen beautiful things!..A flower, if you bruise it under your feet, rewards you by giving you its perfume. Likewise Christians, tortured by the Communists, rewarded their torturers by love. We brought many of our jailors to Christ. And we are dominated by one desire: to give Communists who have made us suffer the best we have, the salvation that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ."
The story of Paul and Silas is so amazing, when seen in the reality in which it occurred; the story of Richard Wurmbrand (and many others today) is proof that Christ still works the same through those that are devoted to Him in real love. We have so many things to be truly unhappy about; and so many people that we can justifiably be angry with…and we usually respond with anger, or even isolation from those that have wronged us—why don’t we try kindness even when it requires swollowing pride at being done wrong? Romans 8:17-18: God says it is not only expected, but necessary that we go through suffering as part of our shared glory in Christ.
We should handly adversity, suffering and persecution by closing our mouths in complaint to others. Don’t focus on the wrongs done to you, but on the opportunity to honor Christ and reach others through the wrongs. Never show hatred or malice, even when justified, towards the wrong-doers. How many people (including the one’s that have done you wrong) are watching to see if your love and faith is real? (even if they don’t know it) How will they see until you are in a circumstance where you should not love anymore, or it doesn’t make sense to have faith anymore. How many could you touch if you would choose to suffer for Christ’s sake and be content loving those around you instead of being spiteful when things are bad and showing real contentment and trust through the fire. So many are looking for something real to believe in—they’re tired of life, they hurt, are misdirected, doing the best they can with no hope…it’s no wonder they are so hateful and bitter—just like the prisoners in Paul’s cell; just like the very guard that locked him up. “God will judge us not according to how much we endured, but how much we could love.” (Pastor Wurmbrand). Some of us can endure quite a bit, but it’s done in selfishness and self-pity; showing nothing to others, and doing nothing for Christ.
Who could you reach if your love was real and sacrificial?

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