Even when you're stuck in what seems like an impossible situation, God can still rectify the situation through any means possible.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We’re talking about a famous protest in the Bible this morning.
I gotta admit, I was kind of surprised by the whole Occupy Wall Street movement over the past year.
At first I just didn’t get it.
“Wait, what exactly are they OCCUPYING?”
Oh, they’re sleeping outside of Wall Street!
Except not right by Wall Street, but close by.
Now, despite what you think about the merits of their protest, here’s what I think is fascinating….
That protests, in and of themselves, have lasted the test of time.
No one’s figured out a magic-way to stop them. They’ve been working…at least with modest success, for thousands of years
Think about what kind of effect protests have had on the world even in the last few years.
Obviously there have been protests here…but also
The protests in France…or Greece about the economy
Or the protests of Egypt…and all over the Arab Spring.
And we can go back in history and see the power of the protest:
Or the protests of the Civil rights movement
Or even the Boston Tea Party…
But not every protest is successful.
And, not every protest is every worthwhile.
Some are just silly. Or even stupid.
Let’s be honest.
And today, we’re gonna look at a crazy protest in the Bible that got quickly out of hand for an interesting reason.
THE PASSAGE – PART ONE
As a church, we’ve been studying the Book of Acts in the Bible
Acts is the 5th book in the New Testament, and it’s the story of how the early church got started after Jesus ascended into heaven.
Lately, we’ve been following this guy named the Apostle Paul on his journeys across the world to tell people about Jesus.
Currently he’s in a city called Ephesus in the Province of Asia.
Which is actually modern-day Western Turkey. Right on the Mediterranean Sea.
Let’s join the story in Acts 19
If you want to follow along in the Bible…maybe you want to see the context, or look at the passage longer…we’re on page 901
(Acts 19:23-27) – NIV
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis (EXPLAIN), brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
Let’s pause there for a few minutes.
Demetrius is ticked. At Paul and the Christians.
Because people aren’t buying his silver shrines of the goddess Artemis anymore because now they’re following Jesus.
He’s mad, and he’s about to do something about it.
“And he’s mad because the Temple of Artemis was to Ephesus what Mount Rushmore is to Western South Dakota.
How many of you have been to Western South Dakota before?
Not driving through…like you went on a trip there?
Cuz South Dakota is like Nebraska. A drive-thru state.
A lot of people have been there, but how many people do you know say, “Going on a vacation this summer! To Nebraska!”
Okay, put your hands back up if you’ve been to Western half of South Dakota before!
Now, KEEP your hand up IF you went on a trip to Western South Dakota (not just driving through), AND you didn’t see Mt Rushmore
Like, keep your hand up, if you went there just because it would be fun to go to that area of the country?
Ok. Almost none of you.
It’s not the most inspiring place on earth to go.
Now, I’ll admit…the black hills area is “kind of cool,” but people go to Western South Dakota BECAUSE of Mt Rushmore!
Which, by the way, is like the biggest vacation kill-joy ever. And this is coming from a guy who loves history.
You get in a car for a 7 day vacation, and you drive, for 10 hours, and you get out of the car at Mount Rushmore, and then 20 minutes later, you’re like, “Now what?”
Don’t get me wrong, Mt Rushmore is awesome, for 5 minutes.
But for Western South Dakota, that’s how they make their money.
People who come for Mt Rushmore, now buy their gas in the area, stay in the area hotels, buy their groceries there, buy little mt rushmore trinkets at their stores, and shirts that say, “I visited mt rushmore…along with everyone else who lives in the upper Midwest,”
People get duped into visiting Wall Drug along the way and spending money there, just because you’re so mad that you fell for stopping there, you might as well buy something”
And thus the economy of that area can thrive because of an attraction there.
Same thing in Ephesus.
I don’t know if you know this or not, but The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was actually one of the 7 wonders of the world. Seriously.
It was 425 ft long, 220 ft wide, and had 127 white marble columns 62 ft high.
People came from all over to see it. And in Ephesus, they paid to stay there, they ate there, they bought images or statues of it…not all that different from an attraction of today’s world.
But things are changing. God, the real God…not a statue someone made, is sweeping into the region, and people left and right are following Him now
And the people who’ve made their profits off of the temple are furious
One of them being Demetrius, the Silversmith
The silversmiths, as the passage tells us, would have made “silver shrines of Artemis”
So, you would, if you were in town at Ephesus, stop by Demetrius’ shop, buy a silver shrine, and then you would actually bring it to the temple of Artemis, and dedicate to her while you were in the temple.
Demetrius is now saying, “Hey, if Paul keeps getting everyone to believe in Jesus, NO ONE is going to buy these silver shrines from us, and we’re all gonna be broke!”
But he’s also not stupid, he invokes the religious side of it too, and says, “Artemis herself will be robbed of her divine majesty” if this happens!
THE PASSAGE – PART TWO
And the passage continues
(Acts 19:28-41) – NIV
28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. (EXPLAIN) 32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, (EXPLAIN) they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
And everybody goes home, and all is well.
Barbara Mahr, who is one of our Tuesday Night House Group small group leaders actually went on a trip and saw the ruins of Ephesus this past year, and she sent me some pictures.
(SHOW EPHESUS THEATER PIC)
This is a picture of the ACTUAL theater they protested in!
This City Clerk that gets up is the go-between for the city of Ephesus and the Roman authorities.
He’s cautioning the people about Roman retaliation (since Rome occupied them), for holding a protest in this huge theater without permission to do so.
& the people want none of that, so they disperse. And everyone is safe
A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
But as the tension was mounting…you start to FEEL nervous for Paul and his friends.
Everyone’s warning Paul…don’t go in there. Don’t go. They’ll kill you. You’ll be ripped to pieces they’re so mad.
You can get this feeling that this is going to turn into a crazy riot where this HUGE mob is just going to go into the city and start killing Christians.
Sometimes mobs get crazy.
There is no rhyme or reason to the action of mobs.
For instance, like after a team wins the NBA Championship or Super Bowl, even the WINNING fans think, “I’ve got an idea…let’s burn our own cars!”
You can’t control a mob!
And Paul and the Christians here are in a crazy place where they are probably thinking… “There’s no way out of this thing. We’re done for.”
(slow down) Sometimes WE get stuck in some pretty messy situations ourselves. Life gets really hard.
And sometimes it’s not your fault…at all.
Maybe that’s where you are right now even.
Life’s been difficult lately.
Maybe it’s work. Or lack of work. Or family…or sickness…
And sometimes a lot of our pain, stress, you name it, comes from things we can not control.
Situations that we didn’t necessarily even put ourselves in
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of our pain is also of our own doing.
But some of it is not.
Just like Paul and the Christians of Ephesus.
They’re not doing anything wrong here.
In Fact, they’re doing good. They’re changing lives, freeing people from the occult as we saw last week, telling people God can forgive them.
And yet, all of a sudden there in this place where it looks like the whole city’s going to stone them in a second.
Maybe you even feel like that. Maybe you feel like, honestly, the whole world is against you. The whole world is Protesting again you right now.
So what do we do in those situations?
What do you do????
Well, the answer for what we “DO” isn’t always obvious, but the answer for what we can “BELIEVE” is.
The Bible gives us a really neat principle from today’s passage:
That even in the midst of what looks like an impossible situation, God can still pull you through.
These Christians thought they were going to get torn to pieces, but they don’t.
God comes through.
GOD CAN RECTIFY
God can rectify the situation!
Even through the oddest way possible.
Think about how this stressful life situation gets fixed:
They’re shouting “GREAT is Artemis of the Ephesians!” for 2 hours…the whole town is wandering in…joining them…some don’t even know why they’re there.
The town’s about to burst at its seams.
Then, some CLERK gets on stage. A CLERK!
This is like THE Bible story for anyone who’s ever done secretarial work, administrative assistant work, or anything behind the scenes.
I mean usually, the hero is some guy waving a sword and riding on a stallion with his hair blowing in the wind
But no, the CLERK walks on stage, probably pushes up his glasses, fumbles through some papers, and says, “Listen up…”
I mean, seriously, who saw this coming?!?
A clerk. The city clerk, gets on stage, calms every one down, reminds them of the ordinances and that Rome is gonna be ticked if they find out, and everyone disburses quietly.
And this is what God wants to teach us. That, IF IT’S HIS WILL TO, He can rectify and fix a situation and any way He so pleases.
I think that’s part of the reason he picks the City Clerk here.
Cuz God can fix a situation and bring you out of something in anyway possible.
Maybe you were trying to think of how Paul would get out of this as we read it….
Well, they could flee the city (he’s done that before), or maybe God will do a miracle or maybe…
But nope, God uses a way that nobody was expecting.
And, interestingly enough, he even uses, non-Christian to deliver the Christians.
Because He’s God, and He can do whatever He wants.
But do you believe this for your life?
That God could bring you life again? Bring you peace again? Restore sanity to your life?
That He could find you a job…heal that relationship…bring clarity to your constant confusion…bring love back to your family
For a lot of us, we’re like, “I just don’t see it. It’s been bad for a while, and I don’t think it’s gonna get any better”
But have faith in God that He has the ability to rectify the situation!
In ANYWAY possible.
Ever been in a bind of a situation, but you have a problem solver / ideas person with you?
It’s a great help!
They can say, “Well, what if we did this? Or what if we tried that?”
By the way, anyone know who the greatest problem solver of all time is? The one person you would want to be with if you were in a terrible bind for your life and you had no idea how to get out of it?
Shout it out! Who’s the greatest problem solver of all time?
MacGyver could get you out of any sticky situation!
Even if he only had a laundry detergent, a butter knife, 4 green m&m’s, and a seat belt.
Let me show you an example. Look at what MacGyver does here…
He’s locked in a room with a federal witness, and no where to go, AND 3 angry mobsters are trying to kill him!
(SHOW MACGYVER CLIP)
Let’s recap what just happened….. MacGyver used cleaning fluid, a telescope, moth balls, a rope, a pulley that happened to be laying around, and handlebars to get them out of a sticky situation.
Now, here’s the deal.
When you and I are in a sticky situation…we can maybe think of 3 or 4 ideas on what to do about it. Maybe FIVE ways to get out.
But MacGyver, he’s got like 25-30 ideas on how to fix the problem
Similar with life and God.
Because here’s what we often wrongly do:
Life gets tough, and we examine the 3-4 ways in which we think it could possibly get better.
And we exhaustively think through those 3-4 ways, and determine that none of them are going to work or happen, we give up.
There’s no hope.
Just like some Christians in Ephesus probably said, “We’re done for!!”
But God, is like MacGyver times a million.
You look at your life situation and think, “There’s only 4 ways out of this,” and God thinks, “I can fix this in a million different ways!”
“Just TRUST in ME!”
Have faith in me. Believe in Me for great things in your life!”
That even when it feels like the whole world is occupying around you…that I can deliver you!
I’m God! I can do anything!
Even if you can’t see a way out of this…I can!
So pray to Him for help this week. Turn to optimism in faith for once. There are more ways than you can see.
If God can pull a city clerk out of nowhere and have his words make sense to everyone, He can do whatever He wants in your life.
And His method for doing so might completely surprise you.
Don’t try and determine how it will happen.
But just trust in Him for your life.
And more importantly trust in His ultimate plan.
And remember, sometimes His PLAN is to take you through difficulties
Maybe to grow you, mature you, or even to show His glory through your trial.
And sometimes, God even shows His glory through our suffering—something we’ll talk more about in house groups this week.
The convergence of these two seemingly opposing thoughts is explained well in the Book of Daniel when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are about to be burned alive in the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar because they held to their faith and didn’t bow down and worship his image.
(Daniel 3:17-18) – NIV
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
And that’s the convergence of faith God calls us to.
To trust in His plan, that it is worthy, no matter what..
But at the same time, to have SOME SERIOUS faith that He can pull us out.
Think about that, they were being thrown into a furnace.
How many options do you think they thought of for how they were getting out there?!?
Um, earthquake happens? All of the guards spontaneously let us go for no reason?
I’m sure they could only think of about 2-3 ways they were seriously ever gonna get out of there.
“But still, even know they can’t see a way…. they KNOW that their GOD can deliver them in a million and one different ways, and they trust Him, AND HE DOES!
And that’s what we need. Faith like that.
That yeah, right now, I can’t tell you how this thing is gonna work out in my life, but MY GOD CAN DO IT!
And I believe He can.
So let’s start believing God can do…God-like things.
Let’s trust in Him for the impossible for our lives.
Because the impossible to us…is possible to Him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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