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There are moments in life when we find our backs against a wall and don’t know which way to turn. The challenges we face seem overwhelming, and hope begins to fade.
In these moments, we must surrender to God and allow Him to step into rescue and deliver us.
This message is for you if you find yourself in a season of trials or setbacks.
Let’s pray before we dive in. Dear Heavenly Father, help me understand and apply the words you speak to my spirit today. In Christ’s name, Amen.
I like to use the phrase “but God” which is simply another way of portraying hope. The term “but God” is laid out several times in Scripture.
But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen. Acts 26:22 (NIV)
In other words, God showed up when it seemed as if He was nowhere to be found.
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV)
Have you ever had a time when you were surrounded by bad news, but then God showed up?
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us shouting, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who are telling you to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept and practice.” The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God — he and his whole household. Acts 16:16-34 (NIV)
There are two “but God” moments in these verses. The first happened to the demonized slave girl. The girl was possessed by a spirit that allowed her to tell fortunes. There was a conglomerate of people who owned this girl and would make money off of her telling fortunes.
When Paul cast the spirit out of her, she was set free and gloriously saved. That was a “but God” moment. The second “but God” moment was when the jailed and his whole family were saved. These were two miraculous and joyous moments, but I want to now focus on Paul and Silas as they sat in the cold prison cell.
How do I discover “but God” moments?
Paul and Silas were dragged through the marketplace and into the courtroom after they had cast the spirit out of the demon-possessed girl. What were the charges against them? Scripture doesn’t tell us but we have to look at the cultural norm during that time era. The charge was that Paul and Silas were blamed for touching the property of these conglomerates.
The slave girl was their property just like your house is your property. When Paul cast the spirit out of the girl, he changed these men’s property. These men were angry because now their property, the girl, wasn’t going to make them any money. Therefore they took Paul and Silas to court. They didn’t get a formal trial and were then thrown into prison.
Who would want to be thrown into prison? Even guilty people don’t want to be in there. I want you to see that if you want to discover a “but God” moment, you have to check your attitude.
Check your attitude.
Paul and Silas went to prison, obviously under duress, and they were beaten. While they were in prison, what were they doing? The Bible says that they were praying and singing hymns to God. Would you be able to sing and praise in prison? Paul and Silas could have been upset that they were in prison for setting the girl free, something that should have been celebrated but was instead met with anger. However, they checked their attitude. They knew that despite being behind bars, God was still at work.
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
Don’t limit God when you’re behind bars. Don’t put a limit on God when things are difficult. God says, I’m going to rejoice over you. He says that you are what He is focusing on. What kind of attitude did Paul and Silas have in prison? They had a faith attitude. God can do exceedingly and abundantly above all that you could ask or imagine. Prison cells and bars do not hinder God.
The spirit of God CAN’T be hindered. He doesn’t need a whole army to move, he just needs one person that’s willing to have a faith attitude.
If you want “but God” moments in your life, check your attitude. Your attitude is the foundation to which God moves.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Paul and Silas were in prison, and they were trusting God. God responds to faith. Faith moves God. We must recognize the necessity of faith. When we check our faith, there are certain things we must stop doing and things we need to start doing.
Stop complaining and start praising.
These guys were in prison, and they weren’t complaining. You might be having a difficult time or going through a trial. No one likes going through hard trials. I want you to check your attitude when we go through difficult seasons. Why? Because it’s in the checking and curbing of our attitude, we may experience “but God” moments. Paul and Silas checked their attitude when they were in prison. They stopped complaining and started praising. What else did they do?
They stopped resigning and started volunteering.
When Christians go through hard seasons and trials, they often resign instead of press forward. Paul didn’t say, “I’m not going any further because I’m stuck here in this prison, so what’s the point in going onward?” Instead, he pressed on. Paul didn’t resign, he volunteered to keep going. We also need to stop disconnecting from God and start connecting to Him.
You may wonder, “How am I disconnecting from God?” It’s when you stop reading your Bible and stop praying. You think that God’s not showing up, but you are the one who is putting Him off. You need to stop acting like the victim and start acting like the victor. Paul didn’t mope around and act like a victim; instead, he acted like a victor! He went around the prison, singing and praising God.
I want you to see that “but God” moments come from checking your attitude.
Adjust your perspective.
We must also adjust our perspective. Perspective speaks of how you see things. Paul and Silas had a Gospel-centric perspective. Gospel-centric perspective means a God-centered perspective.
But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
Paul and Silas were seeking first the Kingdom of God. They knew that God could use them wherever they were. They chose to sing and praise, and when the prison foundation began to shake, their chains fell off. Instead of running free, they stayed put. Roman law said that if the jailer allowed something to happen to the prisoners to where they escaped under his watch, the sentence that was theirs would become his.
When the jailer went to kill himself, Paul said, “Do not harm yourself!” Paul kept the Gospel-centric perspective and stayed to help the jailer instead of running. This leads the jailer to salvation.
Accept God’s Challenge.
Not only should we check our attitude, not only should we adjust our perspective, but we must accept God’s challenges. You’re probably wondering, “What is God’s challenge?” God wants to use every one of us. Everyone has a gift, and the Holy Spirit wants to use you even in the midst of chaos and difficult problems. He wants us to accept His challenge despite whatever trials we may be going through.
Paul and Silas spotted the jailer about to kill himself, and they told him not to harm himself. This conversation immediately creates a shift, and the jailer recognizes that God must be with Paul and Silas. He dropped down on his knees and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
In order to experience “but God” moments, you must be able to recognize that we have to adjust our perspective as well as accept God’s challenge. The challenge was made clear when the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” They answered him that he must believe in the Lord Jesus.
God says that when you accept Christ as your Savior, He has a covenant with you. He wants to commit to you and see your whole family get saved. God wants to work through you to help facilitate the spiritual transformation of people in your own family. When the jailer got saved, he took Paul and Silas out of prison and cleaned their wounds. He took them to his house and fed them, and later that night, the jailer’s whole household got saved. Paul and Silas then took them outside and baptized them.
Why was baptism so essential? Baptism associates you with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Our God is in the business of transforming people.
These “but God” moments are not just for those in Scripture but also for you and me. Check your attitude, adjust your perspective, and accept God’s challenge. I don’t want you to be lukewarm. I don’t want you to be mediocre. I want you to be transformed.
God wants to baptize His people in fire. I pray that you become a sold-out believer.
I pray that God’s power liberates you and that you become a witness of His power.
Prayer – Dear Heavenly Father, in times of trial, remind me to check my attitude, adjust my perspective, and accept your challenge. Let me not be lukewarm, but sold out for you. Use me to advance your Kingdom. In Christ’s name, Amen.