Levi Lusko - Worship That Hurts Like Hell
We have been in a collection of messages. This is now week four in our 35 Days of Hope series that we've called, "Look Up". In this collection of messages, we're asking the question, what do you do when you find yourself in a pit? What do you do when you find yourself in a hard time? And the answer we're trying to reiterate 100 different ways, the answer is to look up. And today, as we continue, I have a very important message. They all are, but this one just feels extra for some reason as God gave it to me. And I want to talk to you about what to do when you find yourself in a pit. And it is so deep and so dark that it's hard to ever believe you could ever get out.
And the title of my message is, "Worship That Hurts Like Hell". And if you have a copy of the Scriptures, we're going to be in Acts 16. If you haven't yet, in the journey of being a human and the journey of if you choose to, following Jesus, in your life, which is the choice that I've made personally, and I'm with Peter, who, quite pragmatically, said to Jesus, look, you ain't the easiest cat in the world to follow. I'll grant you that. But he said to Jesus, where else can I go? Jesus said, do you want to go? And part of Peter was like, a little bit. Because You're weird. I mean, Jesus had just finished saying, eat My flesh and drink My blood, which is like a casual reference to cannibalism just after lunch, which, true story, they had just eaten lunch. And Jesus was like, that's what it means to follow Me.
There's got to be that sense almost like where you take food into your body and it becomes part of you. You have to almost become part of me. Let me become part of you. It can't just be a church you attend. It has to be a Savior you ingest, that you look at Him like you look to food. And then Peter was like, oh. Because a lot of people were like, peace out, man. I can't. I'm on the free lunch. And I want some good vibes in my hard life. But I don't know if I want to follow You like that, to look to You like bread, to eat Your flesh and drink Your blood in that sense, to be that dependent upon You. Jesus isn't interested in a casual relationship with you, is the point. He wants all of you. He is jealous for you. He loves you because He knows that He is the only thing that can sustain you. His glory is the only thing worth living for. So He invites you to all of Him.
And Peter was like, I don't actually know if that I want that. So Jesus said, well, then go ahead and leave. A lot of people have. And Peter said, if I'm honest, where else can I go? Because nothing else I know of offers me eternal life. So even though following You seems daunting, that's the only thing that has ever promised me resurrection life, eternal, life abundant, life inside my heart. And so, that's the decision I made. I had experienced enough of the world in the sense that I had gone down the road of drugs, and gone down the road of pornography. There was a sense of emptiness. There was a sense of, I need more. I gave in to my temptations. I looked to these things to fulfill me. And they actually made me feel worse. And they made me feel more empty. And then they made me feel more guilt.
And I would lie in bed at night. I would think about meaning, and think about eternity, and think about Heaven. And I just felt this growing sense of despair. And I don't know if I want to live. I had enough of church and enough of religion to know that that hadn't delivered on anything that I would look to it to do for me. But then, it was in a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ that my life was changed forever, at the age of 14. And that has transformed how I look at church, and how I look at reading the Bible, how I look at these things, this moment that we're in. Those things couldn't save me. But loving Jesus, I love what He loves. And Jesus is crazy passionate about His church because He knows, at its best, what it's capable of. And so, I've given my life to following Christ. I look to it like a person looks to food. It's my only means of being sustained. And without it, there is no life.
But if you haven't yet got the memo, following Jesus and not following Jesus, there are hard moments. And there will come times in your life when you feel like every single nerve you have has been activated with searing pain, grief, the overload of that sense of absolute, overwhelming sorrow. If you could die from being told something, you'll feel something at some point in your life that it could literally take you out. The first time I'd ever felt anything like that was when I got the text that my dad had had a heart attack, which, by the way, today's October 3. It's my dad, Chip Lusko's, birthday. He's 70 today, 70 years old. And as I think especially about how all those years ago, that heart attack nearly killed him, the triple bypass surgery, open heart surgery, all of that, and I rushed to be there with him when he had the heart attack, that was the first time I ever really felt intense grief like that.
I had experienced some deaths and some loss, but not my father, not as the man that I looked to to inform me what a man is, and who has become my best friend, best man at my wedding, the most amazing grandfather to my kids. He's become a father to my wife. And so, I honor him today on his birthday. But that was that sensation of just crushing fear. Am I going to lose my dad? And then, we felt it again when, in 2012, one of our 5 children went home to be with Jesus in Heaven, 5 days before Christmas. I spent all day writing a sermon to preach to our church and to tell people, yay, happy birthday, Jesus. And I ended up in the hospital waiting room, being told by a very kind surgeon, there's nothing more that we can do. Would you like to go say goodbye? And the feeling of that moment, if words could kill you, and what that began, the journey of grief, and the journey of loss, and hard moments, and low moments, and pain-filled moments.
So I want you to understand it is not casual or glib or trite that I would approach you with the deepest deference to what you're facing and tell you to look up, and that there is hope in the pit you're in. I'm telling you, I have fallen in some pits in my life. And they are real. And they are scary. And they are cold. And they are frightening places. And when you find yourself in a pit, even as a Christian, even as a person trying to serve God in this world, the choice is going to be set before you. Will you do the one thing that can bring you the kind of breakthrough that is only possible by choosing worship in such a place? Will you, in those moments, be willing to give a sacrifice of praise? In response to a great day, a great moment, a wonderful sunset, there's no sacrifice involved in praising God. But when it feels like God Himself has betrayed you or abandoned you, to choose the act of defiance in response to everything that, inside of you, is screaming to be let out, the pain, the fear, the misery, the rejection, but to instead choose to worship God even when you hurt like hell, that, like nothing I've ever experienced in this world.
It taps you into a unique power that was, all along, hidden inside your pit, which was in a very real sense. Even though God may not have caused the circumstances that formed your pit, it for sure was a piece of the puzzle of why God allowed it. What I'm trying to get you to see in my assignment by the end of this sermon is that you would see there's an assignment inside your pit. Acts 16, where are we? We are on Paul's second missionary journey. Paul is a guy who used to hate Jesus a lot, which is so fun that God picked him to preach the gospel. It is one of the most delicious ironies I've ever experienced, that God's like, who am I going to use to build the church? I don't know. Who's foaming at the mouth with hatred for Jesus? I pick him. That just shows you God has a sense of humor. Paul's only goal in life at this point was to tear down the church. And God's like, I'm just going to redirect that itinerary and get him to build it.
So He does. Because God radically changed Paul's life. And he began to look to Jesus like He was bread. He began to look to Jesus like He was water. And so Paul, then, having tasted, for the first time in his life, true food, and he began to see the world differently. It was like Green Eggs and Ham, right? He hated green eggs and ham. Now he's like, turns out it's fantastic. I want to tell everybody about Jesus. Where do you want to go? And that same passion that was used for evil now is used for good. And I just dare you to believe, wherever you were at your worst, that is, in its own way, a clue to how God wants to unleash blessing on this world through you. He's not going to change who you are. He's going to redirect it for His glory. So Paul starts telling everybody about Jesus. And God gives him pieces of the Bible to write, 13 books of the New Testament. He gets to have his signature on 14 if Hebrews was Paul.
Some people think it was. Some people don't know. I'm one who does not know. But Paul is going all over the world to tell people about Jesus. Some people are like, why do we have to have multiple campuses? Why would we spend so much money on technology and work so hard? Here's why, because there's a lot of people in this world. They need to know how great Jesus is. And I'm just, quite frankly, not content with churches being a potluck for those people who already have a halo. I'm telling you what, that's just not OK. And it would be selfish to me, and a colossal tragedy to me, to have tasted it and to not give every ounce of energy to get the message to more people, and to do that until we die. So Paul's doing that. And he did a whole lap of the known world at the time. And then he was like, hey, man, we should do that again. It was awesome. We should go encourage those people that got saved. Because once you're saved, you need to be encouraged. And you need to grow in your salvation. We would say, once you know Jesus, get into a group. Do a team. Begin to serve.
So Paul's like, a bunch of people got saved. Let's go make sure they're doing all right. And if they have any questions, we'll answer them. If they're doing stuff that's naughty, we'll be like, hey, knock it off. Talking to you, Corinth. And so, that's the plan. Except Paul and Barnabas had this big falling out. We don't have time to get into it. It happens sometimes in church, occasionally, always, and we're broken people. And we come to Jesus broken. And He changes us. But there's still selfishness and rough edges. And so Paul's like, all right, Barnabas. We're not going to do that anymore so much. So instead, Silas, let's go, Silas. You're the man now. And so Paul and Silas are going to go on the second missionary journey. The year is 52 AD. Paul's got it on his bucket list to do some preaching in the city of Asia. So off they go. And it goes well, right? False. Nothing's working in Asia. You've heard me preach a whole lot about that. There's confusion. The Spirit won't let him. Why? Because it turns out God wants him to get to Europe, not Asia.
And so, Paul and Silas, now aided by this dude named John Mark, shoutout, JM, they end up in Europe. And this chick gets saved. This lady gets saved. This wonderful, dignified woman gets saved. Her name's Lydia, the first European convert, gets saved, gives her life to Jesus. It's awesome. Except she's not from Europe. It turns out she's from Asia. So the whole time of Paul not knowing what the Spirit was doing, because He's like, you can't go to Asia. You've got to go to Europe, that's because the first Asian person that was going to get saved in Europe was actually going to be from Asia. So you just got to trust God. Don't give up in the middle. You just never know what He's up to. So you can't go to Asia. Why? I want you to go to Europe to reach Asia. So this really successful, wealthy, powerful woman gets saved in Europe but only then is able to then go home to Asia and bring the gospel with her.
So just trust Jesus. He's got the map. It feels weird. We shouldn't be turning right. It seems like we should be going north. I know the direction. I have a great sense of direction. Just trust Him. Sometimes He zags so He can zig. Just walk with Him. Just keep going. Don't trust your own sense of direction, even if you feel like you're Bear Grylls, drop me in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and I'll find my way home, I'll tell you what. Just trust Jesus. He has a better vantage point from Heaven, OK? So now, they end up at a city called Philippi. Philippi is unique because it will later get a whole book of the Bible, called Philippians. And if this message touches you in any way, it would not be a terrible idea for you to dip your toe in Philippians this week. And I bet you would be blessed. Because whatever is on this message is all up in the book of Philippians. But Paul, as we begin, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you the whole sermon outline at the beginning. And then you'll know where we're at in the message.
So here, you can take a picture of it. Here's all 6 points we're going to be going through in this message. It starts with the confrontation. And then it ends up with a persecution. And then it goes from there into a season where Paul is faced with a difficult decision. And then after that, there's a reaction to the difficult decision. And then, at the very end of the message, there's going to be an amazing conversation that could never have happened had it not been for the first steps that we went through, the first 4 things. OK? So there's the whole sermon. You got it. There's the whole message. All right. So that's the message in a nutshell. But let's start at the beginning, because where else to begin? The confrontation, verse 16 of Acts 16, "Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, 'These men are the servants of the most high God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.' And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, 'I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.' And he", the demon, "came out that very hour".
So a salvation just took place. Lydia's saved. And they're cruising along. Lydia is like, hey, new church, you want to come meet in my house? And that's what's happening. So things are going pretty good in Philippi. European salvation is flowing like wine. And what happens? Whatever God builds, Satan opposes, so wherever there's dynamic breakthrough, there's going to be demonic backlash. That's what's happening. Lydia's saved. And she's telling all her friends about it, and getting ready to go back to the Thyatira, where she's from, and bring the gospel with her. So the devil, the enemy, bang. The slave girl starts, everywhere Paul goes. Now, we don't know exactly what the deal was. But the spirit of divination is actually more interesting than that. Because in the original Greek, it's the spirit of Python. And there was actually a certain form of Greek worship, and Roman worship, that involved a special serpent god, as they called him, that was a part of the worship of the god Apollo. And it was represented, always, by a snake.
So there was some worship that involved a snake that this girl, perhaps, had opened herself up to. And thinking it was this amazing god, the god of Apollo, represented in this spirit of Python, it was actually a demon slithering into her life through the little bit of a door she opened up. And eventually, she became overcome by darkness. And so now, here she is, able somehow to use that satanic power to be a living 1-900 number for her masters. And so there's some fortunetelling racket. They don't care about her. They just want the money they can make from her. They don't care how dark and how scary her life is. She follows Paul around. And she's just annoying the heck out of him. And I love that Paul is human enough to get annoyed. Everywhere I go trying to preach, this Python girl is. And so the text says he finally, one day, greatly annoyed, he turned and cast, it's the only miracle in the Bible conclusively caused by someone just being annoyed, which makes me feel like I'm in good company.
This is a thing. Good can come out of you being annoyed. Good can come out of me being annoyed. And I think it's worth asking the question, when we feel annoyed, what does God want to do in this situation? What is God opening up here in this moment? God can speak through a lot of things, even you just really being irritated. So this confrontation takes place. Paul casts the demon out of this little girl. So that leads, then, to a persecution. Why? Because if you take the source of these people's money away, they're not happy anymore. So they're mad. So they're going to make up these lies about Paul and Silas and persecute them, only because they're irritated. So they're going to make a big complaint. But the actual complaint has nothing to do with what they're really mad about.
And remember that when someone's mad. When someone's clamoring, what's happening up here? Don't get distracted by what's up here. There's always a thing under the thing. There's always something that's caused there to be that motivation. When they're angry at the church, or angry at you, or angry at this, it's not really this here that's the thing. Usually, what's coming out of someone's mouth has very little to do with what is actually driving the behavior. Verse 19, "But when her masters saw their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, 'These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs, which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.' Then the multitudes rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid", how many, "many stripes on them", Just let that sink in.
You're reading the Bible. Imagine, in public, having your clothes torn off you and being beaten black and blue with rods. "And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into the prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks". I've been to Philippi. And I've seen this prison with my own eyes. And I could just imagine these bloodied men who've been lied about. They did not teach anything contrary to Roman custom. Paul's more Roman than these people even know. Read the rest of the chapter and you'll see that. And it has been speculated that Paul, who does, at the end, reveal he's a citizen, making this beating illegal, could have, at any moment, said something and made this all stop, but did not, probably because he knew how badly the new fledgling church would be treated if he got out of jail free. They would crack. So there has to be a fall guy. There has to be a scapegoat. So now, the new Christians would have the swift retribution upon them.
So Paul takes it upon himself here. You know, he could have made this all stop, out of love and compassion for others, and lets it proceed, becoming a picture of Jesus the suffering servant, who opened not His mouth, though at any moment, he could have called for 12 legions of angels to make it all stop. And that is the price of leadership at times, it's taking it on the chin and knowing you could speak up to clear the record. But what good is that going to do? At times, remember the thing they're saying isn't even the thing. So you proving that it's not a true thing isn't actually going to deal with the thing under the thing. And so, just being willing to just be silent and keep going and doing what God's called you to do, I don't know who that was for, but that was for somebody. Their feet were spread out wide. And they're now going to spend a night, imagine, with your feet stretched out as a form of torture, in a position like the splits, with your arms chained. Now, your back's bent. You can't actually help yourself out. You're bent over. Your legs are spread out and chained in that orientation. And you're in a cold jail. It's literally a hole in the ground.
This prison, it was all dug out of the earth in Philippi when you go and see it. So they are in a pit below ground, subterranean, bleeding, no medical treatment, that doesn't come until later in the chapter, spoiler alert. And that is when Paul and Silas make the impossible decision, to give God a sacrifice of praise. Verse 25, "But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them," I bet they were. There's a very famous prison in New York that has been notoriously, like Alcatraz, linked with the brutal treatment of its occupants. It's called Sing Sing. And turns out, there's one in Philippi, too. Because here in jail, here in torture, here in pain, here with every nerve ending sending the signal to their brain that following God has not been a wise decision, has not been a good decision, we were just trying to help this girl. We were just trying to do good. We were just trying to serve God. And this is the thanks I get.
And instead, they chose, there in that agony, to begin to worship, God, blessed be the name of the Lord, and praying, and singing. And Paul says to Silas, wave maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness, Paul says, that is who you are. They're singing and worshiping. Holy, holy, holy. Blessed be the name of the Lord, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. They're honoring Jesus. How good is God. How great is our God. It's not for show. It's not for attention. They're just thanking God that, in this moment, He's still good. He's still on the throne. He is still sovereign and ruling the universe. And so, they're choosing to pledge their allegiance to the Lamb who's been slain, and who rose, who ascended, who filled us with His spirit; who has promised us a seat at His table in Heaven.
They're choosing to rejoice, which presents us with the challenging notion that, even when things are out of control, you can still choose joy. You can still choose to worship, even when it hurts like hell. And so, we come to the fourth movement of the sermon of five. The reaction to the worship service that just took place at Sing Sing, up in here, you better believe there's a reaction to the people around you when you're choosing joy and choosing worship. Would you be the slightest bit irritated if Paul was grumbling? I'd give him that. I'd give him a few choice 4-letter words, y'all. You're good. So oozing from his back, how dare you not worship God, who's good all the time, brother? God is good. I'm fine if Paul just goes to sleep. But this reaction? And that's precisely what took place. We already read it. The other prisoners listened. The Greek is stronger. It connotates "listened with pleasure". It connotates "listened with curiosity". It brings in the suggestion that they listened with serious interest. But that wasn't the only reaction.
Verse 26, God apparently was paying attention, too, and reacted. "For 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 chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awakening from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing that the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, 'God says to you, if you intend to harm yourself, do yourself no harm, for we are all here.'" Prisoners heard with delight. God answered with a demonstration of power. The warden's response to a miracle, the warden's response to God moving in power, was to despair, and to begin to take a series of steps that would move towards him dying at his own hands, finding his sword, preparing himself.
Now, the context helps you understand why. If a Roman guard had any prisoner under their charge escape, death sentence was what would happen next. So this man assumes they've all left. He comes out here, hears a noise, comes out, doors are open, it's all dark in there, in this hole, looks into the pit, and the door's open. So of course they're all gone. Of course every prisoner has left. But not only did Paul and Silas not leave, but none of the other prisoners did, either. Whatever our fate is going to be, it's going to be linked with these two who can worship in the midst of these shenanigans. Interesting to me that the man's decision to end his life was based on the word "supposing". Supposing they were gone, he was going to take his life. That's the word. Another translation says, "assuming that they were gone". May I be so bold as to suggest that anybody in here who would ever make plans to take your own life, you would be doing so based on incorrect information? It would be based on an assumption.
And the assumption is, there's no point in living tomorrow. I'm dead either way. There's no point in going on. But he looked into a dark place and saw only what his eyes could see, and could not see the reality was that every single prisoner was still there. That is what he would see when the lights were turned on. And I submit to you that, if you feel like it's only darkness and only gloom and there's no point living on, you are acting on incorrect information. And given the proper amount of time, the lights coming on will show you that what you supposed to be there and what is actually there are indeed two different things. He would be taking his life based on a lie. And so it always is, for the enemy is a father of lies, a murderer from the beginning, and only knows how to speak a lie because that is who he is. That is what the enemy does.
So he tells lies, oftentimes lies aided by drugs and alcohol that, like the spirit of Python, further serve to get the foot in the door so he can open it more fully. Just as we call the spirit of God the Holy Spirit, so alcohol is correctly labeled in grocery stores and liquor stores as a spirit. In coming under control of the spirit that comes from the bottle, it is all the more easier to believe the fog of the lies that the enemy whispers around you. And there are many lies he tells. But let me clear up one that, oftentimes, I've heard it from many people who are struggling with these kind of thoughts and this kind of a fog the enemy tells. And the enemy tells, if you take this action, it will get rid of your pain. And the pain you're in that's too much for you to bear, I can't go on. I'm going to die in the morning. Surely, like the guard thought, this will make the pain go away.
And as my friend Louie Giglio puts it, and this will be hard to hear, let me tell you in that moment what truth you need to speak to yourself. Taking your life will not make the pain go away. It will multiply it and then transfer it onto every single person who loves you. So you will leave, but the pain will stay and be bigger than ever. So let me suggest to you that, like the prisoners who were still there, even though he thought they were not, that the lie that you believe, this pain going away, will not go away. It will be multiplied, exaggerated, and left to be on the shoulders of those who you love. A far better option than you foolishly and naively taking an action that will cause the pain to go away, the pain doesn't need to go away. The pain needs to be converted to power. And that is what God can do. He can, right in the midst of your pain, turn and convert it into power. It's what He does. It's what He did to the cross. It's what He does to every person who follows Him who submits their pain to His lordship.
So you don't need to harm yourself or make yourself bleed. Jesus Christ bled out all His blood on the cross for you. And that was converted into energy, into power, through His Spirit, through Him not forsaking the mission God calls Him to, but embracing it. And if you embrace the mission, that life that Jesus found worth dying for to save and give you, you can experience that pain turned into your power. There's an assignment in your pit, if you worship even when it hurts like hell. And fifthly, because of all of this, there got to be an amazing conversation. You see it happening in verse 29, when Paul said, don't kill yourself. We're all here, bro. He called for a light. When the light was turned on, he saw things differently. "When the illumination was turned on, now he could see the lies from the truth. They were all there. And he ran and fell down, trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'", words that, whether you can see them or not, I see written on every pulpit I stand behind.
Charles Spurgeon used to actually engrave it on his pulpits because he always wanted to remember those he was speaking to, whether they knew it or not. That's what they needed to hear the answer to. That's why we fought for this to be a church where, regardless of whatever else we're doing, the focus is always on people knowing that, if you feel stranded in sin, there is life and liberty in Jesus Christ. Whether you know it or not, your whole life, you've been asking, sirs, what must I do to be saved? And Paul, notice, didn't say anything about you doing this, and doing that, and keeping these Ten Commandments, and try and straighten your life up a little bit. Paul just said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household". That's what you got to do. You've got to believe on the One who did it all for you. You can't save yourself. You can't change yourself. You can't heal yourself. But Jesus Christ can. And He will if you put your faith in Him. And I hope and pray that, if you haven't yet today, you will. Say:
Jesus, You are bread. You are water. You are what can save and satisfy. And I depend on You. I cast myself on Your mercy.
And the story goes on. You can read it. And you will, if you are with us on this journey of hope, these 35 days. If you haven't yet, you can download it on our website, or get the Fresh Life Church plan on the YouVersion Bible app and go through the Scriptures. But you'll see this man, once he's saved, then he begins to grow and wants to get baptized; wants his family to know; wants the gospel to be preached to his friends; wants to bring a friend to church next Sunday; wanted to post about the message that encouraged him; to link to it on Twitter; got something up on his Instagram story, I'm in church. You could be, too, never knowing who might be watching that could have their entire world rocked. Because remember, the enemy doesn't mind once you're saved, as long as you stay selfish in your salvation. If he can't keep you from going to Heaven, he'll try and keep you from living for Heaven. And then you'll wake up in eternity and think to yourself, what could my life have been had I given it for the glory of God and not lived for my own self? How was I so shallow in how I approached my life as a Jesus person?
This conversation, Paul then began to see, was the purpose for him going into this pit. There was an assignment. There was a purpose. There was a plan all along. He got put in chains so this prison keeper could be set free. Paul didn't mind the rods, though they hurt, of course. He knew there was a plan. He knew that his worshiping would activate that. Because whenever we worship, things that are locked up become free, not just in our own lives, in the people around us and the people that we're connected to. I'm telling you, the way that you worship when it hurts like hell, it can be a part of God bringing collateral blessing. I know we talk about collateral damage. But what about collateral blessing? What about, if I will worship Him, what can it do for my children? If I could worship God, what could it do for my grandchildren? I'm telling you, what generational curses could be broken? What new legacies could be started? I'm telling you, what could God do in Kalispell? What could God do in Montana, and in Wyoming, and in Utah, and in Oregon? What could God do as we continue to go to new cities and new places in the youth of our culture? Could there not be revival? Am I not worshiping, even though it hurts me like hell, so that God could bring freedom to you? Can we not have a bigger vision?
There's an assignment in every trial. Don't walk away from God because it hurts. There's a reason He allowed it. And there's something He's doing. There's something He's preparing. What I'm really trying to get you to see is that worship that hurts like hell feels like Heaven. And now, God's healing begins to be unleashed inside of you, strongholds broken, chains falling. The biggest miracles oftentimes come from the most difficult places. And the more your worship costs you, the more powerful it becomes as it's unleashed through you. So what do we do? How do we live this out this week in the nitty gritty of our lives? 3 things, I've preached them for years. I'll preach them again. This is their takeaway truths. We don't rely on the naked eye. All you can see is your prison right now. All you can see is the dark cell right now. All you can see is about how you're not getting recognized right now. You've gotten passed over right now. And other people are getting the credit that you deserve right now.
Don't rely on the naked eye. Look through your trial. Look through your situation. There's a reason. There's a purpose. I'm going to look up in my pit. I'm going to believe that God saw this coming, that He is up to something. And secondarily, I'm going to train for the trial I'm not yet in. If today, you're in a time of blessing, if today you're in a time of prosperity, with all due respect, hard times are coming. And these things will not call ahead. And when the trial comes, when the difficult day comes, what will you have in the tank? What will you have stored up? How will your muscle memory be honed at worship and honoring God? I'll have you notice, it's pretty dope that Paul's worshiping in a prison. How do you get the faith to worship when your back's bloody? How do you get the faith to worship when your life falls apart? How do you get the faith when it's all crumbling around you?
I submit to you, we must look further back, to verse 13. This is where it all begins. It's Sabbath day. So what does Paul do? He goes to the riverside to pray and to worship and honor God. The hymns were saying, on a beautiful day by a river. It was the day of gathering together as the church. So what is he doing? Gathering together with some believers. He's singing songs and honoring God. Then we see, in verse 16, this is where we began. This is the first verse I read to you. "Now it happened, as we went to prayer", Lydia just got saved. The church just got started. Paul doesn't have any great need. Everything's looking pretty good in his life right now. Dope, I'm in Europe. Never thought I'd get here. This is amazing. People from Asia are getting saved in Europe. What is he going to do? We need to pray. We need to honor God. We need to worship. But Paul, you're not in some crisis. You don't need a prayer.
Paul said, hard times are coming. And if you'll do today what others won't, you'll be able to do tomorrow what others can't. And if you want to worship God when your life is on fire, the secret is you worship God when your life is not on fire. And I look back to every time I gave my family's tithe; every time we worshipped and honored God on the Lord's day and came together the first day of the week to honor God; every quiet time when every nerve ending wasn't on fire with pain; when it wasn't grief; when it wasn't catastrophic, this is how we do, this is how we do, this is what we do. We are God's people. We honor God, good times and bad times. And then the hardest time comes. And what are you? You're ready. The falling to your knees becomes instant. You don't have to even think about it. Jesus, we call on You. We need You. We trust You. We love You. You see what I'm saying? You're storing your heart in God's hands. And it's less on this Earth.
So when this Earth starts shaking, you can't touch your heart. Your heart's not here. It's there. Your heart's already where your citizenship is. And then, third and finally, we're done here, church. You let God use your pain. Don't suffer selfishly. Don't only think, was this me? I'm barely hanging on here. Instantly, automatically, initially, just begin to assume there was a purpose. Assume it's an assignment. This has all gone to crap. Who can I show this comfort to? And I'm going to show you something. This is kind of selfish. I know I said don't suffer selfishly. By thanking others, you are tapping into one of the only mechanisms by which you can receive the comfort you want. It's through giving it. We receive in God's upside-down kingdom not by taking, but by giving.
So I've always read 2 Corinthians 1:2 and 3 and thought about, well, if God gives me comfort, one day I'm going to find someone who's hurting to give that comfort to. Because "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted". So I always thought you just kind of sit there and you grieve like, OK, God. Eventually, You're going to comfort me. I'll heal somewhat. And then when I have some comfort, I'll give that comfort out. But that's not how it works in God's Kingdom. What miracle did He ever do like that? You have to give something. And then God, in His hands, multiplies it, and blesses it, and breaks it, and divides it. And all of a sudden, it feeds this multitude.
So I'm just telling you, if you're hurting today, to say, well, one day when I feel comforted, then I'll begin to get on a team. And then I'll begin to serve. And then I'll look out for opportunities to touch. That's not ever a way to tap into that comfort. But even when it hurts like hell to worship and honor God and say, God, You put someone in front of me. There's got to be a purpose. It's got to be something. I know I'm bleeding right now, but what about that person who's worse off than I am? That guy's about to take his life. I'm only physically hurting. He is eternally separated from You does not know You. So compassion begins to, I'm telling you, when you begin to serve in the midst of your fiery crisis, that's how you receive comfort. That's how comfort is multiplied.
I'm preaching this sermon with my friend, Craig Smith, in my heart. He's a pastor in Vail, Colorado. I met his wife, Lenée, just a couple of months ago, at the end of June. Their 20-year-old daughter was taken from them by Jesus to be with Him in Heaven, Addison, in a car accident as the family was returning from their vacation to Lake Powell. And I've been talking with Craig some. I'm inspired by their journey. And Jennie and I have had the chance to get on FaceTime with him and Lenée as they were navigating, how do we go back to preaching? Because the last time we were ever in our church, she was there. Addison was there, home from college. And now, she's with Jesus in Heaven.
And the trauma and the shock of how it all happened, being there when the car accident took place, we were texting some on the 19th of September when he got up to preach for the first time. And he texted me and told me that, 5 minutes before the sermon, he was in his office in a heap, crying, not knowing if he could get up in front of his church and serve. But when he did get up and begin to serve and begin to minister, the healing began to flow. The power began to flow. Him and his church community began to tap into what we discovered, what we walked through when you were so generous and gracious as a church with Jennie and I in our hardest moments. And as he began to give in the midst of needing comfort himself, God gave. And He is, and we continue to pray and believe, for God to continue to use Addison's life. And they talked about her Bible, when they found it, just full of markings, full of underlinings, this 20-year-old girl with such a heart for Jesus in the kingdom, whose legacy God will continue to unleash on this Earth.
My point is, in all of this, the devil is not scared of a faith that honors God only on good days; only in pandemic-free years; only in undivided times, as though those exist this side of Heaven. But the devil is terrified of the kind of faith that can stare at the storm, and sit in the pit, and be surrounded by a hospital waiting room; by headstones; by the unemployment line; by debilitating pain or a wheelchair; and say, do your worst, because my King is good. And I will lift my eyes and look up. That faith is unshakable. That faith is unstoppable. That faith is the kind of faith that rejoices, knowing that God is good and up to something. And when you worship, you see that God is still on His throne. And when you worship and see that He's on His throne and not pacing, and not frantic, and not chewing His nails, then you don't need to, either.
And so, Father, we pray, believing for what You're doing here in this moment through Your Spirit, to be both significant, eternal, and forever.
If, as we're praying, you would just say, there's some hurt in my heart. And I need God's help to process it properly. I want to look up, but I don't even know how to begin. Can you just acknowledge that to God by raising up a hand, every location, church, online, surrendering that pain afresh to Him, letting Him release, anointing through crushing, as He does so well.
Thank You, Father, for Your healing. Thank You, Father, for Your touch. We choose to say, like Job, You do all things well. So as You give, as You take, blessed be the name of the Lord.