Steven Furtick — Good Morning Midnight
Please give your attention to Acts, chapter 16. I want to use a familiar passage of Scripture, but we're going to have some fun with it. It's familiar if you take it at face value, but I think this passage of Scripture is perfect and precise for what God wants to speak into our lives in this new year. I pray that you will consider carefully what God is saying tonight. Would you put your attention on verse 22?
The Bible says, "The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas..". The proof of the power and the presence of God is not the absence of attack but the ability of the believer to withstand it. Just because God is for you doesn't mean you won't have anything come against you. In fact, it almost guarantees that you will. The greater the calling, the greater the conflict. The greater the anointing, the greater the attack. There should be no surprise to any of us that the crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, because the proof of the power and the presence of God is not the absence of attack but the ability of the believer to stand up under it.
"...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..". "This ought to be easy. Just two guys, two little preachers, two little missionaries". "...he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks". I don't know how much of this I should read, because I don't know how long I have to preach. Wait, I forgot to ask you. What time am I supposed to finish tonight? What time? Oh. Verse 25: "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..".
Do you feel something shaking in the foundations tonight? "...the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone's chains came loose". About midnight. I want to talk for the remainder of this year about midnight. I want to talk about midnight until about midnight. I want to give you a title for this message. It's really not a title. It's more of a greeting. It's a declaration, and I want you to shout it after me. Repeat it after me at every location. Somebody shout, "Good morning, midnight"! Let's do it again. Let's practice, because we don't have long. It's going to be here in a minute, so let's get warmed up. Ready? Shout, "Good morning, midnight"!
Father, I thank you for the Word you've given me to preach and the way you gave me to preach it. I pray that I would be able to relax into the anointing you've placed on my life so that I can impart the spirit of faith to people so they can enter into this year knowing that if you're for them, who can be against them? I thank you that nothing can come against the people of God that you will not give us the ability to overpower. I thank you for your faithfulness, your provision, and your purpose in our lives. Bring your Word to pass in our midst. In Jesus' name, amen.
The expectation of change is in the air. You can feel it. It's interesting how as you mature in life your expectations of change change. Personally, I think New Year's Eve is the most under appreciated holiday we've chosen to put on our calendars. Overshadowed by Christmas and typically drowned in alcohol, New Year's Eve sometimes slips right by. Our good intentions have taught us not to trust it. Well, I personally think this midnight is different. I want you to just go with me for a minute and tell the person next to you... You're going to have to talk to them a lot tonight while I'm up here, so just look at them and say, "This midnight is different".
As you mature in life, your expectation of change changes. The way you experience things changes, even the way you experience midnight. The reason I started doing a New Year's Eve service is so I could stay up. I'm serious. Holly and I were drinking some sparkling grape juice, kissing in the new year, half asleep. I said, "Babe, I like being with you. I like kissing you, but we're getting to that age where it's hard to stay up until midnight. I think we should have church so you and I can bring in the new year with people. That's kind of my thing is helping people get across. I think it would be cool if we did a thing where we brought in the new year. Churches do it all the time". Sometimes what seems new is really traditional. So we started doing this.
When I was a little boy I had no trouble staying up until midnight, and my mom can tell you. In fact, I remember when I was about Graham's age (so maybe around 8 or 9) I wanted one thing for my birthday. I wanted my parents to let me stay up until midnight, because I thought it would be so cool to watch the clock change. Now you don't get this on your iPhone, but on the digital clock there was a.m./p.m. with a little dot in the corner of the clock. In my 8-year-old mind I thought it would be the most amazing thing if I could watch the dot that said "p.m". go away, just watch it disappear. I wanted it so badly.
Might I tell you that my parents gave me my wish, and it was the most anticlimactic moment of my childhood? I don't know what I thought was going to happen. I don't know what my expectation was, but it didn't happen. I don't know how I thought it would enhance my life to watch the dot go away, but whatever it was I expected and hoped would happen did not happen. The dot went away, and that was that. I wonder sometimes is coming to church and hearing a word from God kind of like that? Here's what I mean. The expectation is that when the Word of God goes forth and hits your heart in a certain way, everything changes, but as you live a little bit and you've brought in a few new years... You've kissed them in and hugged them in.
Maybe you've even had some years that you flipped off on the way into your next one because of the pain they brought into your life and because the progress you expected didn't come to pass. You get to a point where you stop expecting so much change, because you find out that no matter what the calendar says, you're stuck with your character. The same dysfunctions that caused you to fall short of the things you said you would do last time the clock struck midnight are still buried deep in your soul. Watching the dot disappear off the clock or the date on the calendar change doesn't change what you carry on the inside of you. It's kind of disappointing.
When we read a Scripture where it says, "Suddenly," like we just read, that the prison doors flew open and the chains fell off, it awakens within us this childhood expectation. "Hey, maybe this could be the moment that things really change for me. Maybe this is my year. Maybe this year I will get a ring. Maybe this year I will get a raise. Maybe this year I will stop being so mean to everybody, get my temper under control, get my attitude in check. Maybe this will be the moment". I don't think we so much expect that everything is going to change in a moment, because we're much too mature for that. We've lived through too much, and we know things don't change in a moment; they happen gradually.
I think what we come to church for is so we can get a sense of momentum. Although we know nothing changes when the dot disappears or the calendar flips to another page, although we know that just making it to January in and of itself won't make us more like Jesus, maybe if we hit this one running... Momentum can change things. That's what the Ohio State Buckeyes were praying for that they never got tonight. They wanted a shift in momentum. Praise the Lord. And they didn't get it. Momentum can shift quickly in your life. Have you noticed? You can be doing really well at something, an exercise plan, and then your ankle, that bad ankle you have, twists and folds up under you.
Not even while you're exercising, just while you're going to the car. Just the most simple activities. All of a sudden you lose momentum. When you lose momentum, the change you initiated seems impossible to complete. We came not just to watch the dot disappear off the clock, but we came hoping this night would be a shift in momentum, where we get the strength to push back against everything that has held us, which brings me to Paul and Silas, who had great ministry momentum. They were seeing things start to shift. Paul was called to the Gentiles. You really don't get the full scope of it just reading that little part of the passage I read to you, but trust me. Paul had some serious ministry momentum. The council at Antioch has just agreed to send Paul and Silas out on a missionary journey, the second missionary journey for Paul. He gets to go 1,400 miles, because he saw a vision. Well, he went to the place where God was calling him, which is the region of Macedonia, and he even has a helper.
Sometimes when you pray a prayer, God will send you the answer in the form of a person. Paul now not only has Silas, but he has this young cat named Timothy. Timothy is under his tutelage and his training to help him in the process of transforming or changing the world and bringing the Gentile people into the good news of Jesus Christ. Timothy was committed. We know he was committed, because Paul had to circumcise him in order not to offend the Jews, and Timothy went along with it. How many staff members do you think I would have if they had to be circumcised as grown men to be on staff? Timothy was committed.
So now Paul has a commission from the council at Antioch, and he has a partner, a comrade, to help him take the gospel forward, and he has momentum. He's preaching and doing well. He comes to this town called Philippi. You might have heard of it. There's a book in the Bible called Philippians. It's called the happiest book in the Bible. Paul wrote that book 10 years after this moment, 10 years after he was going to the place of prayer and they couldn't find a quorum of 10 men, which they needed to have a Jewish synagogue meeting officially, but they found a woman.
God doesn't need to meet your rules in order to move. This woman named Lydia was there, and she was a dealer in purple cloth. She believed in God, but she didn't know about Jesus yet. Paul said, "Isn't that crazy? God set this meeting up. Here you are, and here I am, and what I know is what you need". That one woman started the church in Philippi in her house. It was exciting for Paul, because now the gospel had made its way into Europe. It previously had been confined to Asia. So the momentum of the gospel is growing. Right about the time the momentum starts growing, there comes midnight. It didn't start at midnight. Paul was going along preaching, and he's making progress, and he has great momentum. There was this woman who used to follow him around, and she would contradict everything he said. In fact, she would mock him. He would be trying to preach and trying to move forward. He'd be trying to accomplish the mission, and this woman would start contradicting.
I wonder if you have something that follows you around. It might not be a person. It might be an internal voice. Paul got so sick of it one day he turned around, rebuked her in the name of Jesus, and she lost her ability to produce income for her masters. When the economy of Philippi was threatened by the mission Paul represented, they put Paul and Silas in prison, but not before beating them. I read you that passage up front because I don't know what kind of year you had. Hopefully, when I was reading that Paul was beaten and bruised with rods and sticks and thrown in prison and his feet shackled to the ground, what was going through your mind was, "Maybe my year hasn't been so bad after all". I mean, here they are serving God with great momentum, and here comes the counterattack.
The Bible says, "About midnight Paul and Silas..". You have to imagine this. Not only is it dark, because the thing midnight represents is darkness, and the thing darkness represents is confusion. Have you ever been in a confused place where the best you know how you're doing what you think God wants you to do, but you can't get any clarity on the situation? That's midnight. Have you ever been raising your children the best you can, but all the lessons you've tried to teach them they're not listening to because they have some new friends? That's midnight. Have you ever been in a situation where you were surrounded by people but lonely? You laugh while everyone is around, but when you get by yourself you wonder, "Will anybody ever love me for me? It's not the real me they love. It's the image I present". That's midnight. When you're stuck in a place of frustration and nothing seems to change...
Forget about the fact that they're in prison. They're in prison at midnight. It's dark in there. It gets dark sometimes. Not in here. In here we have the light. We have glow sticks around our necks in here. But here's Paul, and he's already uncomfortable. Again, your view of things changes as you mature. When I was about 8 or 9, midnight was not only exciting but it was also scary. I think everything gets amplified in the middle of the night. My mom used to say to me, "Go back to sleep". I'd say, "But, Mom, I'm hearing things". She said, "Those are nighttime noises. That's the refrigerator running. That is not a monster". But at midnight everything sounds different. At midnight your thoughts sound different.
What didn't bother you in the daytime... You could drown it out with activity. At midnight, especially if you've been beaten on your back, and you roll over to your side, but they hit you there, and you can't find any place to get comfortable, because it's just you and your thoughts... You're already in a strange place, and you've already been through a beating, and now it's dark in a place you don't recognize. It wouldn't be so bad if you had been there before, but for Paul, this is a new city, a new place, a new trial. He has been through things before, but now he's in prison at midnight tossing and turning. He can't sleep, so he starts singing. Not just any songs, not the stuff off the radio, not just the catchy tunes. He's not in a position to juju on that beat, but he knows some hymns. He starts singing hymns and praying at midnight.
Here's my question. How did he do it? How did he sing a hymn at midnight? Remember, the lights are out and it's dark. How did he sing at midnight? How do you make it through midnight? What makes this midnight different? The Lord told me to tell you, "Memorize". That's number one. There are three. They all start with the letter M. You're welcome. My name is Steven Furtick. It is an honor to serve you. Put it down. Memorize. "I don't need to take notes". Yes, you do. You never remember what I say. Five minutes after you leave here, you will forget it if you don't write it down. How did he sing a hymn in the dark with no hymnbook available, with no lyrics on the screen, with no worship leader, with no comfortable position to lie in, with no certainty of what the outcome would be of this trial? He had it memorized. That's the only way you can sing at midnight. If you memorize the melody in the light of day, you'll have it in your heart when midnight comes. He had it in his heart.
What I wanted to challenge you to do with this year we're leaving... We're going into a new year, but be very careful that you remember it right. Your memory is a mess. You know that. I know this about my children, because they'll remember stuff. They'll forget stuff. It's the craziest thing. I thank God for my father-in-law. We went to go see them for Christmas, and my kids started telling stories. Here's how the topic was going. They were telling, "What is the maddest you've ever seen your dad"? Nice little Christmas conversation. Holly told her story, and her dad is sitting there. Something about scratching the car. I was half paying attention, and here come Elijah and Graham, and now they have a story to tell. "Oh, I remember the maddest I ever saw my dad. I don't even have to think about it. It's not even close".
They start telling this stupid story about one time when I took them on vacation and something happened and I lost something that was valuable to me. I may have gotten a little bit excessively upset about the item, and I may have hit the wall, but it wasn't our house; it was a rental. They have vivid memories. "Oh yeah, and then he hit the wall, then he said this, and then Mommy said, 'Come on, kids. Let's go outside.'" They had the whole thing memorized. My father-in-law said to Elijah, "Hey, come here, son. Sit on my lap. Let me tell you what I remember". He said, "Elijah, I remember when you were a little baby less than a week old. Your grandmother and I came up to help out and be there for you. We decided to go for a walk, because you cried all the time". Remember? No, you don't remember that. You remember me yelling, but you crying... Elijah is 11 now. He doesn't remember this. My father-in-law said, "We were walking, and we got a little bit away from the house down the street, and some bugs came out. Your dad grabbed you out of the stroller, tucked you under his arm like you were a football, and ran back to the house before we could figure out what happened. That's what I remember".
Then he said, "I remember when you prayed and asked Jesus to come into your heart. Your dad had come home from a preaching trip, and he was tired, but he was so excited that you asked Jesus in your heart that he made a deal with you that y'all could stay up all night playing video games". I'm sitting there nodding. If I would have had a B3 organ I would have backed him up. "And you stayed up until 3:00 in the morning, in the middle of the night, playing video games, because your dad wanted you to have a positive association with Jesus. He thought video games were the best way, at that stage of your development, to lock it in and put it in your memory. That's what I remember".
I'm just pointing out that maybe you need to re-remember this year before you leave it. When you re-remember you think, "You know what? I did go through a valley, but I didn't die there. I did have some people leave me, but God stood by my side. I remember". I was thinking how weird it would be if I was preaching... Just imagine this. Paul and Silas are in prison. It's midnight, and it's completely dark. Imagine if I was just preaching (this would never happen at Elevation Church), and all of the lights went out in all of the buildings at all of the campuses at Elevation Church while I was preaching. Wouldn't that be the craziest thing? Your stupid glow sticks are messing up my illustration. If the lights went out while I was preaching, some of y'all might get nervous. "Pastor Steven can't finish his message, because how can he see his notes"? You don't have to worry about me finishing my message, because I don't need to see my notes, because I've got it memorized. It's in my heart. I don't have to see it with my eyes. I've got it memorized.
Sometimes in the middle of the night, if I have one too many diet Cokes during the day, I might have to get up at midnight and go to the bathroom, but it's not a problem in my house. I don't trip over stuff in my house, because I have the path memorized. I don't have to see my way to the bathroom from the bed. I've got it memorized. You know what? I don't always have to see God's goodness in my life to believe God's goodness in my life. I've got it memorized. That's how I can praise him in the dark. That's how I can worship him at midnight. I've got it memorized. I have a lot of Scriptures. I have, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..". Some of y'all need to forget your failure, forget your frustration, and remember his benefits. Forget the burden and remember the blessing. "...who forgives all your sins..".
Is anybody forgiven in the dark tonight? You did some things you're not proud of, but you're still here by the grace of God. "...who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion". I don't have to feel hope to have hope. I have hope in my heart. I know it by heart. They started singing hymns because they knew them by heart. If you don't practice it during the daytime, you won't have a praise at midnight, but if you've been practicing this year... You know what? I was thinking about my grandmother. Mom, do you remember when we would go see her? Her Alzheimer's was so bad at this point she could not remember who you were, who she was, but if you started singing... She was a minister's wife. If you started singing in the nursing home... She would be looking out into the blankness of the day. All of the light had left her eyes.
It was midnight in her mind, but if you sang, "Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father," you'd hear her little voice. It was really thin and trembly, but she'd sing... There is no shadow of turning with thee All I have needed thy hand hath provided Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me Great is thy faithfulness... I wonder, can you sing in the dark? Great is thy faithfulness Morning by morning new mercies I see All I have needed thy hand hath provided Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me. Sing it like you know it. I wish you would stand up and sing in the dark, because sometimes you have to sing it at midnight when you can't see his hand, when you can't see his plan. Morning by morning new mercies I see All I have needed thy hand hath provided, Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness! Come on, praise him at midnight!
When I can't feel he's faithful, I know he's faithful. Praise him till the sun comes up! Praise him till the situation changes! Praise him till the lights come on! Praise him! Do you have a praise in your heart at midnight? Jeremiah had it right. He said, "This I recall to my mind; therefore I have hope. It is because of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed. His compassions fail not. They are new every morning". But while I'm waiting for the morning... You've been memorizing all the wrong stuff. You've been memorizing all of the things that went wrong. That's why you're miserable: because of your memory. If you would start recalling to your mind all of the ways he has made, all of the promises he has kept, all of the things he has carried you through, all of the valleys he walked you out of... If you would remember, you would rejoice. If you would remember, you would open your mouth and praise God. I recall it to my mind. I call it. Master your memory. Don't let your memory master you.
Paul said, "I'm not chained to this floor; I'm chained to the faithfulness of God. He was faithful this morning, and he's faithful at midnight". If you gave me that electric guitar over there, I could play "Purple Haze" for you, and play it perfectly. Or "Stairway to Heaven". I could, I promise you. I'd tear it up. I'm not going to, but I could, because I have it memorized. In exercising they call it muscle memory. Just certain stupid things you remember in life too. How do I remember 670946927393? How do I remember that was the pin code to my calling card when I called you all summer when you were in Taiwan and I was in China? How do I remember 1-800-506-9511? I haven't used a prepaid calling card... If somebody takes that and uses it, it probably has 732 minutes on it. I haven't used that thing in years, but I remember it because of all those times I was calling my woman. My fingers automatically dialed it, because I wanted to talk to her.
When you really have a relationship with God, you don't even need to see it. You don't need the sheet music. You have it by heart. "I will bless the Lord at all times, and his praises shall continually be in my mouth". "If God is for me, who can be against me"? "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, nor this midnight hour shall be able..". I know it by heart. I'm not memorizing my pain this year. I want to get you in the right atmosphere tonight, because you're sitting there at Rock Hill, you're sitting there at Lake Norman, and you're going over and over and over again. I saw something on my phone. It was called a "memory movie". Did you know you can do that now? If you have an iPhone, you can go on and set all the memories you want and make a video out of it.
Well, I'm going to make a movie about this year, but I'm going to skip some scenes. It's not that they didn't happen. It's just that I'm not putting them on my plotline. It's my memory, and I've been remembering it wrong. That's why you keep messing up relationships. You only remember the one time they said that rude thing to you. They were nice to you 27,942 times. You remember the one. Manage your memory. Edit your movie. Paul had mastered his memory. Here's how I know. Not only did he sing the hymn at midnight, which indicates the fact that he knew God was going to deliver him, because maybe God had done it before. Maybe once you beat a lion and beat a bear, Goliath isn't so bad. Maybe it's not so scary to go through the Jordan when you've been across the Red Sea. Memorize, memorize, memorize.
Muscle memory. Did you know the same way you can develop muscle memory in the weight room you can develop miracle memory in your spiritual life? Paul 10 years later is writing to the Philippian church. Remember I told you he wrote a letter to the Philippians? He's writing to the church that was founded when he went to a woman named Lydia and ended up going to prison, yet when he goes to speak to them a decade later about what happened, what he has to say about it in his memory... He says, "I thank my God every time I remember you". Some of us if we were writing this would say, "Every time I remember you, I think of that night I spent when they beat my back". Paul said, "When I remember you, I remember the outcome, not the opposition". The way I respond has to do with the way I remember. "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers with you, I thank my God. I remember you with joy when I remember. I don't remember the pain. I remember the purpose". He doesn't even mention the prison, because by this time the purpose is so big that night in prison seems small. It's just one night. Memorize. They're singing.
I was talking to Eric this morning and I said, "Do you remember what happened when they sang praises to God"? He said, "Yeah, the prison doors opened and everyone's chains came off". I've preached that before. Any preacher can preach that. If you're trying to preach the Bible and you can't preach on this passage, you should definitely sharpen your other skills, get your résumé out there. He said, "Yeah, the prison doors flew open". Right. I asked him, "And then what"? He didn't know. He didn't remember. He remembers his fantasy football lineup, but he didn't remember. (That's my best friend. I'm just having a good time. We've been friends since high school.)
What I want to happen next in this story... I know I don't get to write the Bible. Luke is writing this. He's recording what happened under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It would be great to end the sermon on what happened at midnight. They praised him at midnight, the chains came loose, which represents freedom, the doors flew open, which represents escape, but what happens next? Well, I know what I'd do if I'm Paul. It's not hard. First you have to memorize, and then you have to mobilize. So I'm out. God answered my prayer. That's what the earthquake was for. There's the door open. Look. Isn't the Lord good? I'm out. How many of you are with me? You're out. But remember how you always had that one kid in your class who would raise their hand at the end of class? The teacher forgot to take up the homework assignment, but that one kid would raise his hand and say, "Miss Smith, are you going to take up our math homework? Because I totally did it, Miss Smith".
Watch this. (I love finding the church people who aren't used to having fun in church.) Paul is that kid. The doors fly open. "This is amazing. We're out. God is good. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Great is thy faithfulness"! But watch. Paul is that kid. Verse 27: "The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open he said, 'Oh crap!' and tried to kill himself". (He said it in Greek.) He thought the prisoners had escaped. Well, of course he did, because that's what you do. But apparently, Paul is better at preaching than he is at prison breaks. Paul messes up the whole thing.
What I want to see next... I either want Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne crawling through the sewer, coming out like this in the rain on TBS, or I want Paul with his chain... Maybe I've watched one too many Quentin Tarantino movies. (I shouldn't confess that on the stage.) I want to see some action. The doors are open. An earthquake... This is anticlimactic. I'm just warning you. We always preach about what happened at midnight, but the miracle isn't what happened at midnight; the miracle is what happened after midnight. It was what Paul had put in his heart before midnight that gave him the hymn to sing when midnight hit.
The way he went through the midnight is what gave him the credence and the validity to have a message to share. The way you go through your trials, the way you go through your dark seasons, the way you go through the confusing times and the crucible of the trial, the testing of your faith... Paul baffles me, because the doors fly open, and instead of running, Paul shouted. "Shut up, man". Look at what he shouted. "Don't harm yourself! We..". "Miss Smith". It's anticlimactic, right? Why were you singing and praying if you were just going to stand in the same place with the doors open? But maybe Paul had the kind of faith that doesn't only give you the way of escape. That's what a lot of us really want. When we talk about a new year, a new beginning, what we really want is a new situation. "I want out. God, get me out. Get me out of this debt". What if God wants to get in your budget? I'm trying to preach something helpful, because I don't want you to watch the dot disappear, go home, wake up with a headache, and think nothing happened.
No, it's not what happens at midnight. It's what happened after midnight when Paul said, "I know you were expecting me to get out, but I didn't come to Philippi to get out. I came to Philippi to get the gospel in. Paul wasn't trying to get out. He was trying to bring the Word of God in. I need somebody to shout before midnight hits in 2017. Bring it in! I'm not just trying to get out of a sad situation; I'm bringing in my joy. I'm not just trying to get out of a hard situation; I'm bringing in God's strength. Bring it in! "I'm bringing it in. I'm not getting out. I came to Philippi to preach, and now I have a captive audience. Don't kill yourself, Mr. Prison Guard. I know you were supposed to be guarding me, but what happens when the one who was a hostage becomes the host"? Paul turns around and says, "Don't worry about it. I have good news for you". Paul saw an opportunity. Paul didn't see an open prison door. He saw an open door for the gospel.
I want to declare over your life there is an open door of opportunity. Not so you can escape. "2016, get thee behind me". You're going the wrong way. We can never figure out what to call this thing. Every year I go, "Is it Praise Party 2016 or 2017"? I can't ever figure it out. You might be watching this later on TV. It might be 2019 by the time you're watching it. The Word of the Lord is not about my time. I can't figure it out. Which one is it? Is it midnight or is it morning? Memorize, mobilize, maximize. And I'm done.
Before I finish this sermon, I need to finish that story. I just remembered something. When the dot disappeared, it was so anticlimactic. The dot disappeared. It went from p.m. to a.m. It was what I'd always wanted for my eight years on earth. I got it, and it just came and went. Just like church tonight will come and go. This whole sermon tonight is going to come and go. You won't even remember what you were shouting about a minute ago. That's how it is. After midnight, mobilize, memorize. My mom looked at me, and when the dot disappeared she said, "Good morning". I don't know how I remember this. You remember the craziest stuff. I said, "It's not morning; it's midnight". I swear she looked at me and said, "Baby, midnight is morning". When I read it, I was thinking while we're leaving this one year and coming into another, we need to say to the midnight situations in our lives... I know it's difficult, but maybe we need to wave good morning to our midnight, and maybe the only difference between midnight and morning is the way you choose to see it.
About midnight, Paul said, "Cock-a-doodle-doo! I have a song to sing. Good morning, midnight. Good morning, misery. Good morning, pain. Good morning, purpose. Good morning, sorrow. Good morning, strength". It's all in the way you see it. Midnight is morning. I'll prove it to you, but I need to call on James. He was the half-brother of Jesus. He wrote to the twelve tribes that were scattered abroad. He said to these twelve tribes who were scattered abroad because of Jewish persecution, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers..". This is what gets me. "...and sisters..". The women need this too. "...whenever you look back..". Y'all aren't reading it. You're supposed to correct me right now. The way you would put it is, "When you look back on what you've been through, praise God that it didn't kill you". That's fine. James says maturity...
Remember, as you mature, you see things differently. The expectation changes. James says, "If you've come to the point in your life now where you've lived through a few midnight moments, a few moments you didn't know how you were going to make it through or if you were going to see the sun come up again..". "I didn't know if I'd ever be happy again. I didn't know if I'd ever feel love again. I didn't know if my broken heart could ever be put back together again, but I made it through midnight". I don't just look back on it and rejoice. I see it coming, and when I see it coming I wave at it, because I know that when midnight comes, that means I might not see God, I might not feel God, but he is the God who moves at midnight. He is the God who turns my trial into my triumph. "...when you face trials of many kinds..".
I just remembered something else. I remember one more thing. James said when you face it, not just when you're looking back at it. Stop running from it. That's step one. He says not only are you going to endure it, but you're going to embrace it. Good morning, midnight. Remember that book you used to read to kids? Goodnight Moon. Do you all know this book? My kids love to stay up late. They'll do anything to stay up late. They'll fake a stomach flu to stay up late. I can barely stay up till midnight. It's a miracle. How many of y'all it's a miracle you're still awake in my sermon right now? You had to buy out Starbucks to get to this point, just to make it through midnight. But the miracle of midnight is not just that they made it through. Stop thinking that survival is success. Can I tell you a secret? They were going to get out of prison that morning anyway. They were only there overnight. They were there on overnight charges. So the doors open, and Paul is like, "Cool". He turns to the prison guard and starts telling him about Jesus. He wasn't ever trying to get out. He was trying to maximize... "As long as I'm here..".
This is the miracle. It's not just that I made it through midnight; it's how I made it through. I still have my smile. I still have my personality intact. I didn't compromise who I was. I didn't just make it; I made something of it. God does not want you to leave 2016 empty-handed. Do you know how I know that? I remembered something. I have a good memory when I get up here. I forget stuff when I'm not up here. I remembered Exodus 12:29, where the children of Israel were about to leave Egypt. They'd been there 430 years, and God has sent nine plagues to convince Pharaoh to let his people go. Finally, the Bible says after nine of these plagues... Watch what happened. "At midnight..". The last night they would spend in Egypt, the last hour of the last night they would spend in the place where they were.
You have Paul in prison, and you have the children of Israel in Egypt. "At midnight the Lord struck down the firstborn in Egypt..". Everything that was oppressing God's people, God started killing it. God said, "You've held them long enough". Just like the prison doors flew open, the firstborn were struck down at midnight. "...the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead". But the children of Israel who had blood over their doors, the ones who had applied the blood of the lamb... What killed Egypt missed them.
Have you ever had something in your life that just missed you completely? The judgment you should have received, you got mercy instead. At midnight, Pharaoh went to the head man in charge, Moses, and said, "Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested". "Get out of here"! If you've been there for four centuries, don't you want to get out as quickly as you can? But they couldn't leave yet, because God had instructed his people very carefully. "When you leave Egypt, I don't want you to leave empty-handed". Look at verse 36. "The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for". They didn't just escape Egypt. They plundered the Egyptians. The miracle at midnight...
When I shout in 2 minutes and 20 seconds, I'm not just shouting because I'm leaving one year. I'm shouting because of what I'm carrying with me into the next one. Good morning, midnight! I will not leave incomplete. You will not leave incomplete. "Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds," because it's working in me. I'm not just trying to get out this year, but I'm welcoming everything God did in my life. We have one minute and seven seconds until midnight. I wonder, could you jump up on your feet and praise him? We said we were going to praise him about midnight. Repeat after me. I have a few declarations. I have 17 things we're going to welcome in. It's midnight. Somebody shout, "Good morning, midnight"!
- Good morning, joy.
- Good morning, hope.
- Good morning, provision.
- Good morning, peace.
- Good morning, victory.
- Good morning, healing.
- Good morning, purpose.
- Good morning, possibility.
- Good morning, wisdom.
- Good morning, strength.
- Good morning, faith.
- Good morning, love.
- Good morning, favor.
- Good morning, potential.
- Good morning, grace.
- Good morning, momentum.
- Good morning, mercy.
Bring it in! Good morning, good morning, good morning! You will not leave empty-handed. Everything I went through this year, I didn't just live through it; I learned from it. "Consider it pure joy when you face trials," because I've had my training, and now I know what to do with my trials. We're still here. We aren't going anywhere. I feel the spirit of Run-DMC coming upon me. Somebody shout, "I ain't going out like that"! Thirty years ago. I'm not going out empty. I have to show you something. Stand right there. We're going to get out in a minute, but we're in a moment of opportunity. Not because the dot disappeared, but what if in this moment your doubt disappeared? God is with you in this moment. He's with me in this prison. I love it, because Paul looked at the jailer, and the jailer was about to kill himself. He said, "Don't do that. We are all still here".
It was a crazy year, wasn't it? I'm not running from it. I'm walking toward the next one. I'm still here. Somebody shout, "I'm still here"! The Devil is not going to get rid of you that easily. Beat me with rods. Lock me in prison. I'm not running. The jailer looks at Paul and says, "Hey..". He turned on the lights. He said, "Sirs..". He's really respectful now. "What must I do to be saved"? Paul preached to the jailer, and he preached to his whole family, and the jailer got so happy about what Paul said... Paul is in the dark, Paul is in pain, but he remembered his purpose. Before he got out, he made sure the Word of God got in. That prison guard took Paul to his own house.
This is amazing. The Bible says that after his whole house heard the Word of God... It's a time of transition. It is what you make of it. Not just to make it through midnight, not just to make it to the next year, but to make something of it. Shout, "Maximize"! I know you're tired, but I have a little bit left. "They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house". Verse 33: "At that hour of the night..". The dark hour of the night. "...the jailer took them and washed their wounds..". God used the very one who was holding them hostage to complete their healing. The very thing that wounded them was now washing... D
id you know it's going to be the things that try to destroy you that God is using to deliver you? I am not going into next year with open wounds. I will not leave incomplete. Good morning! He washed their wounds and fed them. That's crazy. His whole house got baptized, and he fed the man, set a meal before him. Paul, when he left Philippi, didn't leave with an empty stomach. He left with a bruised back. He left with a tired body. I'm coming out of this year, and I have some battle scars, but I don't have any open wounds. God used the very thing that was supposed to keep me bound to feed me. I'm telling you, I'm coming into 2017 with a full belly, with a full heart, full of faith, full of joy, full of expectation. You will not leave incomplete.