"Making Lemonade from Lemons"
So life throws you into something you just didn't see coming. The news you got was bad news. The situation you were doing for God's glory seems to be turned upside down. How do you make lemonade out of the lemons of life?
Making Lemonade from Lemons
A. We sing the song “Send The Light.” The second verse begins, “We have heard the Macedonian call today, send the light – sent the light!” Is that true? What revelation, what vision have you received from God that has guided your evangelistic ministry?
B. We sing about mission work, but how much of this congregation’s resources of time, talent and money are used for the telling of the salvation message to people who are unsaved? Are there unsaved right here in our community? Have we as a church had some divine calling to send the light to the communities of Baldwin, Whitehall, Pleasant Hills, West Mifflin, Jefferson Hills, Clairton, Elizabeth, Carrick, or any place in which you live?
C. Paul was a man on a mission – literally a missionary journey. He wanted to people to come to know Jesus in a saving manner. He wanted people to experience the divine as guilt was removed and salvation entered. He wanted people to see God through cross and the empty tomb. But how many of us are as passionate about evangelism as Paul? Is there really a “Macedonian call” today for you and me?
D. “Missional Living” is a term that is being used in religious circles today. It was introduced to us by Dr. Earl Lavender a few years ago when he came to teach us that concept. Missional living is living out God’s mission as defined by scripture. It is where you and I become the agent that God uses to share the kingdom message no matter where we are. Therefore, I can be missional at a Pirate’s baseball game in the stands. I can missional at the grocery store while waiting in line. I can missional on vacation at the beach.
E. Forty-Six years ago this congregation opened the doors of the Whitehall Church of Christ. That year this new church averaged 144 people every Sunday, the next year we increased to 158, within six year this congregation averaged 223 people every Sunday morning for the assembly. Was the growth of this church simply because Larry VanSteenberg was the preacher? Or was there something more, something personal, something missional?
I. The Journey Began
A. Acts 16 gives us the first real encounter Paul has on this second missionary journey. He has had the call to go Macedonia and head to a town in that region called Philippi. It was a leading city in the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. It was a great place to get started in the calling. On the Sabbath, as was Paul’s custom, Paul looked for a place where people would gather to pray. There along riverside outside the city gate they found a group of women. One of those women was named Lydia. She was from a different town, Thyatira, and she was a merchant woman – a seller of purple.
B. The Bible describes her as “a worshipper of God.” This not a bad woman by any thought. But Paul was not about looking for good and bad, he about looking for people who were without Jesus. This woman had an understanding of YHWH but not of the Messiah. The Lord opened her heart and after hearing Paul she was baptized. Let me tell you there must have been great joy.
C. We often look for confirmation of God’s will for our life by the actions that come. Paul was told to go to Macedonia, and there he teaches and baptizes this woman. Great start. But what happens when your understanding of God’s plan don’t turn out exactly as you believed they would?
D. A person prays for a job and gets the job. Is that confirmation of God’s will? A church opens its doors and people come to worship. Is that a confirmation of God’s will? What if you didn’t get the job? What if the church didn’t grow? Is that a confirmation that God is angry with you?
II. The Lemons of Life
A. Paul’s story continues. We are still in Philippi and verse 16 tells us that Paul is going the place of prayer. I am guessing we are on our way back to this riverside. Paul is met by a slave girl who has a spirit of divination and brought her owners much wealth because she told the future. She follows Paul and says, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation!” This didn’t just happen once, but it happened for several days. It was truth, but Paul didn’t need a demonic spirit to tell people who he was and what he was doing. So Paul commanded the spirit to leave the girl and it came out of her.
B. Confirmation of God’s power on Paul? Sure! Remember, this was God’s leading. God brought them to this region. But now we face a problem. The owners realized their gold mine had gone dry with the girl. In their anger they bring Paul and his companions before the rulers and say, “These Jews are disturbing the city and advocating customs that are not lawful as Romans to practice.”
C. WAIT! This was God’s plan. God wanted them here. What happens when life throws you a curve ball? The news you got was bad news and your world seems turned upside down. We say it doesn’t make sense. Paul and his companions go from preaching to being beaten with rods in the city street and just when you think it can’t get worse they are place dungeon cell and their jailer is commanded to watch over them.
D. So the saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” How do you make something good out of the bad? You keep God the center of your attitude and actions. With their feet fastened to the stocks and with them placed in the inner prison the jailor sits and waits. Paul and Silas pray and sing hymns to God.
E. Let me ask you, can you make lemonade out the lemons of life? Is your attitude so connected to Jesus that when it seems like all is lost, you are not? It is that peace that surpasses understanding. It is that ability to count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds. It is that ability to ridiculed and respond in love. That’s the spiritual lemonade. It is when the world hates you and you love them back that they can see Jesus.
F. Too often we wallow in self-pity and others might say justifiably so. Life is not easy for some people. They have been mistreated, hurt, emotionally scarred. But there are those who, in their pain make lemonade.
G. Read Acts 16:25-34. Maybe their trial was for this man’s benefit and that of his family. Maybe what they faced was not because God was angry with Paul, but because God knew Paul and knew that through this horrible situation a jailer would be saved.
A. I am not asking you if you have had an easy life. For some of you the answer would be yes, and others, no. What I am asking you is do you let God shine in your life?
B. Making Jesus your Lord and Savior is making him your master and guide. Through you his word is taught. Through you people whose lives look good like Lydia can come to know Jesus. Through you the tormented of this world, like that slave girl, can come to know peace when all they have experienced is pain. Through you the tough and the hard of this world like the jailer whose life was probably far less clean looking than Lydia can come to know what it takes to live in the rough places with a prayer and song on your lips. Yes, you are on a missionary journey. You are called by God to live out your faith right where you are. It is then that we learn how to make lemonade out of lemons.
C. This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it. If God has called you from your tender heart, tormented heart or tough heart, to respond to His calling of salvation, then come. Come and in your confession of Jesus as Lord and willingness to live out a repentant life, be baptized into Him for the washing away of all your sins and the victory that comes as his child.