Has the whole world been sentenced to COVID-19 jail?
Between COVID-19, quarantine, masks and social distancing, how many people can come for Thanksgiving? And today authorities are telling us not to travel—it almost seems like the Grinch stole Christmas.
In August of 2020, I listened to pastor Sarah Taylor preach a potent prophetic word called "Testimonies at Midnight" regarding Acts 16. Her thoughts have stuck with me, and I believe they are powerful for the days of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. Much of this article has been taken from her sermon.
The story starts in Acts 16:16 with Paul and Silas on their way to prayer. On their journey, the men deliver a slave woman whose masters were making money off her "predictions." Her angry masters take Paul and Silas before their rulers, and the two men are beaten and thrown into jail. At midnight, our heroes sing and pray hymns to God from their jail cells. All of the other prisoners listen to their worship.
This is such a special moment in the Word, where we see supernatural grace and Holy Spirit boldness.
Acts 16:26 says, "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 shackles were loosened."
The jailer wakes up, sees the prison doors open and draws his sword to kill himself. The guard, seeing the opened doors, assumes the prisoners have escaped. He knows that he alone will be held responsible. His time is up. "But Paul shouted, 'Do not harm yourself, for we are all here" (Acts 16:28). The jailer was so grateful that he turned his heart to the Lord.
This passage is a testimony for here and now:
1. Our testimony in the midnight hour speaks volumes and draws unexpected listeners.
2. Our testimony to others in the chaos of midnight and the aftermath is, "We're all still here."
3. Our testimony in the midnight hour always points others to Jesus.
4. Our testimony at any hour should bring joy to others and peace to us. These are the words I say every morning, "We are still here."
Let me give you Taylor's own words: "This is the testimony of God's people. Take your best shot. Life, do your worst. At the end of the day, the end of 2020, and the end of a pandemic, we're still here.
"The sickness, the heartache, the loss, the trials, the smear campaign against us, the difficulty that tried to take us out, didn't work because we're still here. We're still praying and praising in the midnight hour. It's the testimony of the church that for all of history, we continue to rise from the chaos and proclaim to a world that is hurting and bent on harming itself. We shout, 'We're still here!'"
She continued, "As I read those words this week, my heart started pounding inside my chest. It resonated so deeply inside of me, and it's the reason I'm preaching from this passage and not others. We are called to this testimony. We must announce to others around us that life may have beaten us down—it might have tried to break us—and we may feel that our time is up, but we are still here. 2020 may have paralyzed us or wounded us in the worst way, but we're still here."
Sarah went on to say, "We may not look like much when it's over; we might be barely hanging on, but in the midnight hour, we can still declare, 'I'm still here!' The church has sometimes had to go underground, online or out of sight, but we're still here.
"God's church cannot be stopped. The building can close, but the church doesn't stop. Programs change, but the mission of the church remains the same. Hurting people still exist, the lost still need a Savior, the hungry still need to be fed, kids still need a safe place, the grieving still need a church family and teenagers still need encouragement, so the church is still here.
"We're praying at midnight. We're lifting our voice in praise even when it costs us something. We're testifying that Jesus is the only way, even when it's an unpopular opinion. We're sharing Jesus. We're still here.
"We're grateful to the Lord in every situation. We're the church—in this building or online. We're reaching people with the good news even while the earth is shaking. We love our community. We love one another, our neighbors and our enemies. The church is a place of healing, hope, laughter and peace to all the people. We're still here!
"Our testimony in the midnight of 2020 is that we're still here—you and me and this church and the church worldwide.
"We're still here making sure no harm comes to others and caring for one another. This is what Paul shouted, and it's the testimony we shout too—to all who would hear—the church is still here! The people of God are still here! Come at us, devil, because we're not going anywhere."
I hope her words fuel you during this Christmas season as I know they will fuel me.
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