January 9, 2022

Seize The Day

Passage: Acts 16:22-34, Philippians 1:3-14

In the movie Dead Poet Society Robin Williams used the Latin phrase, “Carpe Diem”, when he wanted to emphasize to his students the importance of doing what you have to do today.  “Carpe Diem” means “Seize the day” – get the most out of every day!
If I would ask each person in this sanctuary or on YouTube what kind of life you would like to live, no one would like a life that is mediocre.  We want our lives to be full, yet we get so caught up in the details of our day that we don’t have time to seize the day.  That was the realization for many of us at the end of 2021.  When we took stock of what was we had to think, “There were things I missed out on; things where I should have seized the day better.”  Paul also believed that one should seize each and every day…living life to the fullest, even when life is sometimes hectic.  To the Philippians he wrote something very important, something which is so relevant in our situation, “Don’t be so concerned about life and busy with your schedules that you forget to live life!”

One of the greatest stories of a man “seizing the day” took place in Philippi.  We read in Acts 16 about the jailer or warden who made the best of an opportunity that came before him.  While Paul and Silas were preaching in Philippi, they pushed the envelope a bit too much to the liking of the authorities and ended up on the wrong side of the law.  The magistrates ordered them to be stripped, beaten, and thrown into jail.  The jailer put them in a dungeon and placed their feet in stocks.  Around midnight, while praying and singing hymns out loud so everyone could hear, a mighty earthquake shook the foundations of the jail.  The doors flew open and everyone’s chains came loose.  The jailer panicked, knowing that as the one responsible for guarding them from escaping, he would likely be put to a slow and painful death.  So he took out his sword and prepared to take his own life…but then Paul called out to him, “Don’t harm yourself!  We are all here!”  This must have blown the jailer away. He had no doubt been intrigued by all the worship coming from Paul and Silas… even though they had just been beaten and jailed.  Now they had a chance to escape, but they didn’t.  The jailer realized that these men truly had something in their lives that was lacking in his own.   At this very critical point in his life he seized the opportunity when he cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  Paul replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your whole household.”  Realizing that he had already lost his life and gained it back, the jailer had nothing to loose.  He took Paul and Silas out of the jail to his own house.  And, before the night was through, the jailer and his family had all committed their lives to Jesus and had been baptized in His name.

We know of other incidents in the bible where people seized the moment, but for some it was too late.  Judas didn't seize the moment when the disciples were at the table with Jesus.  When he heard that the one who was going to betray Jesus would put his hand in the bowl with the Lord, it didn't stop him.  No, he let that moment pass before him when he could turn things around.  There was Pilate who had the opportunity of his life before him, when Jesus said that He came to testify about the truth.  His only reply was, “What is truth?”  He didn't seize the moment.  Then there was Demas who didn’t seize the moment.  He fell in love with this world and abandoned Paul and his fellow workers.  And then over time there were thousands and thousands of people who failed to seize the moment when the Saviour of the world reached out to them...and all they will have at the end of time is regret.

What can we learn from this incident of the jailer in Philippi?  First of all...1 Take Spiritual InventoryLike the Philippian jailer, every person needs to ask himself, “Where do I stand spiritually?  What is my relationship with God like?”  The salvation of the jailer’s household began with his own realization that he was spiritually empty and needed something more in his life.  That’s why he asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?”  It’s told of the Danish psychologist, Schleiermacher that for a whole week he went to a park and sat on a bench thinking of his own spirituality.  By the end of the week a worker walked over to him and said:  “I noticed that you’ve been sitting here for the whole week.  Who are you?”  Schleiermacher responded:  “I wish I can get the answer to that question.  Who am I really?”  You see my friends, that’s what we call “Taking spiritual inventory” – the first step towards becoming the person God wants you to be.  You know, we can't move forward in a New Year if we don't first stop and take inventory of our lives.  We need to ask, “What adjustments do I need to make?  What things do I have to get rid of?  Things that are like weights pulling me back.” 

Secondly...2 Find Your PurposeWe have to come to a renewed understanding of what our purpose is.  In just a few minutes, the jailer found a whole new purpose in life…knowing God.  An hour before he was so afraid of what would happen to him if Paul and Silas with the other prisoners had escaped that he was about to kill himself.  Now, he was risking his life taking them to his house!  He was motivated by something entirely new – to know Jesus.  He just had to take them to his family that they would know Jesus too!  We need to re-evaluate what we see as our purpose in life.  Is it to be a good husband or wife, a good parent or child, a good employee, a loyal friend?  Those are secondary.  What is our primary purpose in life?  That is the one answer that will make you look back upon your life and say, “Yes, my life was lived for the right purpose.”  Paul gives us the answer in Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ.”  Those words came from a man that thought his purpose in life was to live by the letter of the law and to eliminate all those who didn't live by it by even taking their lives.  And then his purpose was to persecute Jesus as well.  But how wrong Paul was.  After his Damascus road experience, he was blinded, but when he got his vision back, his eyes were opened spiritually.  From that moment all he saw before him, was the cause of Jesus.  Can we all commit ourselves to our Lord again this morning? – “All I want is to know Jesus.”  And from that everything in our lives will be filled with purpose, with happiness and blessings.

There is a last thought from the jailer's experience in Acts 16 – 3 Be Willing To Make AdjustmentsJust hours before his conversion, the jailer had literally thrown Paul and Silas into jail in shackles.  He was heartless as he performed his duties.  But then, immediately after his conversion, we read in Acts 16: 33 how he washed their wounds.  Through his encounter with God, he changed the way he would treat them… showing dignity and compassion.  I think that when he washed Paul's wounds the apostle must have remembered of a time when he hated Jesus' followers and wanted to bring harm to them, but from the moment when Jesus changed him, he just wanted to bring goodness to all those he came in contact with.  That's why he wrote to the believers in Rome in the 12th chapter of his letter about serving and encouraging.

But, my friends, there is something we have to grasp – it’s not from within ourselves that we decided to be good to others or to reach out in times of need.  No, it is the heart of Christ that changed us to give our time and to share the blessings that we received from God.  And just as it came in place in the life of Paul, it came in place for the jailer in Philippi.  There is the life story of Eric Holmberg.  He used to be member of a satanic rock band, but after his conversion, he wanted to be involved in Children ministries.  Church leaders were very skeptical about the prospects.  But Holmberg was persistent. He pulled out a picture of himself before Christ came into his life and said, “That was another person in the picture.  Through the grace of God I made the necessary adjustments.  And now the new me is in Christ's service.”  Perhaps we need to make more adjustments in our lives.  The bible says in 2 Corinthians 3: 18 “We are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, Who is the Spirit.”  It is a continuous process.  What do you think is the best thing we can do every day of this year?  It's to Seize The Day and allow God to do great things in and through us.