What to Do in Stocks and Chains
April 16th, 1986 @ 7:30 PM
WHAT SHALL I DO IN STOCKS AND CHAINS?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-16-86 7:30 p.m.
The services to begin with are going to be centered around “What Shall I Do?” They will be messages from God on the problems of human life—and we begin tonight: What Shall I Do? And it will be out of a situation concerning and descriptive of which we are going to read together now. In your pew, you will have a Bible. And if you brought your Bible, all of us turn to Acts 16, Acts chapter 16, Acts chapter 16, and we are going to stand in a moment and read from verses 23 to 34. Acts chapter 16, and share your Bible with someone who might not have brought his, and we will read out loud together. Acts 16, beginning at verse 23 and continuing to verse 34. Now having found the passage, may we all stand together, and we will read it out loud together. Acts 16, verses 23 to ; now together:
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely:
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all of the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
And the keeper of the prison awakening out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
Thank you and we may be seated. The theme of the Wednesday evening services will be centered around the question what shall I do? And we begin tonight with this marvelous pericope out of the life of the apostle Paul.
What can a man do whose feet are fast in stocks and his hands weighted down with chains and he is thrust into an inner dungeon behind stone walls and iron bars? What can a man like that do? We are told triumphantly and gloriously here in the Word of God. What can that man do whose feet are in stocks and his hands in chains, thrust in an inner dungeon behind bars and stone walls? What can he do? He can pray. “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed” [Acts 16:25]. He can pray.
When I came to be undershepherd of the church, now soon forty-two years ago, Dr. Truett had begun services in a downtown theater—the Palace Theater, located where that big, tall Thanksgiving Tower is located. [It] held twenty-four hundred seats, and we would fill it every pre-Easter week. The first time that I preached down there at the Palace Theater, after all the people had left, I walked out to the front of the building and met there a little, tiny wisp of an old, old woman. I stopped and spoke to her, and she said to me, “I am so old and so poor and in such ill health that I am not able any longer to attend the services of the church. But a dear neighbor took me to the Palace Theater service today in order that I might see my new pastor.” Then she added, “I am so sorry that because of my age and my illness and my poverty I can do nothing for you. I cannot help you.” Then she added, “All I can do is pray for you.” I said to her, “Dear sweet little lady, that’s more than everything else you could possibly have been able to do.” What can one do in stocks and chains and prison? He can pray. All of us can pray. We can wait upon the Lord. The beautiful twenty-seventh Psalm closes with this godly word: “Wait upon the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thee; wait, I say, upon the Lord” [Psalm 27:14].
I heard of a woman who called the manager of a concert hall. She said to him, “I have lost a most valuable diamond brooch. And I have lost it in that concert hall. Would you see if it has been found?” And the manager of the hall said, “Dear lady, wait. You hold the phone and I will find whether it’s been discovered or not, and I will let you know. You hold the phone.” She said, “I will wait.” He went to the office, and they had found it—a beautiful, expensive diamond brooch. He went back to the telephone to tell the lady we have found the beautiful diamond brooch. But she had in the meantime hung up. He thought, surely she will call back. There was no call. He waited several days. There was no call. He finally advertised in the paper. It was never answered. A man dreamed that he was in heaven and as he walked through the beautiful glory, he saw expensive presents with names on them. They were unclaimed blessings. Heaven was full of them. But they were not asked for. That is we. What can I do? I can pray—no matter who I am, where I am, how busy I am, what assignments I may have. The things that consume the interest of my life; however poor I am; however busy I am; whatever my assignment—I can always pray. What can a man do whose feet are in stocks and his hands in chains? Behind a stone wall and iron bars, he can pray. All of us can always pray.
I think of the tremendous appeal in which our congregation is now involved. I have been asked, “How many numbers of times do you think you will succeed in that four million dollar offering for our young people?” I answer, “It all depends upon the willingness of our people to pray for it.” If we pray for it, if we ask God for it, God will give it to us. He is able. And if He moves in the hearts of our people and they respond, we will have a triumphant announcement to make in just the next very few days.
We can pray. All of us can pray. Little children can pray. Our teenagers can pray. Our fathers and mothers can pray. Our singles can pray. Our older pilgrims can pray. All of us can pray. What can a man do whose feet are in stocks and his hands weighted with chains in an inner dungeon behind iron bars and stone walls? He can pray. We can pray. What can a man do whose feet are in stocks and in his hands weighted with chains in an inner dungeon? What can he do? “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God” [Acts 16:25]. We can praise God—every one of us. Whatever the providences of life, we can praise God.
I heard of a crippled boy, a little fellow, very much crippled. And he was a little late at the station for the streetcar, so he lifted up his childish voice and said, “Wait up, Mr. Conductor. Mr. Conductor, wait up, wait up, wait up!” And the conductor kept the streetcar in abeyance until the little fellow came to the step and clamored up into the streetcar and sat down by an older gentleman.
And the older man, looking at the boy, so bright and so happy, finally said to the little crippled boy, “Son how is it that you are so happy and so bright and so crippled?”
And the little fellow replied, “O Mister,” he said, “O Mister,” he said, “My father, my daddy says to me that God always gives us His best gifts. And my daddy says we ought to be happy and thankful for our best gifts that God bestows upon us. And my daddy says to me that God knows best, and He has given His best gift to me.” Then he turned to the man and said, “And don’t you think that I ought to be thankful and happy and glad that God has given me His best gifts?” Think of a spirit like that. Whatever the providence of life, I will praise God. If I am sick, I will praise God. If I am well, I will praise God. If I am distressed, I will praise God. If I am discouraged, I will praise God. If I am handicapped, I will praise God.
If my load should lead to complaining,
Lord, show me Thy hands,
Thy nail-pierced hands,
Thy cross-torn hands;
Lord, show me Thy hands.
O Christ! if ever my footsteps should falter
And be prepared for retreat,
If testing and trial cause lamenting,
Lord, show me Thy feet,
Thy bleeding feet;
Thy nail-pierced feet;
O Savior, show me Thy feet.
And Lord, when I am sorely wounded
With the battle and toil of the day,
And I complain of my suffering,
Lord, let me hear Thee say,
“Behold My side,
My spear-pierced side,
My side that was wounded for thee.”
My God, dare I show Thee
My hands and my feet?
[“Show Me Thy Hands,” Brenton Thoburn Badley]
What can a man do who is in stocks and chains in a dungeon behind iron bars and stone walls? He can praise God. Lord God, how I wish I could be like that. Whatever the providences of life, I thank Thee and praise Thee and love Thee, Lord, for having chosen what is best for me. What can a man do who is in stocks and chains and in an inner dungeon? “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and praised God: and the prisoners heard them” [Acts 16:25]. No wonder, no wonder—such an amazing and unaccountable providence—no wonder they were heard. What can a man do in stocks and chains and prisons? He can pray. He can praise God. And he has in his possession the greatest power for witnessing in this earth.
If I come and see you—I am going to visit you, and everything is beautiful for you, you are in health and you are prospering, every providence of life brings to you its full-orbed blessing, and you are happy and exultant, you are up, everything is going your way; do you think that it would be unusual for me to come and see you thus so felicitously and salubriously and happily situated? My brother, couldn’t an infidel be happy under those circumstances? Couldn’t an unbeliever praise the providences of life if everything is going his way? Couldn’t he? But my brother, let me come and see you, knock at your door and sit down by your side, and the whole sky has turned dark, and every prospect in life has been blighted, and every discouragement that mind could think of has overwhelmed you. Then let me hear you praise God. Let me hear you exalt His wonderful name. That would be a testimony to the grace and the presence of the Lord beyond any way in the world that we could ever lift up His holy and heavenly name. At midnight they praised God, and the prisoners heard them [Acts 16:25].
May I point out to you that it is more than four thousand years ago that Job lived? Four thousand years ago Job lived, and after these four thousand years the testimony of that godly patriarch reaches down to each one of us. When he lost everything that he possessed [Job 1:13-19], Job cried and said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Naked came I from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. And when God allowed Satan to afflict him, and Job was covered with running sores from the top of his head to the sole of his foot [Job 2:3-7], Job cried, saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” [Job 13:15]. That is the most marvelous witness in the world. Am I sick? Blessed be the name of the Lord. Am I afflicted? Blessed be the name of the Lord. Am I despondent and discouraged? Blessed be the name of the Lord. Has every dream I ever held dear to my heart been dashed to the ground? Blessed be the name of the Lord. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God” [Acts 16:25], and the whole world is still hearing them. Lord, help me to be like that. Whatever the providence of God, whatever the fortunes of life, whatever the disappointments or despairs or whatever the days shall hold, help me, Lord, to praise Thy worthy name—to receive as from Thy hands these days with whatever God shall fill them, and to be thankful and to bless His name. O Lord, what an impact we would have on the world if we could be like that.
Dear sweet yokefellow Denny, we are going to sing us a song. And before we sing the hymn, I have several appeals that I want to make. And in order to respond to them, I want us first of all to lower the kneelers, everybody. Lower the kneeler where you are. Lower the kneeler. I have five appeals that I’m going to make. The first one is this: if you are not well, if you are sick; it may be in any part of your body, my eyes, or my ears, or my lungs, or my stomach, or my muscles, or my limbs, if you are not well, where you are, would you kneel that we pray for you? “I am not well, pastor, and I want God to heal me.” You kneel where you are. My second appeal: do you know someone who is not well and you want to pray for them? Would you kneel where you are for that someone else who is not well? “Pastor, I know someone who is not well, and I want to pray for them.” The third: are you sick in heart? And are you discouraged? Are you broken in spirit? Would you kneel? “I want God to give me strength for the providences I face in life.” The fourth one: do you have someone dear to your heart who is lost and you pray that they might be saved? Would you kneel that they might be saved? Brother Ed Poole, you come up here and lead a prayer for these who are now kneeling. “I want to be healed.” “I know someone for whom I want to pray, that they might be healed.” “I am broken in heart. Now, I want God to be near to me and to bless me.” Or, “I want the dear Lord to remember us in His healing grace and strengthening presence.” You pray.
ED POOLE: Our Father, it is a joy for us to come to You in the name of Jesus. And as You look upon these bowed hearts and knees, we know that You know what is in our hearts, and the desire of our hearts. Some who here are ill, they need Your healing touch for their bodies, and we would lift them to You just now, asking that in Your care and love and keeping of Your will, that You would heal them. And many of us have kneeled because we know someone, someone dear to us who is sick—ill and not well at all; some of them seriously ill. We pray for them. And it is a joy for us to lift them to Your throne of grace, believing that You are the great Physician; You are able to heal—to work through many ways to bring about that healing. And then we would ask, our Lord, for those who have kneeled because they are sick in heart. Providences of life have pressed upon them. They face decisions. They face uncertainties. And their heart is melted before the onslaught that is before them. We pray for Your encouragement for them, that You would strengthen them, that You would lift them high. And then, our Lord, we would pray for these many who have kneeled because they know someone who is lost, someone dear to them, a family member; perhaps a husband or a wife or a child or a brother or a sister or some other family member, or a close friend or neighbor. And, our Lord, our hearts go out to those who are lost. And we ask that Your Holy Spirit might begin to work in the hearts of those who are lost, because we are praying. And then, our Lord, we would just ask that You would bless us in this time of prayer as we join hearts together to pray together. And we thank You that we do have this privilege, and we pray that we would never, never forget to pray for each other, our pastor and those here who labor with him and who make it possible for this dear church to care and to love and to reach out. And so, our Lord, hear the cries of our heart, along with the thanksgiving for the many blessings that are ours because we are Your children. And as we earthly fathers hear our children, we know that You hear us. And You know what is best. And so, our Lord, with all of the trust of our heart, we commit all of these concerns to You, knowing that You will do that which is best for all of us. And we would say with the apostle Paul, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose” [Romans 8:28]. And we pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
DR. CRISWELL: Now then, before any one leaves, someone tonight to give his heart to the Lord Jesus, “Pastor, God has spoken to me, and I am opening my heart heavenward and God-ward. I want to take the Lord Jesus as my Savior.” You come up here where I am. A couple you, “Pastor, we want to put our lives in this dear church.” You come. A family you, as the Spirit of the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, on the first note of the first syllable of this invitation hymn, come. And may God bless you and angels attend you as you come, while we stand and sing this invitation song. “This is God’s time for me. I am coming.”
WHAT TO DO IN STOCKS AND CHAINS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-16-86I. Pray(Acts 16:25)
A. First time I preached at Palace Theater
B. In it, God’s answer to all our needs, direction for all our ways(Psalm 27:14)
1. Woman loses diamond broach, never collects it
2. Dream of heaven and unclaimed blessings
A. Crippled boy on the streetcar, bright and happy
B. Poem, “Show Me Thy Hands”III. Power(Acts 16:25)
A. The prisoners heard them
B. A man praying and praising has the greatest power for witnessing
1. Even an infidel can be happy when things are going our way
2. Praise God in the darkness and discouragement
C. Job lived four thousand years ago – testimony reaches down to us(Job 1:21, 13:15)IV. Our prayer appeal
A. If you are not well
B. If you know someone who is not well
C. If you are discouraged
D. If you have someone dear to you who is not saved