Nighttime Promises for 2022
I have always enjoyed sunset times. I like the daytime, too, of course. I love the beautiful sunshine, the flowers, the trees, the birds, the leaves and all of the sights and the sounds of the daytime. However, there always been something special to me about sunset time when part of nature is going to sleep.
In the nighttime many decisions are made. Sometimes the nighttime is a difficult time. Sometimes we wrestle with things in the nighttime and it’s not easy. Maybe the load of grief you’ve been going through for a period of time now seems to get heavier during the nighttime hours. Maybe the feeling of loneliness overwhelms you more at night than at any other time of the day. So, the nighttime can be a difficult time.
Of course, you also know that the nighttime can be a delightful time because many times through the difficulties and the decision making of the nighttime, it becomes a time when we have a fresh encounter with the Lord. The Lord comes into our experience and speaks to our hearts in a very special and a personal way.
In a nighttime experience the Lord came to Paul. What we have in Acts chapters 21-28 are those circumstances that ultimately brought Paul as a prisoner to the city of Rome. In his Ephesian letter we read what Paul thought about those imprisonments. In Ephesians 4:1 he said, “I’m a prisoner of the Lord.” He had come to understand that he was God’s prisoner. In Ephesians 6:20 he said, “I am an ambassador in bonds.” He looked at his chains and recognized that these were the garments of his ambassadorship. He was on this earth on business for the King and chose not to allow the chains to hold him down.
In II Timothy 2:9 he said, “I am bound, but he Word of God is not bound.” You may bind God’s messenger, but you cannot bind God’s message. God’s word goes on when it is faithfully proclaimed. So, he was a prisoner and that’s how he looked on it. However, in the book of Acts you find the circumstances that brought about that imprisonment.
Paul has been involved in something of a mob scene in Jerusalem. The soldiers have rescued him one time and put him in the fortress. They have decided that they are going to take him before the Sanhedrin. There were 70 of them and they sat in a half circle. Ananias, the high priest, presided over it. So, they bring Paul there and he starts off in the opening verse and makes his introductory statement. It makes the high priest mad. Ananias said to one of the servants, “Slap him in the face.” They slapped Paul in the face and Paul just kind of lost it. Have you lost it lately? Did you lose it any time this week? Most of us are like Paul. We are just kind of growing in the Lord. When the Lord Jesus was smitten in front of Ananias the Bible says, “When he was reviled, he reviled not again.” But I’m not all the way where Jesus was yet. I don’t think you are either, are you?
Sometimes we blow our cool. When they slapped him in the face, Paul said, “the Lord will slap you, you white washed pigpen.” Paul is calling him a hypocrite. They say, “This is the high priest.” he said, “I didn’t know he was God’s high priest.” The law says you are not to speak against God’s high priest.
Paul turns and looks at the crowd. He sees his old schoolmates. He had gone to seminary with these guys and some of them were Sadducees—the liberals of the crowd. Some of them were Pharisees—the fundamentalists of the crowd. He knew that they disagreed about the resurrection—whether there would even be a resurrection or not.
Paul looks at them and says, “I’m here because I believe in the hope of the resurrection from the dead.” That was just like throwing a match in kerosene. The place blew up and they began fussing at one another. That is what Paul wanted. They were having a big riot among themselves and started tearing their clothes.
The bad part is they were about to tear Paul up. So, the soldiers had to come back again and rescue him from the mob again. They had to put him back in the prison again. This entire scene brings us to Acts 23:11. It’s nighttime. I think this may have been one of the darkest nights Paul ever experienced. I can see him—just filled with disappointment, dejection, discouragement and a little depression. He wanted to go to Rome and preach the Gospel. Now, here he is in prison. It doesn’t look like he’s going to ever get to Rome like he wants to go to tell the story of Jesus there. Paul has to go through a nighttime.
We have those nighttime experiences. It is the dark night of the soul. The Christian life is not always sunshine and light. There are times when we go through the dark places of life. If you haven’t been there, you’ll be there one of these days. You’ll hit a dark night and it’ll be nighttime in your heart. You’ll be discouraged and depressed and you won’t know what to do.
I write to share some nighttime promises that Paul received in this dark night of his soul. Maybe if you are going through or if you are going to go through one later, save this for later.
I. The Lord Will Stand By You: His Presence.
In 23:11, we read, “and the night following, the Lord stood by him.” In those dark times of your life, the Lord will stand by you. That had been true in Corinth. He had a tough time there and the Lord came and stood by him. Later, we’ll get to Acts 27, when they are in a ship that is about ready to wreck and the Lord came and stood by him.
In fact, he said in II Timothy 4:16-17, “At my first answer no man stood with me, all men forsook me. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” Have friends deserted you? Do things seem to be changing all around you? Don’t let it make you bitter. Let it make you better. When everybody else goes walking out, the Lord comes walking in. The Lord will be there for you. He’ll stand by you in your hour of need. The Lord Jesus Christ came stood by Paul.
Who is this Jesus who stood by Paul? Of course, we know He is the sympathizing Lord Jesus Christ. Did you know Jesus sympathizes with you? That word really means, “to suffer with.” Jesus suffers with. He is the sympathizing Jesus.
He sympathized with what Paul was going through in Jerusalem. Jesus had been to Jerusalem Himself. Jesus knew what it was to be dejected and disappointed in Jerusalem Himself. He had a dark night of the soul. Think about dark Gethsemane when He was in agony of the soul. The Bible says that His sweat became like great drops of blood. Think about that dark night of the trial when they slapped Him and beat Him and buffeted Him and broke Him. Think about Simon Peter deserting Him. All his friends and disciples forsook Him.
Jesus Christ has been there, Paul. The Lord is simply saying to Paul—I’ve been there. I’m right here with you. I write to tell you He sympathizes with you also. He knows what you are going through. If you are facing temptation, Jesus understands. The Bible says He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. Are you having grief and heartache and trouble? He understands. He’s been there. The Bible says He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. Yes, the Lord will stand by you in your dark night as the sympathizing Lord Jesus.
He’ll also stand by you in the night as the sustaining Lord Jesus Christ. He will sustain you. Sometimes we get ourselves in circumstances and our strength is not big enough. Our strength is not able to handle it. But when you are standing in that hospital corridor and mom is slipping away out into eternity, you are going to have to have a strength beyond the strength that you are able to muster in yourself. But I have some good news for you. When you are going through the nighttime of the soul, the Lord Jesus will be the sustaining one. The Lord Jesus will be right there to help you.
Paul also learn that he was the sufficient Lord Jesus Christ. When this experience was over—when he had this fresh encounter with the Lord, he found out Jesus Christ was sufficient. Have you found out Jesus Christ is sufficient? Have you lived enough of life now to know that whatever you are going through, Jesus Christ is sufficient for whatever need you have in your life?
Think about a dentist. You go to a dentist with a bad tooth. With skillful hands, the dentist grinds out that decayed matter in the tooth and then he takes an impression of some substance and he molds an inlay for that cavity. He’s done the work with such exactitude, when the time comes that inlay will perfectly match that cavity.
There is no other person in the world where this inlay would fit. It’s tailor-made for your cavity. When I thought about our needs in life and all of the different needs we have individually, I thought about the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is perfectly able to fit every contour of your need with His sufficiency—with His grace—and with His power.
Are you going through the nighttime? Do you need a nighttime promise?
II. The Lord Will Speak To You: His PROMISE
In your nighttime of need the Lord will speak to you. We read, “and the Lord said.” The Lord spoke to him. We know that God does speak. In the Old Testament, He spoke to Moses in the burning bush. In the temple He spoke Isaiah. He spoke to Elijah in a still small voice. God speaks to us today in the Scriptures. God speaks to us today through His Son, revealed to us in the Scriptures. We don’t know all of the ways that God speaks to us and I really don’t know how the Lord spoke to Paul on this occasion. It really doesn’t matter because the Lord spoke to Paul in a language Paul could understand. There are no communication barriers with the Lord. He has your language. He knows how to communicate to you. Sometimes the Lord will speak to you in a time of sickness or suffering. Sometimes the Lord will speak to you through the circumstances of your life.
The Lord said to Paul, “Be of good cheer, for as you have testified of me in Jerusalem, so must you also bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:11).
First, the Lord spoke a word courage to him. The word, cheer, could be better translated “be of good courage.” The Lord is not just saying here –cheer up. He’s not doing like people will do sometimes. You are going through a tough time and they just throw one of those—“just keep your chin up, everything is going to be groovy.” No, the Lord is not saying to put on a happy face. The Lord is saying –be of good courage. He fills his heart with courage.
This is one of the main words that Jesus used with people. In Matthew 9:2, there is a man who was born sick of the palsy. He’s lying there and the Lord sees the faith of the people who brought him and He says, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.”
Do you have a sin burden on you? The nighttime of your soul is the burden of your sin. You need a word. Jesus can speak the word of courage to you today. Be of good courage, your sins be forgive you.
In Matthew 9:22, there was a woman who has been hemorrhaging blood for 14 years. The Lord Jesus turns, when she touches the hem of His garment, and He says, “Daughter, be of good comfort (same word) thou faith hath made thee whole.” Do you need a word today for some sickness and suffering?
In Matthew 14:27, the disciples are on a ship and they are in a storm. Jesus comes walking on the water and they don’t know who He is. They scream. It just scares them terribly. Yet, we read, “But straightway Jesus spoke unto them saying, Be of good courage, it is I. Be not afraid.”
You have a sin problem? Jesus says be of courage, I forgive you. You have a sickness problem? Jesus says be of good courage, I can heal you. You have a storm in your life and it’s nighttime and the Lord says be of good courage. It is I be not afraid.
All of the problems were different. The point is not the problems. The point is that in the nighttime the Lord spoke to them a word of courage.
In Acts 23:11, the Lord says a second thing. “As thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem.” There is a word of commendation. The Lord is commending Paul for being a witness for Him in a tough place. That was a tough place to witness for the Lord. Paul loved His people, Israel. He had tried to witness, but everything he tried seemed to go wrong. He got arrested. The Lord doesn’t ask us to be successful. The Lord does ask us to be faithful. Who knows what God might do with what you thought was a witness that didn’t really pan out too good. All God wants you to do is just at least try.
I heard about a young lady who was trapped in a theatre fire. She was able to get away from the fire herself, but she didn’t rescue anyone else with her and she was lamenting the fact that she didn’t get anybody else. They said to her, “You did good to just get out yourself.” “But I didn’t even try.” Do you try? Do your best and the Lord will stand by you. The Lord will speak to you and say you’ve been faithful.
Now, there is a third word the Lord has for us. The Lord said to Paul, “So must thou bear witness also in Rome.” The Lord has a word of certainty.
The Lord said to him, “I know, Paul, it looks like it’s not going to pan out. It looks like you are going to be in jail, and you are not going to get your desire to go to Rome. But I have a promise for you. The promise is that just as surely as you witnessed for me in Jerusalem, you’re going to get to witness for me in Rome.
Do you know happened to Paul? God filled his heart with courage. God filled his heart with certainty. Now, he has a promise from the Lord. Romans 4:21 says, “Being assured that what he has promised he is able to perform.” God will keep His promises. God can do what He said He will do for you. He can get you where you need to be. He can give you that opportunity you need to get.
In Acts 27, when they are having the shipwreck and everybody was panicking for they thought they were going to go down in the water, Paul said to them, “Be of good cheer.” Where did he heard that? He said there won’t be a single person lose their life in this wreck because tonight the angel of the Lord whom I serve, stood by me and said, “be of good cheer, as you have witnessed for me before, you’ll witness for me in Rome.”
Are you going through a nighttime? Are you having a nighttime of the soul? Do you need some nighttime encouragement? The Lord will stand by you. The Lord will speak to you.
III. The Lord Will Surround You: His Protection.
This is one of the most interesting accounts to me in all of Scripture. In Acts 23:12, we told about 40 men. They bound themselves in a curse that they weren’t going to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. Yet, the Lord said, “You’re going to Rome.”
The Lord just surrounds Paul. He just puts His protection around him. Notice how the Lord surrounds him in a providential way. From the 12th verse to the end of the chapter, I don’t see a single reference to the Lord in the rest of those verses. There’s no mention made of the Lord. Did the Lord say He would stand by him and now He’s backed out when the heat came on? No. We don’t see the Lord in those verses. Does that mean the Lord isn’t there? No. We’re talking now about providence of God. Even sometimes when you don’t sense His presence or see His face in the situation, the Lord is right there. He’ll be right there, and He will surround you in providential ways.
I don’t know what you are going through and you may think the Lord is 10,000 miles away from you. But the Lord God is there whether you see His face or not. Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus. Because God is not evident, don’t think that God is not present. He surrounds us in providential ways.
He surrounds us in preferential ways. God does special things for us. When we read the rest of Chapter 23, we can listen to those 40 guys as they are talking about killing Paul. They are making their plans. They are laying out their strategy of how they are going to assassinate him. In verse 16, we read, “And when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, he entered into the castle and told Paul.”
God just happened to have his own nephew right there. His name is not even given. But God has the right boy and the right time at the right place to hear the right words. He gets in on what’s going to happen and goes over and tells Paul. Paul tells the chief captain what’s going on. God will surround you with His protection sometimes in preferential ways.
Sometimes God will use natural means. Things you don’t even think about. God is at work in His providence in your life. Just a storm of rain. Or maybe you get delayed in a traffic jam. Maybe you just have a chance meeting with somebody and it changes your life forever. God is at work arranging just the normal circumstances of life to get his plan and purpose fulfilled in your life. God surrounds us in providential ways and preferential ways. Also, there are times God surrounds us in powerful ways.
There are 40 men who have said they are not going to eat nor drink until this man Paul is dead. How would you feel if 40 men had a contract out on you? Notice what God does in the 23rd verse. We read, “And he called unto him two centurions saying, “Make ready 200 soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten (70), and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night.” If I counted that correctly that’s 470 people. Think about that for a moment. There were 40 men who said they were going to kill him. God said I’m going to surround my man with 470 people. God creates an amazing escort to protect Paul with providence, preferential and powerful ways.
Omnipotence is never out of its agents to carry out his purposes. God has His workers out there. They surround him and these 40 men take him down. 40 assassins had said that he’s going to die. God says, “No, he’s going to Rome.” You are immortal until God is through with you and as long as you are in His will, you are immortal until God gets His job done in your life.
I have often wondered what happened to that 40 who said they weren’t going to eat or drink until they killed Paul. Do you think maybe they were the original weight watchers? What am I trying to say? We have a God of ALL power. We have a God, who though His presence may not be evident, is arranging the circumstances of life to bring to pass the purpose and plan for our life. Also, if necessary, God will do supernatural powerful things to bring you into direct symmetry with His purpose and His plan for your life.
Are you in a nighttime? I think maybe God had you to read this chapter so you can sense His presence, to hear His promise, and to understand His protection. Think about this for a moment? Is there any obvious difference between 11:59pm and 12:00am? No. Yet, in that one moment you have move from an old day to a new day. You have moved into a new day, when in a matter of hours the sun will come up! Though it might be nighttime for you now, don’t forget the sun is coming up to replace your darkness with fresh miraculous light!