Take One Brave Step at a Time

May 16, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

Acts 16:16-34

16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying.
17 She followed Paul and us, crying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation."
18 And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the rulers;
20 and when they had brought them to the magistrates they said, "These men are Jews and they are disturbing our city.
21 They advocate customs which it is not lawful for us Romans to accept or practice."
22 The crowd joined in attacking them; and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods.
23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely.
24 Having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,
26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one's fetters were unfastened.
27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.
28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here."
29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas,
30 and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?"
31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house.
33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family.
34 Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God.

 

 

Our Title and our Topic for today is:  Take One Brave Step at a Time

 

Dear Friends, if you and I are at all alike, I know there are certain types of prayers that we tend to pray. I know one thing that I pray is: Dear Lord, Please grant me patience...(pause) And give it to me right now. (The congregation laughs). Yes, right now, I need patience to get through what I want to get through, but I need it right now!

 

Maybe we are also alike in that we face situations that are overwhelming. Overwhelming demands, overwhelming responsibility, and overwhelming scheduling. It is enough to make us feel frozen up inside because there is so much happening and so much to do. Can you identify with that feeling? If you can identify with these feelings, take heart, because there is Good News today from the Holy Scripture. A message is bubbling up out of the lesson that we read this morning that tells us this. When you feel overwhelmed, when patience is thin, when you feel frozen up inside, when you have many, many obligations and many, many responsibilities to fulfill, the thing to remember is this: Take One Brave Step at a Time.

 

Our job is not to get everything done immediately, all at once. Our job is to be faithful and to look carefully at the situation. Take a deep breath and Take One Brave Step at a Time. Sometimes, doing one small thing is the bravest thing you can do. Taking a small step may be the boldest thing you can do. Even further, some times resting is the best thing you can do. Resting-because it is then that God gives you the energy to restore and to contemplate and to rethink.  Just take the next brave step that needs to be done and we will come closer to fulfilling all the things that are asked of us.

 

We have the most wonderful lesson from the Scripture today. Let’s look at it together. It talks about the remarkable story of Paul and Silas in prison. I would like to talk about their jailor.  His story is a remarkable one; he went through some very difficult things and emerged triumphant. He did take the next brave step, one step at a time.

 

Here is what happened. Paul and Silas went to this town and began to preach the Good News. People got excited about it. However, they had a problem.  There was a servant girl with great emotional disturbance who also had an unusual gift of being able to predict things and to tell fortunes. She was being exploited by some men in the community for profit. The servant girl found herself to be strongly drawn to Paul and Silas and would follow them around town, day after day.  Paul got fed up with the situation and vowed to help the girl. He said, “I am going to cure her.” He said, “Evil spirit come out of her, make her whole and well. Put her in her right mind.”

 

That is exactly what happened. She was healed. But this made her owners very angry. These men decided to have Paul and Silas put into jail. They told the magistrate “These men are Jews and are disturbing our city.” These men were appealing to the anti-Semitic feelings of the town.  So Paul and Silas were shackled by hands and feet and thrown in to the inner part of the prison. Even from that desperate position, Paul and Silas praised the Lord and they sang. This was at midnight and the prisoners and Jonas the jailor were listening to them. After all were asleep, a bit later, there was a tremendous earthquake. The doors were opened and the prisoners’ shackles fell off.

 

 When the jailor woke up, he saw all the rubble and was in total despair. He looked for his sword, as he was going to hurt himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.  Just then, he heard Paul’s voice loudly in the silence. Paul said, “Don’t hurt yourself! Put the sword away, we are still here! We are not running away.”

 

The jailor was so amazed that he took the next brave step. The jailor called for lights, he couldn’t believe his good fortune. There was Paul and Silas. The jailor told Paul and Silas that he wanted what they had, and asked how he could be saved.  They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved. So, the day that started out in total despair, ended in joy for the jailor because he took it one brave step at a time.

 

 The Scripture seems to be saying that if you have faith there is a ripple effect. There is a blessing that goes to your entire household. My friends, for those of you who worry about someone in your household, for those of you who have a dear one who is not close to the Lord right now, take heart! Take courage from this Scripture. You and your household is what Paul says. There is a special kind of hope for your household because of your faith.

 

 

Friends, I invite you to take one brave step at a time as you go out into your work week. Envision the next brave step. Expect help from unexpected places and decide to take the next step.

 

A story I would like to share about a time when I was in despair and envisioned taking the next brave step. I was in graduate school.  I was preparing my doctoral dissertation using an old fashioned typewriter. For spell check you had your teacher. You typed your paper and the teacher gave you a list of corrections, and then you had to go back and retype the entire thing! It was quite a bit of work.

 

One dreadful night, about 4 AM, after I had done as much as I could on this dissertation, I went to bed.  I had a terrible thought: that I wouldn’t make it, I wouldn’t complete my dissertation and I wouldn’t get my doctorate. It was such as terrible feeling. But then, I had a great blessing from God. It said, take an index card, go to the Underwood typewriter and write your vision.

 

 I put the index card in the typewriter and wrote. I am sitting in a folding chair, on the lawn of Drew University, facing the Administration building porch. The porch is painted glossy gray. On the porch is sitting the President of the University, the Dean of the Graduate School and the Dean of the Theological Seminary. They called my name. I am walking up wearing a black robe with a hood of green and gold (the colors of the university) and a wide red velvet stripe that is the symbol of a doctoral degree. I am walking up the wooden steps to the porch and going over to the President, who is extending his hand to shake mine. I am getting a diploma from the Dean of the Theological Seminary.  I am walking down the steps and back to my seat.

 

I typed that out and read it every night.   That gave me the courage, in a prayerful way, to just take the next brave step that needed to be taken to get that degree. And yes, I did graduate the 20th of May some years ago, with my doctoral degree.

 

I invite you to envision what you need to accomplish and just take the next step toward that goal.   Also be open to help from unexpected sources. As you take the step, as you have the courage to begin, the universe will rush in to bless you.  The blessing, the help, the encouragement, the resources, may come from very unexpected sources. For instance, in the Bible story, the jailor did not expect that the prisoners would be the ones to help him out. Why did it happen? It happened because God loved him. God was sending blessings from unexpected sources. So as you take the next brave step, be ready for help from unusual places.

 

In closing I would like to share the poem entitled, Just for Today.

 

Just for today: I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to
keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today: I will be happy. I will assume to be true what Abraham Lincoln said,
*Most folks are as happy as they make up their
minds to be.*

Just for today: I will adjust myself to what is,
and not try to adjust everything to my own desires

Just for today: I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study.
 
I will read something that requires effort,  
thought and concentration.

Just for today: I will be agreeable. I will
look as well as I can, dress becomingly, keep my voice
low, be courteous, criticize not one bit. I won't find
fault with anything, nor try to improve or regulate
anybody else but myself.

Just for today: I will have a program.
I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it.
I will save myself from two pests: Hurry and Indecision.

Just for today: I will have a quiet half
hour all by myself, and relax. During this half hour, I will try to get a better perspective of
my life.

Just for today: I will be un-afraid.
Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what
is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the
world, so the world will give back to me.

Author Unknown

 

 

Dear friends, remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Make the decision to take the next brave step and you will be on your way to accomplishing all that needs to be done.

 

God loves you; I do too. Have a wonderful week.

  

© 2010 Anthony J. Godlefski