When Life isn’t Fair (Camp Meeting, 6/30/19)

Posted by on Jul 3, 2019 in Pitman Camp Meeting, Sermons, Worship & Prayer | 0 comments

Richwood UMC opened the 2019 season of the Pitman Camp Meeting and got us off to a rousing start.  Sanctified opened the worship in music and then closed it with a mini-concert.  Richwood UMC’s pastor, Rev. Steve Herman preached an inspiring sermon with practical advice on what to do when life treats you unfairly.



Richwood’s band, Sanctified, brings a full complement of guitars, keyboards, drums, and vocals.  They even bring a projection screen with graphics and lyrics, and they keep the sound beautiful with their mixer board and audio equipment. It’s a heartfelt presentation of local Methodists, but it comes with a professional touch.




Rev. Steve Herman took the pulpit and gave the congregation a down to earth application of Acts 16:16-35.  Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten, and thrown into jail.  Life sure wasn’t being fair! 

He broke this passage into three sections and gave us three lessons that we could apply to our own lives.

Note:  All of the below quotations are from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.

Lesson #1:  Life Isn’t Fair!

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but somehow we get the idea that if we obey God and follow Him, bad things won’t happen.  But, bad things DO happen.  Life isn’t fair! 

Rev. Herman read from The Message and opened his message with Acts 16:16-24…

16 One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her.

17 She started following Paul around, calling everyone’s attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!”

18 She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that.

19 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them

20 and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace — dangerous Jewish agitators

21 subverting our Roman law and order.”

22 By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood. The judges went along with the mob, had Paul and Silas’s clothes ripped off and ordered a public beating.

23 After beating them black and blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape.

24 He did just that — threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.

This isn’t supposed to happen, right?  Paul and Silas were traveling far from home in obedience to God.  The were reaching people.  Glorifying God, preaching His forgiveness, and healing people.  They were doing all of the right things.  And yet, they were beaten and thrown in jail.

“No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!”

Rev. Herman then told the story of someone who tried to help out; to give back to society.  To do the right thing. 

A man was driving down the street during a windy day, and he came upon a trash can which had been blown a distance from its owner’s home.  He stopped and decided to get the can off the road and return it to where it belonged.  Do the right thing- prevent an accident.  Help someone out.  The can was too heavy to carry, so he put it into his car and proceeded to drive it “home.” 

However, along the way, the can tipped over and his car was filled with the stench of rotten peaches!  In the weeks that followed this good deed, he tried and tried to remove the smell.  But the rotten peach oder just wouldn’t leave.  It got so bad that he eventually had to buy a new car!

Life hits all of us with situations that aren’t fair: sickness, death, divorce.  Lesson #1 is that Life isn’t Fair.  We shouldn’t expect otherwise.


Lesson #2:  When Life isn’t Fair, Keep a Good Attitude

So what do you do when life unfairly hits you over the head?   Once you accept that life is unfair, try to keep a good attitude.  That’s what Paul and Silas did. 

The story continues (Acts 16:25-28)…

25 Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears.

26 Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose.

27 Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway,

28 when Paul stopped him: “Don’t do that! We’re all still here! Nobody’s run away!”

If anyone had a reason to complain about a bad day, it was Paul and Silas.  But they don’t get tangled up in a “woe is me attitude.”  Instead they amaze the other prisoners and guards by singing and praising God! The result was that God sent an earthquake, shook open the bars, broke off the chains and allowed them to claim freedom. 


Charles Wesley’s great hymn, “And Can It Be that I Should Gain” illustrates this passage.

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay,

fast bound in sin and nature’s night.

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.

My chains fell off, my heart was free.

I rose went forth and followed Thee.”

Another familiar hymn that we sing is entitled “Now Thank We All Our God.”  You’d think that the person who wrote this hymn must have been going through a lot of good times.  Good things were happening, so he felt moved to thank God.

But this was far from the case.  The author of this hymn,   Martin Rinkart, was a Lutheran deacon who lived in Germany during the 30 years war.  In 1637 his town was hit with a major plague.  At one point during this period, about 50 people a day were dying.  Rinkart was one of five pastors in the city.  On one day, he had to conduct funerals for those other four clergy, and he was left by himself to continue burying the citizens of his city.

And yet- as unfair as life was to him- he kept a “positive attitude.”  Instead of complaining or withdrawing or of getting angry with God, he wrote a hymn THANKING God.


Lesson #3:  Look for God’s Larger Plan

It’s not about us!  It’s not even about the time we’re living in.  God sees all, knows all, and He’s got a bigger plan that goes far beyond us. 

The final part of the passage is verses 29-34…

29 The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas.

30 He led them out of the jail and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?”

31 They said, “Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live — and everyone in your house included!”

32 They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master — the entire family got in on this part.

33 They never did get to bed that night. The jailer made them feel at home, dressed their wounds, and then — he couldn’t wait till morning! — was baptized, he and everyone in his family.

34 There in his home, he had food set out for a festive meal. It was a night to remember: He and his entire family had put their trust in God; everyone in the house was in on the celebration.

Life sure wasn’t fair to Paul and Silas, but God doesn’t enjoy doing something bad to us.  He’s always got something bigger going on. 

for Paul and Silas, their “unfair day” led to the salvation of his fellow inmates, of the guards, and of the guard’s family.

This incident happened in the city of Philipi, and you can be sure that the church was strengthened by the powerful witness of Paul and Silas.  It’s quite possible that without this “unfair day”, there wouldn’t be a church in Philipi, and our bibles wouldn’t contain a letter to the church at Philipi.  That book has been a blessing to many throughout the centuries.

Rev. Herman ended with the story of Father Father Joseph Damien.     Father Damien was a Roman Catholic Priest ministering to the people of Hawaii during the mid 1800s.  He was called to a leper colony on the island of Molokai, but he quickly became disheartened by the lack of attendance at his services.  His ministry wasn’t going the way he envisioned, so he decided to leave.  But God had a bigger plan.

Shortly before leaving (in fact while on the boat ready to depart), he noticed that he had contracted leprosy himself.  So, he was forced to join the leper colony and remain there until the disease claimed his life.  His death, however, has become a shining example of Christ’s sacrificial love to millions over 100 years later.  

God had something bigger going on.


Is life unfair?  Don’t be surprised.  Keep a good attitude and look for the bigger picture that God is painting.


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