November 3, 2019
Pastor Ricky Smith
Have you ever fallen asleep in class or in church? For instance, you have this posture like you are praying and then you start to slide down your chair. I know how it is; I can fall asleep just about anywhere. I love a good power nap. Give me about eight to nine minutes of sleep, and I’m a new man. The power nap is a gift. And if you can’t do that, I’m sorry; you don’t know what you’re missing.
But I also realize, I unfortunately can’t fall asleep on a plane. That’s when I wish I could sleep, but I can’t. You get on an international flight. You’re sitting there in the tube of pain for 14 hours, and you wish you could sleep, but you can’t. That’s frustrating.
It reminds me of one of my best friends growing up whose father had sleep apnea. But as a child, I didn’t know what sleep apnea meant. I just thought it was funny that he would fall asleep at awkward times. I can’t tell you the number of times we were spending the night and as we were going home with my friend’s dad driving, he just drifted off and startled himself awake. I’m lucky to be alive; it’s amazing.
But he was always very engaged in the worship experience at church, and he loved to talk back. So, for him to say “Amen!” really loudly in church was normal. But what was funny is, whenever he would fall asleep (you know how people with apnea are; they fall asleep and startle awake), every time he would wake up in church, he would say, “Amen!” really loudly. And that was fine if it fit the moment, but there were many times it did not fit the moment. Maybe the pastor had just given announcement of someone who just lost a loved one, and you’d hear “Amen!”
Well, I tell you that story because today we’re going to walk in the story of Acts. There’s a narrative, or story, we’re going to walk through, and it tells us about a guy who fell asleep during what I would like to call a “killer sermon”.
It’s in Acts 20:7. We’re taking one verse at a time and telling the story along the way in the hopes that God has something to teach us today. I believe for every one of us, when we finish, God desires for us to be changed, having learned something about Him, having learned something about ourselves, and leaving committed to living life differently.
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. 9 And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”
Wow! You talk about a long-winded preacher! Are you up for a 12-hour sermon? I couldn’t talk that long if I wanted to! Now, even in this first verse, there are some interesting things we begin to understand. There are some insights here about how the church is growing up and maturing, and there’s a comparison to how the church functioned in Acts chapter two versus now in Acts chapter twenty. It has grown up a little bit. Some structure has taken place and developed over time. So, here we’re beginning to see that the Christians are starting to break away from practicing like Jews to having some more uniqueness.
They set apart a day of the week for worship and particularly, this is one of the earliest references in Scripture that we see them having set apart Sunday as the day of worship, and we continue to practice that today. Do you know why? They began to worship on Sunday even as early back as Acts chapter 20 because Sunday was the day of the week that the Lord Jesus was resurrected. And so, in remembrance of that resurrection, exalting and remembering that we serve a risen savior, it became their custom to begin to worship on Sunday, and we still do that today as part of that remembrance.
And notice in verse seven, there are two things that they prioritized about coming together for worship. One, they prioritized coming together to partake of the Lord’s Supper. They did that because Jesus had commanded them to do it, and we also see that when they came together, they put a high priority and emphasis on the intentional preaching and teaching of Scripture, which even for us today is a high priority.
If we look at the amount of time that we budget when we come together for worship, we’re more heavily emphasizing the teaching of Scripture; this is modeled all the way back and Acts chapter 20. It’s something we can learn from, and here, Paul is like the Energizer Bunny of a preacher. He just keeps going and going and going…
Let’s use our imagination if we can, and let’s recreate this scene in our minds. They have chosen to meet in the upper room. We’ll see in a little bit, it’s the third floor of a house that they have chosen to gather in, and I could only imagine (Scripture doesn’t say), but there are enough examples throughout the rest of the New Testament of houses that they were gathered in that it was probably a fairly large house with enough room for people to come together.
They’ve opened up the windows, and this is in the city of Troas. If you were able to find this city, it would be the northwestern coastal corner of modern-day Turkey. So here they are on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and we know that it’s springtime. How do we know that it’s springtime? A couple of verses before in chapter 20, we see that they had just celebrated Passover, and if you were to understand the climate of northwest Turkey on the sea during spring, even today (the sun still spins at the same rate that it spun then) it would be normal for it to dip down into the forties at night.
Now, let’s put a little context here. This past Friday night, my family went up to Canton, Georgia, where we could cheer on our Calvary Knights football team in the playoffs. It was about 40 degrees, and I’m just going to tell you, I would have done anything for a little heat. It was cold. We walked back to the car saying, “I can’t even feel my feet.” When we started the game, it was about 42-43 degrees, and when we ended, it was about 38. It was cold!
So, get the scene. Imagine if you would, here they are; they’re gathered together in this upper room. It’s a chilly night. They’ve opened the windows so the draft in the air could breathe, because we got a lot of warm bodies generating heat. But there were many, many lamps placed around. Why? So that they could see, but more importantly, because they needed to be warm. Can you get the picture?
Imagine you’re sitting in this upper room. It’s cold. You’re beginning to get warm. It’s getting late. Your mind is engaged. You’re interested in what’s going on, but there’s an old saying that goes something like this: “When the seat gets tired, the mind retires.”
I try my best to think through what Paul might have sounded like when he preached and knowing the courageous, somewhat athletic type of guy he was, I don’t picture a Bob Ross voice soothing them to sleep as he’s preaching. I’m thinking there’s probably some vigor and some excitement (and if some of you don’t know Bob Ross, just Netflix it later).
But I can just imagine that Paul has some excitement. However, even while he has excitement here, Eutychus starts to sink into the warmth of those lamps. And he falls into sleep. How dare he! How dare Eutychus falls asleep when Paul is preaching, right? But I’ll be honest with you; Eutychus gets a bad rap here. I can’t tell you the number of sermons that I have heard preached on this passage (and maybe that I’ve preached myself), and the emphasis was on, “How dare Eutychus fall asleep while Paul is preaching!” And, “We need to wake up!”
We could talk about that, but let’s give the guy a break. Actually, his name is translated into fortunate. That’s ironic, isn’t it? Eutychus’ name means fortunate, and little did his mama and daddy know that when he was born and they would give him the name of fortunate, that God was foretelling of this moment, because we will soon see just how fortunate Eutychus is to have this encounter happen when it did.
I want to pay attention to Eutychus, though. Rather than him falling asleep, here’s what I think is noteworthy. He definitely becomes the center of attention here, but what I want you to pay attention to is that even though he fell asleep, Eutychus showed up. Eutychus was present. Eutychus was desiring to learn. Eutychus wanted to grow. He was present in the moment, and I can’t help but then begin to ask myself and maybe even challenge you to ask yourself the question:
Have you ever been at a moment in your spiritual journey when you were so defeated, so discouraged, you were falling into this stupor in the rhythm and the routine of whatever may be pressing on you in life, and you were weary, and all you could do was just show up?
I would encourage you, from what we’re going to see in Eutychus, sometimes just showing up allows you to be in a position to watch God do something amazing. You’ve got to show up, though, or you’ll miss it.
But, falling asleep was a big deal here. In ancient Jewish culture, if you had fallen asleep during a synagogue experience, you could be kicked out for 30 days. I mean, in Jewish tradition at least, this is a significant thing to fall asleep in church. And here, he is just trying to be present, trying to be engaged, and it just overtakes him. He’s trying to be strong, but in his weakness, he just falls into this sleep.
1. God will use your weakness to point others to His power
I think this is maybe where we could begin to see the meat, or the heart, of this text. It’s an opportunity for us to be reminded that our weaknesses can point us to God’s power. For Eutychus, it was the simple weakness of being able to stay awake even though he was present, and we’re going to see as this story unfolds that God uses this fortunate situation to point others to His power.
But what about in your own life? It may be something seemingly much more significant than just the weakness of being able to stay awake. What are some weaknesses or trials in your life? What are some struggles in your life that you really wish you could have victory over, but you continue to fail and stumble in? God will use your weaknesses to point others to His power. Let me point you to what He says in 2 Corinthians 12:9:
2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
My weakness, your weakness, whatever that weakness may be, it’s an opportunity to point others to the power of God. His strength is perfect in your weakness. But what the enemy loves to do is to take your weaknesses and magnify them with a flashlight in your soul and use that as an opportunity to cause you to believe that the enemy may tell you, “You’re not good enough. You’ll never make it. You’ll never matter. You’ll never account to anything. If you did matter, you wouldn’t struggle with this sin. If you did matter, you wouldn’t have this habit or if you did matter, you would be more successful than you are.” And the enemy loves to cause us to begin to look at others and compare ourselves to their status or their achievement or their success. We internalize that, and it magnifies our weakness even more. And we begin to walk totally defeated, believing the lies from the enemy.
But what we need to see is how fortunate we are to be made new in Christ, that His power is made perfect in our weakness. In my weakness, I can find strength when I look at Him and I understand who He is and who He has created me to be. I find my identity not in what others say about me or not and what I can do, but in who He is, what He has done and who He has created me to be. When I look to Him, I understand that He is risen, He is our rescue, and He is our fortress. He is our deliverer and our hope. He is our confidence. He is our peace. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
When I look to Him, see Him, and fix my eyes on Him like Hebrews chapter 12, verse 2 commands me, I begin to see myself differently. When I find my identity in Him, rather than looking at my weaknesses, I begin to see that I am forgiven, chosen, accepted, free, called, rescued, and loved. Why? It’s not because of any goodness that I could bring to the table, but because of who He is and through the power of His death, burial and resurrection. And God continues to use our weakness to point others to His power.
2. God turns tragedy into joy
Here’s the second point that we see in this text: God turns tragedy into joy. He’s in the business of doing this over and over again. In fact, in my LifeGroup, our teacher was teaching us about this beautiful story of Joseph and how, what seemed like one tragedy after another after another, was used by God for joy.
Here in this text, this is coming on the heels of Passover. Read the first few verses of chapter 20 where all of the people’s eyes were renewed and refreshed to see the resurrection of Christ. That was on everybody’s minds. In fact, I can’t help but think that because of being on the heels of Passover and Paul knowing that’s what everybody was thinking about anyway, it was highly probable that that was the main content of his sermon that went on for hours, and it even made it more beneficial and fortunate that God now drops this beautiful object lesson of Eutychus in his lap.
The purpose of this narrative that we read in Acts chapter 20 is not for us to learn a lesson about the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel. It’s not for us to learn the lessons of the danger of falling asleep in church. It is a reminder of the Gospels’ purpose to give life.
There is a striking coincidence of life in the midst of death. This moment must have been a powerful reminder for the disciples that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. And all throughout Scripture, it is filled with these scenarios and stories of people who were dead, being brought back to life physically.
We could look at Jesus and the widow’s son in Luke chapter seven, Jairus’ daughter in Luke chapter eight, Lazarus in John chapter 11, Dorcas being resurrected at the voice of Peter in Acts chapter nine. We could go into the Old Testament and see the power that God used through Elijah in 1 Kings and Elisha in 2 Kings.
There are some striking similarities, even here, that God uses Paul to allow this physical object lesson of someone who was dead being brought back to life, not so that we could be amazed at Paul or Elijah or Elisha, but so that our eyes can go to Jesus, so that our confidence can be in the hope of the Gospel, and so that we can be reminded that Jesus is all about bringing dead people to life.
3. God doesn’t make bad people good; He makes dead people alive.
In fact, that’s the third point: God doesn’t make bad people good; He makes dead people alive. I hope you can say that’s true for you. In fact, let me turn our attention if we made to Ephesians 2. This is such an important point that we need to see. I pray that this is an important point where you can even see yourself in this passage.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Can you remember life before Jesus when you were dead in your trespass and sin? Some of you got saved as a child like me. I’ll be honest with you. I don’t have a story like I was a convicted felon, a drug dealer, or murdered 15 people… I got saved when I was eight. So, my story is a little different. But I can definitely remember the change in my life. I was dead, without hope, on my way to a deserving Hell when Jesus stepped in. Do you remember when you were dead?
Remember your story and reflect on Eutychus. You see, Eutychus is a great object lesson for us today. He fell out of this third story window, and he was dead. He had nothing in himself that could bring him back from that. He was dead. It took Paul outside of him to come and to use our God to bring him back to life. That’s a beautiful picture of my life and yours being dead in trespasses and sin.
There is no goodness, no amount of giving, no amount of service, no amount of volunteerism, no amount of morality that could bring me out of that dead state. The only help I have is for someone else, Jesus, God in the flesh, incarnate come to Earth living a perfect life, who died a senseless death. Why? So that I could be raised to life again. That’s the beauty of the Gospel. He did not come to make bad people good; He came to make dead people alive.
Where you and I have to be very guarded in our desire to engage culture and our desire to make a difference is, it is really easy for us to only talk about morality. It’s great to be moral, but my morality should be an overflow of the evidence of the Gospel in my life. It’s a heartfelt change, motivated and moved by Jesus, not just out of a desire to be good. It’s the power of the Gospel.
So today, we choose to come into His presence with Thanksgiving. Today we choose to come into this place with praise, and we acknowledge that our life and our breath is a gift from Him. Let’s go back to the story in verse 11.
And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.
There are a couple of observations that I think are important for us to see here in verse 11. There is a lot of power here. There’s evidence for us to see that they both took of the Lord’s Supper and celebrated a meal. In fact, geusamenos, which is the Greek word used for eaten, is only ever used in a physical meal context. It’s never used in the context of communion.
So, there is scriptural evidence here to say that when they got together, they celebrated communion, and then they just ate and shared a meal of fellowship. Both of those things happened here. That’s important for us to see.
We see that Paul responded with some sense of urgency. He sees this moment where he’s already been preaching for a while. He’s already been fellowshipping. Now this object lesson fortunately falls in his lap in Eutychus’ is death and fortunately for Eutychus, he’s raised back to life. So, that just spurs Paul on. He gets his second wind, and he just keeps going.
The urgency of the Gospel compelled him to speak even longer, and that leads me to this fourth point. I would say this is all of today’s sermon in one sentence. Here it is:
The urgency of the Gospel should compel us to make disciples.
Lean into that word. The urgency of the Gospel should compel us to make disciples. I’m going to be fully transparent with you. In the life that we all live, we’re so consumed with the rhythm and the pace of life, and it feels like I just can’t even keep up. I’m taxi-ing my kids everywhere. I’m trying to make the bill payments on time, and then I’ve got to work. I’ve got all these pressures of life, and it’s easy to lose sight of the urgency of the Gospel.
Why should we be urgent?
Let me remind you three truths that are always constant and real and should motivate us to live with a sense of urgency.
a. Heaven awaits. (Revelation 22:20)
The first is this: Heaven awaits. Eternity is real. I long for eternity in Heaven. Jesus is coming back. Revelations 20 says, “Yes, I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Heaven awaits and because this life that we live on this Earth is temporary, that should create some urgency in me. Jesus is coming back.
b. Hell is real. (Revelation 20:15)
The second thing is, hell is real. This is not some fictitious story that’s made up. This is a real place of torment and eternal separation from God. Revelations 20:15 says, “And anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was thrown into the Lake of Fire.” The very fact that somebody I love could be eternally separated from God should move in me some sense of urgency that compels me to make disciples.
c. Harvest is ready. (John 4:35)
Heaven awaits, Hell is real, and the harvest is ready. Jesus said in John 4:35, “You have a saying, ‘four months until harvest’, but I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields that are ready for harvest now.”
You have neighbors, family members, co-workers, and friends who need to hear about Jesus, and they need to understand the urgency of life. They need to know the importance and the weight of eternity, and you have the hope of the Gospel. You have the message that can give them peace and purpose that surpasses all understanding. You have it. It’s a gift that you can share. Oh, that we lived with the urgency to tell others that good news!
The people here in verses 11 and 12 left “not a little comforted”. Now, I realize that is a very strange statement. In the Greek, it literally means this: They left compelled with urgency. It’s not a negative of saying they left not very comforted. No, they left with urgency. They were amazed at what they had heard. They were amazed at what they had witnessed. They had just seen Eutychus be raised from the dead, and here at the end, Eutychus is still there.
I mean, let’s just be honest. Had you fallen out of third story window, died, and been raised back to life, some of us would have been like, “Man, I’ve got a headache. I need to go home and lay down.” He just went right back in church and kept learning. I mean, mad props to Eutychus! This is impressive! He stayed to the very end. I mean, why not? You’re a fortunate soul.
So they were urged, they were pushed, to carry on with the mission. What they heard and what they had experienced motivated them to carry on. Urgency. What a beautiful and motivating picture!
- I choose to admit my need for Jesus and receive His gift of life.
- I commit to find my identity in who Jesus says I am and not what others say I am.
- I sense the urgency of the Gospel and commit to carry on a Gospel conversation this week.
- Acts 20:7 describes the church gathering for an intended purpose. Why is it important that we gather
regularly and intentionally? What do you believe is the most important reason for the church to gather?
- Read Ephesians 2:1-10. If Jesus came to make dead people alive, how can we acknowledge that truth each day, and how can we better understand who we are in Jesus?
- Acts 20:12 describes the congregation having left with great comfort and being urged to carry on the
Gospel mission to make disciples. What does this sense of urgency look like in your life, and how do we “spur one another on”, as described in Hebrews 10:24?