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Official Joseph Prince Sermon Notes

Answers For Dark Nights And Difficult Seasons

Sunday, 18 August 2019
 

These are notes on the sermon, Answers For Dark Nights And Difficult Seasons, preached by Pastor Joseph Prince on Sunday, 18 August 2019, at The Star Performing Arts Centre, Singapore. We hope these sermon notes will be an encouragement to you!

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Overview

  1. Introduction: God sees you and reaches out to you in the night seasons
  2. When you’re afraid, He is your 360-degree shield
  3. When all you see is darkness, He gives you light
  4. When you don’t know what to do, He is working all things out for you
  5. He gives His best gifts to you in your night seasons
  6. When you are anxious, He gives you rest and sweet sleep
  7. When you sleep, He works the night shift
  8. Your fight will become food for others
  9. Get ready to see Jesus in a fresh and new way
  10. Be sustained by His love as you partake of the holy Communion
  11. Closing Prayer

Introduction: God sees you and reaches out to you in the night seasons

Pastor Prince shares how Jesus our Good Shepherd knows what we are going through. He knows the state of His flock.

The word for us today is about our night seasons—seasons of darkness and difficulty.

Even if you are in a good place in life right now, there will be times you will go through night seasons. They’re part of life here on Earth.

If you are going through a night season right now, if you’re experiencing depression, if you’re going through something you don’t understand, if you’re doubting God… the Lord knows what you’re going through and He cares for you.

The Bible shows us that God knows about the night seasons in our lives.

“I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
— ‭Psalms‬ ‭16:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In the night seasons, we need to know what to do and we need to understand what the Lord wants to do for us.

The night seasons can be caused by you (your own doing), or they can be caused by the devil (spiritual warfare).

Pastors and leaders can face spiritual warfare immediately after a great victory, e.g. after a powerful service or conference. Pastor Prince encourages pastors and leaders to remember that while they are taking care of the Lord’s flock, they are still His sheep. The Lord wants to minister to them, feed them, and tend to them.

The Psalmist David went through night seasons. In his night season, he wrote:

“For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.”
— ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭30:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Weeping may endure for a night” — Weeping only lasts for a night. The night season doesn’t last forever.

joy comes in the morning” — When morning comes, joy comes. Joy comes as a person, and His name is Jesus. He comes to you in the morning.

While the Lord never leaves us (see Heb. 13:5), there are special times of visitation. Times when we feel a call on the inside to spend time with Him. Times when we feel a prompting on the inside to open the Word and fellowship with Him.

Song of Songs expresses how the bridegroom (Jesus) calls to His bride (us, the church) to meet with Him, but sometimes we rebuff Him.

In those precious moments when the Lord calls to us, we should respond. In those moments, if we would just open the Bible, the living Word of God would jump out at us. It would speak to us.

These moments are the moments when we are yoking ourselves to the Lord.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:29–30 NKJV

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me” — Jesus is alluding to the practice of yoking a younger ox to an older ox. This analogy tells us that we are to be yoked to Him, close to Him, led by Him. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

To follow His leading means that when He speaks, you respond! E.g. when He prompts you to open the Word and receive refreshing for your soul, do it.

You can make it easier for yourself to respond to the Lord by placing Bibles around your house so that whenever there is a prompting, you can easily access the Word.

When you’re afraid, He is your 360-degree shield

Sometimes, the night seasons still come even though we have been listening to the gospel of grace, we have been taking the holy Communion, we have been tithing.

This is what happened to Abraham.

Right after Abraham had a meeting with Melchizedek who brought him bread and wine and received a tithe from him (see Gen. 14), Abraham found himself in a night season (see Gen. 15).

“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’”
— ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

God came to Abraham and wanted him to know 2 things:

1. “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield.”

Abraham was afraid because he had just conquered 4 armies, and he was worried that they would be back to get him. That’s why God came to him as a shield in this vision. The Hebrew word for the shield is “magen,” and it is an all-surrounding shield. 360-degree protection.

When we are in trouble and afraid, the Lord surrounds us as a shield. He surrounds us with songs of deliverance.

“... God my Maker,
Who gives songs in the night
— Job 35:10 NKJV

The Lord gives us songs of deliverance in the night seasons.

“Night” can refer to difficult seasons, but it can also refer to the literal night (night time).

Can you sleep well at night? Do you have depressive thoughts that get the loudest at night?

When you can’t sleep, see the Lord as your shield—surrounding you completely, protecting you completely. You are a sheep, and sheep can’t rest when they’re feeling insecure.

Abraham was tossing and turning at night, unable to sleep and unable to dream. That’s why God didn’t appear to him in a dream but appeared to him in a vision. And He appeared as a shield. So when you can’t sleep, see the Lord as your shield.

Pastor Prince mentions that there are exactly 7 night scenes recorded in the book of John, and each of them is significant. E.g. in the 5th night scene, Judas betrays Jesus. When he walks away from Jesus, the Bible records that “it was night” (John 13:30). Whenever you turn away from Jesus, it becomes night.

2. “I am … your exceedingly great reward.”

The Hebrew word for “reward” is “sakar,” which means “salary.”

Maybe today, you are disappointed and discouraged because you have spent so much time and effort on something, but with no results. The Lord is saying to you, “I am your exceedingly great reward.”

He is not just your great reward, He is your exceedingly great reward.

This is a picture of abundance, a picture of a land flowing with milk and honey.

God isn’t stingy toward you. He’s generous.

When all you see is darkness, He gives you light

Then God told Abraham to come outside and look at the stars (see Gen. 15:5). This is how we know for sure that this conversation between God and Abraham happened at night.

The stars are always there, but we see them more clearly in the night seasons.

Today, we are living in a world where darkness is all around us.

When darkness is on this Earth, God’s Word tells us to arise and shine for our light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon us (see Isa. 60:1).

In Egypt, when the plague of deep darkness was released, this is what happened:

“They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
— ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭10:23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” — This light that the children of Israel had was supernatural. It wasn’t natural light from lamps. The Egyptians couldn’t light any lamp in their darkness. Just as their darkness was supernatural, the Israelites’ light was supernatural.

Today, when our world is in darkness (especially moral darkness), they will see you with light in your dwelling.

God didn’t give the Israelites light because they were perfect. They were imperfect people who murmured and complained in the next few chapters. God gave them light because they were His people.

God doesn’t give you light because you’re perfect; He gives you light because you’re His.

You might see failings in your life, but there’s still light in your dwelling. Even demonic forces can see it.

We are children of light, and we’ll never walk in darkness.

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
— 1 John 1:7 NKJV

we walk in the light as He is in the light” — The light we walk in is a realm that Jesus has placed us in. It is not based on our behavior.

the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” — When we walk in the light, we still sin. But every time we sin, the blood cleanses us and keeps us in the light. Whenever you have a bad thought, a wrong emotion, or you do something wrong, you are cleansed immediately by the blood of Jesus.

Being in the light isn’t a question of how you walk; it is a question of where you walk.

The conditional word “if” at the beginning of the verse refers to “if you are a believer,” not “if you don’t sin anymore.”

Sin is wrong, but it cannot stop you from being in the light because you are constantly cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

When you don’t know what to do, He is working all things out for you

In your night seasons, you might feel like the devil is having a field day with you. But God is so much more active and powerful than the devil. He is turning all things around in your favor.

The devil’s roars are exceptionally loud at night. Do you find that your negative thoughts, your depressive thoughts, your guilty thoughts are all amplified at night?

Things just seem worse in the night season.

The Bible teaches us what to do in the night season through the story of Daniel in the lion’s den.

Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den at night.

These were ferocious, hungry, man-eating animals. That’s why when the evil men who had plotted against Daniel were eventually thrown into the den, the lions tore them apart before they hit the ground.

Even men of God like Daniel and Abraham went through night seasons. Even they had fears and faced terror.

Because of Daniel’s obedience to God, he was thrown into the lion’s den.

Sometimes, even though you didn’t do anything wrong (or maybe you even did the right thing), you find yourself in the lion’s den. In this case, the lion is a picture of the enemy.

What did Daniel do?

“Now the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.”
— ‭‭Daniel‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

When there was nothing he could do, Daniel “believed in his God,” and he came out of the lion’s den in the morning “and no injury whatever was found on him.”

All you need to do is believe.

When you don’t understand your situation, believe in the Lord.

There is nothing you need to do but believe.

He gives His best gifts to you in your night seasons

God gave Abraham the gift of righteousness in his night season.

Sometimes, we can be so distressed and obsessed with our troubles until they’re all we see.

When that happens, God wants to give us a larger vision. When we fill ourselves with God’s Word by reading the Bible or listening to anointed sermons, our vision is enlarged and we’re able to see what God wants us to see.

God wanted to enlarge Abraham’s vision, so He brought him outside to “count the stars.”

“Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.’”
— Genesis 15:5 NKJV

The words “count” and “number” are both the same Hebrew word “caphar,” which means to “declare” or “tell the story.”

It is the same word used in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare (caphar) the glory of God,” which means “The heavens tell the story of the glory of God.”

Before the Bible was written, God wrote the gospel story in the stars.

The story begins with Virgo (the virgin), and it ends with Leo (the lion).

The New Testament starts with the virgin Mary and ends with the Lion of Judah, who is Jesus.

So God told Abraham the gospel story in the stars, and said, “So shall thy seed be.” (Gen. 15:5 KJV). God was referring to Jesus, who would come from Abraham’s line.

“And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
— Genesis 15:6 NKJV

Abraham believed God and he was justified by faith. He is the first man who was justified by faith, whom the apostle Paul constantly refers to in his letters to the churches.

And Abraham was justified by faith in his night season.

In your night season, the Lord comes to you with the gift of righteousness.

Amazing things are happening in your night season.

Sometimes, it can feel like demons are active at night especially when you have overwhelming thoughts and anxieties. But God’s angels are the ones who are active at night.

God’s angels are active in your night seasons.

The Bible records many times when angels appeared in the night to people.

When the apostles were arrested, an angel came to free them at night:

“But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’”
—‭‭ Acts‬ ‭5:19–20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

When Jacob fled his father’s house and rested at Bethel, he had a dream at night:

“Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
— ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭28:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Angels are coming and going from heaven at night. They’re bringing messages, deliverance, healing, etc.

Today, we have the ladder that makes angels want to ascend and descend from heaven. The ladder is our Lord Jesus.

“And He said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’”
— ‭‭John‬ ‭1:51‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Because Jesus is here with us, angels are going up and down all the time.

God gave Solomon wisdom in his night season.

Solomon received wisdom, not when he was awake, but when he was sleeping at night.

Our night seasons are the best time to receive teaching and instruction from the Lord.

If the devil wants to keep you awake at night, make him pay. Just use that time to dive into God’s Word.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
— ‭‭Joshua‬ ‭1:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The Lord tells us to meditate on His Word at night.

When you can’t sleep at night, don’t just turn on the TV or the radio. Meditate on God’s Word.

When you read or hear a scripture that speaks to you, keep chewing on it. Keep muttering and speaking it to yourself. It will become strength and health to you.

Let the Lord teach you through His Word.

Solomon loved God and he went to Gibeon, the place of worship, to offer burnt offerings to God there.

That night, God came to him in a dream.

“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask! What shall I give you?’”
— 1 Kings 3:5 NKJV

Most of us would ask for lots of money, because we think money will solve our problems and give us a good life. But God can bypass money (and all the things money can buy that we think will make us happy) and bring us straight to the good life.

Above everything else, Solomon asked God for wisdom, a hearing heart (see 1 Kings 3:9).

God loved this request. Today, He still loves it when we ask Him for wisdom.

Solomon asked God for wisdom and he received it in a dream at night.

In your night season, the Lord gives you wisdom.

When you are anxious, He gives you rest and sweet sleep

Solomon, who received wisdom from the Lord when he was sleeping, wrote this psalm:

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows
;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.”
— ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭127:2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

To eat the bread of sorrows” — This is a picture of worry. There’s nothing wrong with waking up early, but if you do it because you’re worried, then waking up early is pointless. When your spirit is anxious and depressed, you won’t be able to accomplish much.

Many times, God changes your spirit before He changes your circumstances.

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
— 3 John 2 NKJV

Your soul prospers first, then all other things including your health prosper.

“It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.”
— ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭127:2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

For so He gives His beloved sleep.” — The word “beloved” here is “yĕdiyd,” which is the name that God gave Solomon, Jedidiah. The Lord called Solomon “beloved of the Lord.”

Solomon knew he was God’s beloved, and that’s why he could have sweet, anxiety-free sleep.

When you sleep, He works the night shift

“It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.”
— ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭127:2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Pastor Prince shares how this line “He gives His beloved sleep” has also been interpreted by scholars to mean “God gives to His beloved as he sleeps.”

This can be seen in the NASB version:

“It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”
— ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭127:2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Pastor Prince agrees with both translations of the verse. God gives you sleep, and He also gives to you in your sleep.

When you’re sleeping, God is working.

“In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep falls upon men,
While slumbering on their beds,
Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction
.
In order to turn man from his deed,
And conceal pride from man
— Job 33:15–17 NKJV

Man can take so much pride in his own intelligence that God can’t get through to him except when he’s sleeping.

Ask the Lord to give to you in your sleep.

But first, you must know that you are His beloved.

Be established in the Lord’s deep love for you.

Pastor Prince encourages people who need a fresh sense of God’s love for them to listen to the sermon, Becoming the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved.

When you go to bed at night, see yourself cradled in Jesus’ bosom. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, rested on Jesus’ bosom as Jesus rested on His Father’s bosom.

“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
— John 1:18 NKJV

Jesus was constantly aware of His Father’s love for Him.

When He was baptized in the Jordan River, the Father spoke from heaven and said to Him, “You are My beloved Son.” (Matt. 3:17).

In the strength of knowing He was beloved, Jesus faced Satan’s temptation in the wilderness.

Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread after Jesus had fasted for 40 days. Stones represent the law, because the law was written on stones. In other words, Satan was saying, “Take your nourishment from the law.”

To this, Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4). In other words, He was saying, “I don’t take my nourishment from the law. I take it from My Father’s words: You are My beloved Son.”

Don’t let the devil or your night season steal the truth that you are God’s beloved. This truth will sustain you.

When you know you’re loved by Him, you will ask Him, “Lord, give me sleep. And while I’m sleeping, restore my health and renew my youth. Lord, work on my problems.”

Your fight will become food for others

God will turn your difficult seasons into something sweet and nourishing for you. Like honey from a hard place.

On the other side of your depression, on the other side of your inability to sleep in the night season, lies great victory for you and for others.

Pastor Prince shares his personal story of how he went through depression. On the other side of his depression was the ministry he has now. The depression wasn’t from God, but God turned it into something good.

Out of your night season will come riches for others.

If you are going through a night season, look out for victory.

God gives songs and victory in the night.

There was a time when Israel was surrounded by the Assyrian army and King Hezekiah was outnumbered.

At that time, King Sennacherib was the king of Assyria, and he was an evil and brutal man. Today, we can see what he did to the captive Jews in his siege of Lachish by looking at reliefs now housed in the British Museum in London. The reliefs show terrible torture.

But there are no reliefs that show Jerusalem being conquered because God stopped it from happening.

When Sennacherib threatened Hezekiah, Hezekiah cried out to the Lord, and the Lord answered Him.

“And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.”
— ‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭19:35‬ NKJV

In one night, the enemies were killed.

This is what God can do in your night season.

When God calls you, respond to His love.

There are times you might find God waking you up in the middle of the night. When this happens, you wake up feeling refreshed. This is a divine visitation.

God wants to speak with you and give you wisdom and instruction for your affairs.

You don’t have to be afraid of the terror by night (see Ps. 91:5).

God Himself comes to you.

He is always with you (see Heb. 13:5), but there are times when you feel a special sense of His presence. Don’t ignore it.

Sometimes, when you’ve been ignoring Him for a while, that sense of His presence will leave. Then when you finally decide to open His Word, the Scripture doesn’t come alive.

It doesn’t mean that He has left you. It’s just the dynamics of our love relationship with Him. He knows how to stir our passion for Him when we’ve been unattentive for a while. This is expressed in Song of Songs, when the bride goes looking for her bridegroom because she has lost the sense of His presence.

Get ready to see Jesus in a fresh and new way

There was once when Jesus’ disciples went through a night season.

Jesus had just fed the 5000 by multiplying 5 loaves and 2 fish. He sent His disciples into their boat to meet Him on the other side of the mountain, and He sent the multitudes away.

When night time came, He looked out from the mountain and He saw His disciples rowing furiously because the wind was contrary to them (see Matt. 14:24).

With wind that was contrary to them, the disciples must have felt like they were taking 1 step forward and 3 steps back.

Have you ever felt that way? Every time you move forward, you’re pushed back. There’s resistance. You find yourself moving backward instead.

Jesus saw them and He came down to where they were.

“Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.”
— ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭14:25‬ ‭NKJV

The fourth watch of the night is between 3am to 6am. This is the darkest time before dawn.

Jesus comes to you in your darkest moments.

And He’ll come to you in a fresh, new way.

This is the first time His disciples ever saw Him walk on water.

Victory is reaching out to you. You might be afraid because you’ve never seen victory in this form before, but it is victory. It is Jesus.

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’”
— ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NKJV

It is I” — In Hebrew, Jesus just said, “I AM.” He is the “I AM” that the Psalmist talks about. “I AM the Lord over the waves. I AM the Lord above your troubles.”

do not be afraid” — This is always the refrain. He is always telling you, “Don’t be afraid.”

Why? Because He’s here now.

The very thing His disciples were afraid of, they saw Him walking on.

In the night seasons, the Lord personally comes to you. If you just received a bad diagnosis from the doctors, the Lord is coming to you. More than any other time, He’s coming to you. Don’t be afraid.

Pastor Prince prays for people with:

  • Chest pains
  • Right shoulder muscle pain
  • Ankle conditions

Be sustained by His love as you partake of the holy Communion

The Lord tells us in His Word what we can do in the night seasons.

God personally instituted 2 things in the night seasons:

  1. For Israel, He instituted the Passover. They ate the roasted lamb and they put the lamb’s blood on their doorposts and lintel of their houses (see Exod. 12).
  2. For the church, He instituted the holy Communion. The same night that Jesus was betrayed, when He Himself was going through a night season, He instituted the Lord’s Supper (see Luke 22:14–22).

As you partake of the holy Communion today, remember Jesus. Think of Him loving you. Think of yourself receiving the bread and the cup from Him.

Closing Prayer

“This coming week, the Lord bless you and your families with the blessings of father Abraham. The Lord bless you and the Lord keep you, preserve you, protect you from all harm, danger, and sickness. In the name of Jesus, the Lord preserve you in health and wholeness. The Lord make His face shine on you and grant you great favor with the people you’ll meet wherever you go this week. The Lord increase that favor upon you. The Lord lift up his countenance on you and grant to you and your loved ones His shalom well-being, wholeness, and peace. In Jesus’ name, and all the people say, Amen!”

We hope these sermon notes blessed you! If they did, we encourage you to get the sermon and allow the Lord to speak to you personally as you watch or listen to it.

© Copyright JosephPrince.com 2019
These sermon notes were taken by volunteers during the service. They are not a verbatim representation of the sermon.


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