Chained in the deepest most secured area of a prison, two missionaries were kept, bleeding from their wounds. They had been beaten mercilessly. They had come to the town of Philippi to preach the gospel when they came upon a demon possessed slave girl. They set her free from her demonic captives and their reward was an unlawful beating and imprisonment. (Acts 16:16-40) Would they rot in this jail and never see the light of day again? Apparently it was no concern for these men, Paul and Silas. Their response was to worship God.
Then at midnight the spirit of God must have truly been pleased by their offering for the ground shook, the prison wall trembled, the doors swung open and the chains of these Godly men broke. Surely God had set them free. Now they could run out and escape from this terrible place! We all would have! Matter of fact it was not too long ago that these men had escaped from Iconium. There they discovered a plot to stone them and quickly fled to save themselves. (Acts 14:1-7) Why not flee again?
They did not flee, out of love. This time a man’s life was at stake. They knew that Roman law would require the life of the guard if they would escape.
Just about when the guard was going to kill himself Paul yelled out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” (Acts 16:28) Imagine the thoughts of this man, first relief, “Thank heaven”, then joy and finally confusion. “Why had they not attempted to escape? Why did they stop me from harming myself? Who are these men that would care for me?” All these thoughts must have been swirling in his head. But his heart was now open to receive their message.
Now he wanted to know about Jesus. The bible relates that He and his entire family were saved because of one brave act of love. (Acts 16:33) Paul and Silas knew how much they were hated in this town; their bleeding backs where proof of that. They also knew that justice was not guaranteed. There was a real chance that by not escaping, they could spend many years in jail or be sentenced to death. But out of love they stayed.
Let us all consider how one act of unselfish love can change someone’s life. How one act of love can change a family and maybe even a neighborhood. We have the power to make the world around us better. We have the power to reach others with the Love of Christ. We can bring real change. Let us show our love!
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25
When in my darkest moments, feeling lost and unable to fight, I opened my mouth and out came praises to my God. Tears rolled down my eyes. But I felt at peace. It’s not because the problem had been solved. It’s not because I had forgotten. The problem was still very real. It’s not because I sing so well. Trust me I’m not the singer in the family. It’s because He was there.
I knew I was not alone and somehow He would see me through. The bible says that God inhabits the praises of His people. (Psalm 22:3) It is no exaggeration to say that the moment I started worshipping God He was there to comfort me. I have had many moments in my life when I needed God’s comfort. He has yet to fail me. It certainly cannot be my own strength.
God is our strength in troubled times. We have a great defense when we are going through trials. Paul and Silas sure found out. (Acts 16:16-31)They had been arrested unjustly, beaten, chained and locked in the deepest portion of the prison. It was dark, dreadful and hopeless. What did they do? They opened their mouths and with what little strength they had left, they worshiped God. God was there in a big way. The earth shook and the very foundations of the prison were broken. The chains came undone and the doors came down. They were free men. Because God made them free!
Fortunately for the jailer, Paul and Silas with obvious compassion for the man did not run away. This act of love saved the jailer’s life and then saved his soul, as he would give his life to Christ.
Our trials and difficulties in this world are not about to end. We still have some tears to shed. But in those moments when you are too weak to fight any more and a solution does not seem handy, open your mouth and let your God hear your mighty praise! His answer will surely be even mightier and you will feel His presence deep in your heart.