Thursday, February 9, 2012
A Women's Gathering and Prison
Acts 16:13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.
Acts 16:29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.
Acts 16:30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Acts 16:31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Acts 16:32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
Acts 16:33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.
Acts 16:34 He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
What is the connection between a women's gathering and a prison? In essence, one led to another and God used each for his work to be accomplished. On the Sabbath day Paul had gone to the river on the outskirts of Philippi to pray. There he discovered a group of women who had also gathered. These were women who were open to hearing the good news about Jesus Christ. Not only did they hear the good news but they accepted it and God quickly transformed them into the core of believers, establishing a brand new church there in the home of Lydia.
Lydia's home became the central location from which Paul and Silas were able to go out and preach. Then, as they often did, they got in trouble for their preaching. the problem was that their preaching was too good and people were responding and there were always those who didn't like the fact that people were converting. What to do with these two men? Why not publicly beat them and throw them into jail.
I can only imagine the concern back at Lydia's house when Paul and Silas didn't return and the news was brought to them that they had been thrown in prison. We always read about Paul and Silas singing in the prison late at might. I'm just guessing that across town at Lydia's house there was another prayer gathering. They weren't sleeping either and together the songs of praise and the prayers of intercession from across the town united as they were lifted up to the Father. Suddenly there was an earthquake and the prison doors broke open and the chains fell off of the prisoners.
God used that opportunity to minister to someone who would never have been at the river, and that was the jailer. That very night he was saved. He took Paul and Silas home and woke up his entire household and they were all saved and baptized. History tells us that this jailer went on to become a leader in the Christian movement and specifically there in Philippi. Christianity grew in that town that eventually, by about the 5th or 6th century they had two huge churches or basilicas in the city, each holding 300-400 people.
The faith of a little band of women who never gave up, and a jailer who was radically transformed laid the foundation for the complete transformation of a city, society and culture. Isn't it amazing that God can use a women's gathering and a prison to change the world!
So often we are looking for the "big" things of God. We want him to lay out some kind of huge master plan for his work and involvement in the world. Often when he throws the simple things before us we reject them because we don't think that it sounds exciting enough.
I remember our early years of ministry when we were in Austin, Texas. Every year the little church that we were in saw growth and people coming to Jesus Christ. People would ask us what we were doing and we'd tell them VBS (Vacation Bible School). That disappointed many people because that was not the answer they wanted. It was too simple. However, God had laid before us a very simple plan. Reach out to my children, love them, and their parents will want to know about Christ too. So every year the entire church geared up to get involved with VBS. The little church and the church yard became filled with children, every night returning with more. The people of the church loved on those children and made them feel as if they were welcomed. Every fall we called on every single family that had come to VBS and every year there were those who gave their lives to Jesus Christ. It was simple. It was God's plan.
God's plans are not complicated. He simply asks us to walk forward in faith and see that every single moment of life can be an opportunity for his kingdom's work to be done. Maybe it's a women's gathering, or maybe its in a jail cell.
Lord, may your kingdom come and your will be done here on earth. Amen.