Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 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. 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.
The book of Acts, even with the difficulties that the disciples face, is always full of hope. Therefore, when Paul and Silas find themselves in prison, they use it as an opportunity to continue to praise and worship the Lord. They pray and sing hymns which the other prisoners can hear. They realize that this imprisonment is not just about them, but about the way in which God can use them to reach out to others. Therefore, they praise and glorify God, even when in chains.
Suddenly there is an earthquake that one assumes is for the deliverance of Paul and Silas. If that were the case they would have run from the place immediately, but they did not and nor did their fellow prisoners. Interestingly, God wanted to use the earthquake for the deliverance of the jailer. The response of Paul and Silas, as well as the fellow prisoners who had been listening in on their worship, was one of patience. They did not run from the jail but instead calmed the nerves of the jailer who feared for his own life. Deliverance came to the jailer and his entire household.
What appeared to be the deliverance of Paul and Silas did reach the jailer and his household, but also all of their fellow prisoners. When the earthquake struck it was not only Paul and Silas’ cell which was opened, but “all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” In that moment God was glorified and lives were transformed. Not only Paul and Silas remained in the jail after the earthquake, but all of the prisoners remained. Something had taken hold of their lives and their response was not typical.
We tend to focus on the miraculous deliverance of Paul and Silas from the jail but they understood that this was not just about them. They would have to suffer in order to be able to reach those whom God wanted them to reach. In patient obedience they withstood all that came their way and allowed their troubles to deliver others.
In the West we have become very focused on a personal spiritual life and we may have trouble thinking about the ways in which our lives are to intersect with those of others. We are not an island unto ourselves, for our actions have implications for others. In this case we must ask what we might be willing to do to help others come to Christ. I’m afraid that we live within a wall of excuses and seldom feel comfortable using the circumstances in which we find ourselves for God’s use. If we follow Christ who poured himself out for us, then our lives are to be for the blessing for others.
This takes us beyond our individualistic way of thinking and raises within us the passion of our Lord to seek and to save the lost. This was not a passive, but an active process in which Jesus engaged. When we become united with Christ, his passions become our passions, and we are driven by the desire to do all that we can be like him. We can imagine that Jesus would have been in that jail, and in fact, he was! Paul and Silas were willing, just as Christ, to give themselves up as living sacrifices for the sake of the gospel.
In many countries of our world Christianity finds itself under threat from government authorities. At times, Christians find themselves concerned about their own personal welfare in light of more restrictive environments. What could have been more strict that where Paul and Silas found themselves, but they weren’t worried about their own welfare. They didn’t wait to try and invite the prisoners and the jailer to church to tell them about Jesus. They participated with Jesus in the jail cell and used their difficult, but ordinary situation for the extraordinary. They were not concerned with their own welfare, but with the mission of Jesus Christ. The mission of Jesus Christ must become our driving passion and this will take us far beyond ourselves.
Lord, unite me to you and your mission today. Amen.
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