I have been thinking on a familiar story from the book of Acts the last few days. Paul & Silas are on their way to prison, after having been stripped & beaten. As if that were not enough, before being placed in the prison, they are then “severely flogged”. That is how it is worded in Acts 16:23, “severely flogged”. I would think for Luke to add that description meant that the flogging had been more extreme than the usual as Luke was a physician, trained to pay attention to details. This was a detail he felt we needed to know.
After all that, one can hardly imagine that they would be in the mood for much of anything, never mind, for worship. Yet, we are told:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (same chapter, verse 25, NIV).
They chose to do the hard thing & praise God. Scripture continues to tell us:
Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. (verse 26, NIV).
We all have had some difficult situations arise in our lives. Earthquakes, if you would. These would be those situations that are completely unexpected, not welcomed. They are events that shake us to the core of our being. An earthquake can be a marriage difficulty, a divorce, a wayward child, addictions of any sort, bankruptcy, financial struggles, a job loss, being passed up for a job promotion, a death, a rejection. All of these will shake us to one degree or another. Some of us will be shaken more than others.
But here’s the thing: we all face a choice when that “earthquake” hits.
In reading this passage yesterday, I noticed a few things:
- Others will watch & listen to how we respond. The other prisoners “listened”. (verse 25).
- The “earthquake” is sometimes needed to set us free from the things that are holding us back. (verse 26).
- Sometimes it is not only ourselves that find freedom but those around us as well. It is not only about us. (verse 26). Perhaps in finding freedom ourselves, we make a way for our families & our friends to also find freedom.
So often we think that people expect us to have it all together, no matter what may come our way. Perhaps that is not it all. They may just be watching to see what our responses are going to be when life is off the Richter Scale. Maybe that is the true testimony of our faith. That is when they get to see our God work in our lives.
The story of Paul & Silas continues….
The jailer thinking that all the prisoners have escaped is ready to kill himself. Paul shouts out to him that all the prisoners are still in the jail. The jailer realizing that they are telling the truth, exclaims,
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30).
Their one response brought salvation to the jailer. It was in the midst of an earthquake that the jailer found Christ. Not only the jailer but all those in his house, his entire family, received the word of the Lord & were baptized.
My prayer today?
Lord, teach me to respond correctly in the midst of every earthquake & every storm in life!