Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Singing in the Slammer

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” – Acts 16:25

Back in the Apostle Paul’s day, Jewish men prayed a specific prayer of thanks every morning. In that prayer, a Jewish man would thank God for not making him a Gentile, a woman or a slave. But in Acts 16, we can read about members of all three despised groups redeemed and united in faith in Christ.

After parting ways with Barnabas, Paul set off with his new missionary teammate Silas to strengthen the churches he’d planted in Syria and Cilicia. Then, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Silas found their way to Philippi, where they helped lead these three unlikely converts to Jesus Christ.

The first was a wealthy businesswoman named Lydia. Paul headed to the river and found a group of Jewish women who were meeting for prayer, worship and a discussion of the Scriptures. Paul joined in the discussion, and he led Lydia to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. As soon as she became a Christian, she offered her home as a place to stay for Paul and his group of missionaries.

The second Christian convert was a demon-possessed slave girl. We’re not specifically told that she got saved, but it’s implied. According to verse 16, this girl “had a spirit by which she predicted the future. And she earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.” Paul didn’t want demons or any slave masters pulling this girl’s marionette strings, so he commanded the demon in the name of Jesus Christ to leave her. The demon DID leave her. And when the girl’s owners saw that she was set free from her demon, they were furious—because her freedom hit them right in the wallet.

So, the slave girl’s owners brought Paul and Silas to the local magistrates and drummed up some bogus charges against them. Because a small mob was forming, the magistrates had a kneejerk reaction. To appease the unruly crowd, they flogged Paul and Silas severely and threw them into prison for the night. They ordered the jailer to guard them carefully, so he placed them in an inner cell with their feet in stocks.

But something very surprising happened at midnight, as Paul and Silas were sitting on the cold stone floor with their backs throbbing in agony. Instead of grumbling and complaining, Paul and Silas began praying and joyfully singing. And as they prayed and sang, a violent earthquake shook the prison. According to verse 26, “All at once the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” The jailer, who had been sleeping at the time, woke up. And when he saw that all the prison doors were open, he assumed all the prisoners had escaped. Not wanting to face the public disgrace of being shamed and possibly executed for letting his prisoners escape, the jailer pulled out his sword, ready to take his own life. But Paul called out to him, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

After the jailer turned on the lights and found the prisoners right where he left them, he fell trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out of their cells and asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). And that night, after hearing the gospel message, the jailer and his entire household accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and were baptized.

And there you have it: three very different individuals who became followers of Christ in Philippi: a wealthy businesswoman, a poor slave girl and a middle-class Gentile man in law enforcement. As Paul had recently written to the Galatians, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

I’d like to give you two powerful insights from this chapter to meditate on.

Insight #1: Any fool can sing during the day. But God gives His followers songs in the night. It’s easy to sing when the lights are on, the kids are behaving and you’ve just polished off a hot cup of coffee. It’s much harder to sing at midnight when you’ve been wrongly accused, beaten up and thrown in the Big House. But that is the BEST time to praise God. That’s when praise becomes REALLY powerful. Just like in that Philippian dungeon, that’s when people around you will sit up straight and listen, saying to themselves, “There’s something different about this person. They have something that I don’t have, and I want it.”

Insight #2: Always be ready to share the Good News of Jesus Christ—at any time, at any place and in any way. God calls you and me to share Christ with those around us: whether we’re in our family room, in our neighbor’s driveway, at school or work, on the basketball court or in the checkout line at WalMart.

Think about it: Paul was never really imprisoned. He could sing in jail just as easily as he could sing at church. And he could share Christ with cons in the clink just as easily as he could share Christ with law-abiding citizens in a synagogue. It didn’t matter, because as long as He was right where God wanted him to be, He was free to sing and free to share Jesus. The same could be said about you and me. No matter where we are, no matter who we’re with, we are free to pray, free to sing, free to lead people to Jesus Christ.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

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