“After [Paul and Silas] had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer…put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.”
– Acts 16:22-24
Can you remember a time in your life when a celebration suddenly turned into a nightmare? May 2015 was one of those times for my wife and me. The month started off well with a Mother’s Day celebration. And we were looking forward to my wife’s birthday and our seventeenth wedding anniversary at the end of the month. But just four days after Mother’s Day, my wife and I found ourselves sitting in the Loma Linda Medical Center ER with our five-year-old daughter hooked up to an IV.
Our daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, and effective immediately, we would have to prick her fingers to test her blood sugar at least seven times a day and give her shots of insulin at least four times a day. If her blood sugar dropped too low, she could pass out and suffer life-threatening injuries. If her blood sugar elevated too high, her organs could be permanently damaged. It seemed as if we were in a bad dream from which we couldn’t wake up.
As our happy little family’s life was suddenly turned upside down, we found ourselves asking God the question, “Why?” My wife and I had dedicated our lives to serving Christ and following his will, so this gut-wrenching curve ball didn’t make sense. We knew in our heart of hearts that God must have a clear purpose for our daughter’s disease, but we wanted to know: “Why is this happening to us?”
In Acts 16, the Apostle Paul set out on his second missionary journey with his sidekick, Silas. After they visited many of the churches he had previously planted, the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, instructing him to preach the gospel message in Europe, not in northern
Asia as he had originally planned. So, the two
missionaries obeyed God’s command. They traveled west into Europe, and the
first city where they preached was the Greek city of . Philippi
Very quickly their ministry efforts produced much fruit. An influential Jewish woman named
along with her entire family, chose to follow Jesus Christ. And on one occasion
Paul was empowered by God to cast a demon out of a poor little slave girl. On
the heels of such life-changing ministry and the clear demonstration of God’s
power, Paul and Silas must have thought that they were on the verge of
witnessing a great spiritual revival in the city. Lydia
But their celebration quickly turned into a nightmare. In the matter of a few hours, Paul and Silas were dragged into court, stripped, beaten to a bloody pulp, thrown into prison, and placed in foot stocks. And if I had been in Paul’s shoes I would have been asking, “Why, God? You told us to come to
Northern Greece, so we came. And look
where it’s gotten us. We are shackled in a jail cell with our backs bruised and
bleeding. And who knows what they’re going to do to us tomorrow? We don’t
understand! Why, God? Why?”
Sometimes when we obey God, things seem to go terribly wrong. Oftentimes, persecution and heartache and pain increase when we’re in the center of God’s will. But as Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Honestly, Jesus’ command in these verses seems idealistic. Come on, Jesus, do you really expect Christians to “rejoice and be glad” when we’re being beaten up for our faith in Christ?
Surprisingly, yes. That’s exactly what He expects. And that’s exactly what Paul and Silas did as they sat in agony on the cold prison floor in
Philippi. In Acts 16:25 we read these
amazing words: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to
God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” What a remarkable
response to such unjust, excruciating persecution! Bruised, bleeding and with
their feet confined in stocks, Paul and Silas spent their time praying and
singing to God. And in response, God sent a fierce earthquake that flung open
the prison doors, unlocked everyone’s chains and, more importantly, put the
fear of God into both the prisoners and the prison guard.
The prison guard fell on his knees before Paul and Silas and asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” You see, revival had come to that prison, and before the end of the night, the jailer and his entire family had accepted Christ and proven that decision by being baptized. If Paul and Silas had been wondering a few hours earlier, “Why is this happening to us?” by the end of the night God had answered clearly, “This is why I brought you to
Europe. This is why I allowed you to be arrested, beaten
and thrown into this Philippian prison. This is why. This is why.”
When the inevitable times of persecution for Christ come, you and I have some important questions to answer. Will we gripe and complain and shake our fists at God, or will we patiently praise God anyway? Will we simply trust our own five senses, throwing God’s commands to the wind, or will we trust God and continue obeying His will? My friend, when you are in the midst of the pain, you may not understand what God is up to, but one day you will. So, rejoice in Him. Trust Him. And obey His commands. Weeping may remain for a night, but joy will certainly come in the morning. In God’s plan, pain always has a purpose.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for our first worship service of 2019 Sunday at 10 am.