If you are like me, the year of 2020 has felt like a training session for endurance. At times I have sighed as I looked for the finish line, hoping to see a definitive marker of when all this turmoil will end. There has been moments when I have dreamed of packing my things and escaping to some remote location. But I know that’s not what I have been called to do. Not now at least. It’s time to occupy. It’s time to shine our lights brighter and give thanks for all the blessings we have right here and right now. As I was reading Acts 16, Holy Spirit really spoke to me about all this.
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Acts 16:25-29.
To start off, let’s look at when this was taking place. Midnight. In the middle of a dark night. Not as they were enjoying a bright sunshiny day or in a church service. In the midst of a dark time. Paul and Silas’ response to their dark surrounding in prison was to be praying and singing to God. I know many have felt like they have been locked up in quarantine and controlled on when they can go out and where they can go. Many have been overwhelmed by fear, depression, and the weight of all that has been going on in this world. How many can say our response to this dark year has been the same as Paul and Silas?
Then we see one of the reasons it’s important to be praying and praising God in the dark times. The next part of the verse says the prisoners were listening to them. They were listening to Paul and Silas worship in the midst of the darkness. People are watching our responses. They are listening. They are looking for some hope, joy, and peace and wonder if they can find it in these people who claim to follow Jesus. What are they finding?
Suddenly. Our God is a God of suddenlies. Just when it seems like things won’t change, there is a suddenly.
Suddenly things were shaken. The foundations were shaken up. ALL the prison doors were opened. God comes into a dark place and shakes it up and opens doors that feel like they would never open. The shackles are thrown off. All the things that were holding these men of God were gone. All the restraints, the heaviness, the confinement – broken. The very foundation is shaken and the situation changes. Paul and Silas were praying and praising and God responded. God will do the same for our situation. He will do it!
Paul and Silas could have hightailed it out of the prison at that very moment. The jailer thought they would do so and was about to kill himself over it. But instead, they gave grace and let their light shine into that prison. They let their God and their lives be a testimony to this jailer. They didn’t run, they stayed for the one who needed to know God. Maybe this was the reason they were in prison for this season, for just a time as this. The jailer and his whole family end up giving their lives to Jesus.
Maybe that is why we are in a dark season. Maybe it’s not all about me. Maybe it’s not all about you. Maybe it’s to bring light into this dark world, hope, to be a testimony, to stay and bring someone to the ONE true God. It’s pretty apparent Paul and Silas didn’t just pray to get out of prison. They didn’t just cry out to God to get them out of the horrid situation they found themselves in at the moment. Because if that was their main concern, they would have run the first chance they got. Instead they stayed and brought the gospel to someone who needed their chains of sin removed. Instead of praying to be saved from our current circumstance, we can pray for God to use us and the situation to bring someone to Him.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4