A passage of scripture that always inspired me can be found in Acts 16:16-40. The setting is that Paul and Silas are sitting in prison with their feet bound in stocks. It is midnight and their bodies are severely sore and bruised after being beaten with rods just a little bit earlier. Amidst being unfairly arrested, beaten, and locked up it makes sense that you would find the two men… praying and sing praises in the prison? How? How in the midst of all these terrible things can Paul and Silas continue to pray?
I don’t know about you, but when I have “suffered” to a much lesser degree I have found myself disgruntled and complaining rather than praising. Even in the midst of this quarantine I have found myself discontent that I can’t see my friends and family or go to my favorite restaurants. This is what inspires me about Paul and Silas. They reveal something that I desire to have in my own faith. How do you get to the point when you can sincerely sing for joy when your body is throbbing with pain, you have been unfairly treated, and all your plans seem to be thrown out the window?
In Romans 5 Paul writes about how sufferings produce perseverance and perseverance produces character and character produces hope. He writes in Romans 8 that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. In 2 Corinthians 4 he writes how these light, momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. Paul knew that Jesus died for His sins and there is no way that the Lord would abandon Him now. He knew the Lord works in all circumstances to bring glory to His name, so he knew that if he was thrown into prison God would use that as well. Paul knew that Jesus rose from the grave and that these men could do nothing to suppress the hope he had. Paul knew that Christ suffered and he counted it an honor to be likened to Jesus in His suffering. So Paul prayed and he praised.
If you read the rest of the story, it is quite amazing. In the midst of their great faith, an earthquake shakes the prison and frees the shackles from all the prisoners. God is powerful and able to free them. The jailer was so distraught about losing his prisoners he sought to take his own life. But then he realized none of the prisoners had moved. Witnessing this other worldly demonstration of faith, the jailer cries out “What must I do to be saved?” Paul tells him to believe in Jesus and the jailer, along with his family, is baptized. Paul and Silas are then released from prison.
Do we believe God is still working to bring glory to His name even in the midst of unforeseen circumstances? Are we willing to continue to trust and point to the hope we have even when we are suffering? As we walk through Holy Week, I hope we spend a lot of time meditating on Jesus’ crucifixion and the empty tomb. I hope we remember that God will never leave us or forsake us. I hope we believe with confidence that God will use this particular season to help draw others to Him. And I hope, church, that all of us will continue to sing of His goodness.
It’s a joy to serve with you all,