2011-03-31 - Purposeful Trouble
Acts 16:25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; (NASB)
Paul and Silas are sitting in chains in a jail cell - singing. The jail cell we're talking about probably bears little resemblance to the modern day version with the basic exception of four walls and a door locked so that nobody gets out who isn't suppose to get out. Chairs, beds, blankets or any furniture at all is either sparse or non-existent. A dirt floor, or mud if it was wet. Add to all of this that they had been beaten before being locked in the cell. There may not have been any light.
And Paul and Silas are singing hymns of praise to God. Could I do that?
I might be praying - Lord, please get me out of here. But these two men are pleased to suffer for their Lord. They also had a powerful grip on the thought that nothing happens, certainly nothing of significance, that God is not in control. God was putting them into a situation with purpose. The reaction of the other prisoners may have run the gambit from bemusement to confusion - but they had to have been listening. Paul and Silas had a captive audience whether it was their intention or not.
Would I be able to see through these eyes that understand purpose and opportunity?
When hard things, difficult events happen in our lives can we see God's hand? Hindsight is more often 20/20 and His work in our lives is much more obvious as we look back. It is often very hard to put the pain aside and trust the Lord has our best interests in mind in the middle of the trouble. When friend's like Job's come and tell us we must have some hidden sin in our lives when we know we have been faithful and they scoff at us, it can be hard to look forward to what is coming. But His purposeful, guiding hand is there.
And when the earthquake struck and the shackles of all the prisoners and he doors to the cells were opened, one purpose became evident. The jailer would have been responsible for the escape of any of the prisoners and would have paid their sentences unless they were caught or killed. Paul called to him and assured the frightened man that all the prisoners were still present. Realizing that the two missionaries were genuine in what they said, the life of the jailer was changed - forever. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?", he asked (v. 29).
Paul and Silas would have missed the opportunity if they had given in to their bruises and the unfair treatment. What could have been a tremendous disappointment turned into blessing for all involved. Some may not see the fulfillment of a blessing through trouble on this side of death, but it will be there. Like an artist whose work is not appreciated in his lifetime, their witness will live on as ripples affecting the lives of those who remain.
Could I sing hymns and pray in a dark prison cell? Selah.
Grace & Peace,