“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them… At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.” Acts 16:22-34
The book of Acts is an incredible testimony to the power of God and the importance of the role Jesus’ disciples play in moving His mission forward in this world. God’s power, at work in willing disciples through the Holy Spirit, is the only hope a broken world has of finding wholeness and restoration.
As you read the book of Acts you’ll find that the power of God is often demonstrated as Jesus’ disciples willingly experience weakness and suffering. Paul and Silas, for instance, were stripped, severely flogged and then fastened to the stocks of an inner cell. By all appearances, they were totally overpowered.
Notice, though, that they responded to the injustice they were suffering by “praying and singing hymns to God”. Knowing they were in their painful and unfair situation for the sake of serving God, they were confident that God would be their advocate and defender. As they expressed their dependence and worship in prayer and song, their fellow prisoners got to hear it. The kingdom message and way were being demonstrated right before those prisoners’ eyes and ears! Though Luke didn’t report it, I am betting the guard on duty was listening as well.
Fast forward through the story and you find that God had miraculously provided for Paul and Silas’ freedom. They didn’t take advantage of that chance, though, for they saw an opportunity to bring ultimate freedom to another: the jailer. As servants of the Most High who understood His purpose and mission, they were willing to look around them and recognize what He was doing beyond their own circumstances. Their suffering was not a reason to complain or quit; it was an opportunity for the gospel to advance and for lives to be changed.
This way of thinking and living may seem like a distant and unreachable standard, Disciple, but I assure you that it is not. No, it is the very heartbeat of discipleship. Like our Master and so many of His faithful servants throughout the generations, we can indeed become fixated on the purpose and movement of God in our world. We can look around us, not focusing on the effect our circumstances have on us, but focusing on what opportunities for the mission our circumstances might create. Whether we’re in jail wracked with the severe pain of an undeserved flogging or dealing with a difficult person at work, we are servants of the King whose every circumstance is available to His use.
With this in mind, may today be a day of awareness and worship. May those who watch and listen to us see and hear clearly what the Kingdom of our Master is all about. May we choose our own discomfort and loss if it means the ultimate and eternal benefit of others. Amen!
Seeking His glory and their good in all things with you,